Copyright law has always been complex and dependent on the medium. In the digital age, however, it's taken on new levels. There have been well-publicized battles over ownership rights for music, movies, photographs and more.
With reproduction as easy as a click of the mouse, intellectual property owners have been in a difficult situation. Kodak and blockchain technology may provide a solution.
In KodakOne, the one-time film company is aiming for a new system of tracking ownership. Using blockchain technology, computers would register original photographs and monitor their use. It would act as a registry without requiring human resources or an independent third party to validate claims--the computer itself is the third party.
What is blockchain?
Blockchain is the technology that drives cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. It logs each transaction on a file, which means the history of a digital document is traceable--each copy is reproduction. In its simplest terms and sticking with the photograph example, it means that a photograph that is reproduced will be marked as a duplicate in its code. Each reproduction will be unique, but still tied to the original. Photographers can use KodakOne to seek payment for copyright infringement by following the forensic trail.
What does the future hold?
Historically it's been up to a government entity to trace the origin of a copyright (or a bank, to use the currency example). Blockchain technology does this automatically. While this new technology provides a glimpse of the future, there are fundamental differences. One is that this only applies to digital technology - a digital photograph, not a film photograph. The blockchain ledger is, in essence, the unique ingredient being bought and sold, not the photograph.
Nobody knows what the future of copyright law holds as technology advances and adapts to a paperless world, but integration between the digital realm and existing physical laws is never seamless. The intent of copyright law is to protect the owner of intellectual property. Enforcing those rights requires a complex understanding of the law and the many ways that individuals and companies can use it.