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EY Startup Challenge 2016: Blockchain & DRM

Rahul Gautam, TMT Partner, Ernst & Young

We were invited with PPL to mentor entrepreneurs that are investigating the potential use of Blockchain in the world of Digital Rights Management (DRM). The six week project was held as part of Ernst & Young's 'EY Startup Challenge', aimed at bringing together new technology developers and industry to discuss specific business needs and potential solutions.

We explored the complicated issue of DRM with two companies, JAAK and BitFury, guiding them where needed, to the creation of two very unique ideas.


JAAK

Vaughn McKenzie, Founder & CEO of JAAK

"JAAK is a Smart Content platform for digital media. Our protocol acts as an 'operating system' for defining, managing and commercialising media and metadata on the blockchain." Fred Tibbles, Founder & JAAK Lead

JAAK focused its presentation around the concept of ‘Smart Content’, the combining of digital content with its relevant metadata and a ‘smart contract’ (a set of rules that determine how content may be used).

Through JAAK’s platform, any music that is released will go through a ‘sense check’ to make sure that the right metadata is included, which they propose should lean on the utilisation of a ‘guardian network’ (trusted bodies that can verify that the data is correct). One of the key pain points in the current industry is the high number of recordings with incomplete or incorrect data, which the filter created by the JAAK platform could significantly help with.

The benefits of releasing music in this way will not only affect creators, but also those that want to use their creations. It has the potential to help app developers that wish to use copyright but are finding it difficult and time exhausting to get the right licensing in place.

In further developments of JAAK it would be interesting to understand how the smart contracts element of ‘smart content’ will work, and how rates will be set.


BitFury

Marc Taverner, Head of Business Development, BitFury

“BitFury is the industry’s largest full service blockchain technology company” Marc Taverner, Head of Business Development

BitFury has already had significant success in adapting Blockchain technology to a wide range of industries through its software and hardware solutions, attracting some very impressive support in the process.

The EY Startup challenge saw BitFury turn its attention to the current supply chain within DRM, and think about how this might be improved through the use of Blockchain and associated technologies. It looked to simplify the process of releasing and licensing a track through the easy permissions process that Blockchain can provide, while understanding the need for authority, be that through elected bodies or consensus mechanisms.

The music rights industry is a complex environment, with multiple different rights, sometimes with multiple different owners per right. So it is no surprise that BitFury considered the overall ownership of the recording in its initial draft solution. It would be interesting to see in further iterations how their mechanism could be spun out to consider multiple ownerships of works (the idea) as well as the recording (a manifestation of that idea).


Summary

All photo credits: Ernst & Young

The EY Startup challenge was a fascinating opportunity to engage with some leading thinkers on the ways that Blockchain could be used to assist with Digital Rights Management.

Our role is to ensure that our members receive full and fair value for their rights. As technology develops and continues to shape how music is consumed, it is important that we help steer the conversation towards one that preserves and increases the value of copyright, by sharing our knowledge and experience where possible.

We look forward to developing our thinking on new technologies by continuing our engagement with BitFury, JAAK, and all other developers that are attempting to build a bigger and better music industry that is fair for all.

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