Code & Conduit Podcast: Blockchain Could be Copyright Holders’ Friend or Foe

Blockchain could turn out to be an ally-- or trouble -- for copyright holders. 

The underpinnings of the developing technology, which acts like an inerasable, chronological database of transactions, appear to be at odds with a 20 year-old law that protects copyright holders from infringement. 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows copyright holders to seek removal of infringing content and protects publishers and internet service providers from liability if they remove such content after being notified. 

But if the infringing content is posted on a blockchain, it would be difficult or impossible to erase, Bloomberg Law reporter Alexis Kramer said in a recent podcast episode of Code & Conduit.

“We don’t know how exactly blockchain will fit into copyright law, but it appears to be incompatible with the DMCA,” Kramer said. 

Still, blockchain also promises to be a boon to copyright holders. Eastman Kodak and Sony are working on tools that could help copyright holders manage their ownership rights and collect royalties on blockchains.

Compliance with current copyright law may depend on how the technology continues to develop and if it becomes easier and cheaper to store content on a blockchain, Kramer said.

“You just have to balance the benefits of managing digital rights with the risk of having infringing content show up at some point when the blockchain technology advances,” Kramer said.