Blockchain, an invention in digital technology touted equivalent in significance to that of the internet itself, has created waves in the tech world in the last couple of years. A technology developed by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, blockchain basically is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. It is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way, inherently resistant to modification of data. With Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as its fundamental application currently blockchain is supposed to transcend many other aspects of life and industries, including publishing. Blockchain in publishing is a potential use case now with experts and analysts considering various solutions using the technology which were long due in the publishing industry.
Copyright infringement is an age-old nemesis of the book industry. Blockchain can come to rescue with cryptographically time- and person-stamping the act of publication. A website called Blockai uses the blockchain for writers and artists to timestamp their work, keep a “vigilant eye” out for anyone violating their copyright, create a permanent record of their work and issue their clients a time-stamped copyright certificate. Blockchain enables us to record the ownership of any asset, physical or intellectual, and trade ownership of that asset.
Addison Cameron-Huff, a Toronto-based lawyer whose specialties include bitcoin and blockchain businesses and copyright infringement, told the Bitcoin Magazine: “One application for blockchains that I expect to see is a registry of ownership (history of assignments). It can be very difficult to trace the ownership chain for copyrighted works (especially with multiple authors, e.g. sound + video + text). Traceable ownership is a problem domain that blockchains are especially well suited for.”
A step farther and a more disruptive application of blockchain is Smart Contracts, distributed ledgers enable the coding of simple contracts that will execute when specified conditions are met. Contracts on paper take time to travel and may get tampered, digital contracts may also get forged, Blockchain-based smart contracts – self-executing code on a blockchain that automatically implements the terms of an agreement between parties, are smoother, more efficient, and more secure for all parties
Smart contracts don’t just contain the terms of a contract but also can act in programmed ways, delivering aspects of an agreement once specific terms are fulfilled. When a new contract or a change to a contract is published to the network, the time needed for this information to be available to all nodes would likely be minutes. If the contracts were sophisticated enough, the complex area of royalties could be handled in almost real time by the system. Once established, these smart contracts could drastically reduce the time and effort currently spent creating and enforcing the terms of contracts
With blockchain enabled smart wallets, publishers, booksellers and wholesalers can pay into this author-owned wallets with ease and sans an intermediary. In case of micro subscription like a single article or chapter, readers can pay directly into the author’s wallet. Blockchain wallet will offer advantages beyond secure payment, e.g., it can become a hub for all the people to connect who have been involved with the book – like, service providers, editors and designers, also the coffee shop where much of the book was written, the retreat centre that provided a getaway for thinking, the foundation that provided a grant, the rights buyer who turned it into a film, or print edition; the authors mentors and role models, their local bookshop… and so on.
Privacy will be one of the radical applications of blockchain technology in the book industry. Imagine how you could have direct communication with authors without any intermediary, ask for or buy books directly.
These are some of the probable use cases of blockchain in publishing, the technology is developing every day and we won’t be surprised to see more of it in future. Book publishing industry hasn’t seen any substantial growth in revenue, with the majority of it controlled by few of the overgrown retailers. Blockchain with its varied and radical applications is slated to make the business transparent and leveled, albeit it’s still in a conceptual stage for the industry.
Apart from publishing, blockchain technology is thought to bring great promises in other fields. In words of Woanjen Tang, CEO, Orioncoin, “Blockchain technology is developing every day and people are advancing to the next level in technology. People are coming closer together as a global village. Distance is no longer a problem day by day because of today’s infrastructures and technologies. The reality is people are connecting even stronger together through Blockchain far greater than anyone can understand today. A new world is forming, the largest country on earth: “Online”: with people as the government and Blockchain as the weapon.”