This article offers a normative analysis of key blockchain technology concepts from the perspective of copyright law. Some features of blockchain technologies – scarcity, trust, transparency, decentralized public records and smart contracts – seem to make this technology compatible with the fundamentals of copyright. Authors can publish works on blockchain creating a quasi-immutable record of initial ownership, and encode ‘smart’ contracts to license the use of works. Remuneration may happen on online distribution platforms where the smart contracts reside. In theory, such an automated setup allows for the private ordering of copyright. Blockchain technology, like Digital Rights Management 20 years ago, is thus presented as an opportunity to reduce market friction, and increase both licensing efficiency and the autonomy of creators. Yet, some of the old problems remain. The article examines the differences between new, smart-contract-based private ordering regime and the fundamental components of copyright law, such as exceptions and limitations, the doctrine of exhaustion, restrictions on formalities, the public domain and fair remuneration.
Balázs Bodó, Daniel Gervais and João Pedro Quintais, Blockchain and smart contracts: the missing link in copyright licensing?, International Journal of Law and Information Technology, https://doi.org/10.1093/ijlit/eay014. Published: 25 September 2018.