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Chinese Internet Court Uses Blockchain to Protect Online Writer’s Intellectual Property

A Chinese Internet Court has started using blockchain to protect the intellectual property of online writers.

An Internet Court in Hangzhou, Eastern China, has turned to blockchain to fight piracy at the expense of online writers, English-language media outlet China.org.cn reports Dec. 8.

China has reportedly “set up three Internet courts in Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou.” Internet Courts are courts expressly intended to manage internet-related cases and allow plaintiffs to file their complaints online.

The official website of Hangzhou Internet Court reads that it “behave[s] as an ‘incubator’ for Internet space governance, a ‘test field’ for Internet judicial rules, a ‘leader’ for diversified Internet disputes, and a ‘first mover’ for the transformation of Internet trials.”

Hangzhou, whose Internet Court plans to use a blockchain copyright system, is “home to many, if not most, online writers in China,” according to China.org.cn. The news outlet notes that 107 “famous” online writers work in a “writers’ village” in the Binjiang District of the city.

The aforementioned article explains that online writers are frequently damaged by piracy, and it’s often hard for them to prove that they are the original authors of any text. Writers used “to resort to screenshots and downloaded content as evidence,” but this is weak evidence since it can be easily forged, China.org.cn notes.

Wang Jiangqiao, a judge at Internet Court, said that since “blockchain guarantees that data can not be tampered [with] […] all digital footprints stored in the judicial blockchain system […] have legal effect,” specifically noting the ability to track “authorship, time of creation, content and evidence of infringement.”

Wang Jiangqiao’s statement is in line with China’s Supreme Court ruling in early September that blockchain can legally authenticate evidence.

As Cointelegraph previously reported in an analysis, blockchain use to contrast piracy in online media is nothing new.

A Russian startup is also reportedly working on a blockchain-based copyright network in Uzbekistan. The project will start by digitizing patents and storing them on-chain before moving onto securing intellectual property as well.

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Russian Intellectual Property Court Trials Blockchain to Store Copyright Data

A Russian intellectual property court has stored data on right holders via blockchain, reportedly setting a precedent for the country.

A Russian court dedicated to intellectual property cases has successfully tested a blockchain network for storing copyright data. The technology was reportedly used for the first time in the judicial area in Russia, major Russian news agency TASS writes Monday, Dec. 3.

According to TASS, the court recorded a change in a group of right holders, using a blockchain solution provided by Russian intellectual property startup IPChain. IPChain’s president Andrey Krichevsky claims this is a precedent for the Russian judicial system, calling the use of the tech “a definite breakthrough.”

Krichevsky believes that blockchain could help increase interoperability in the copyright market, as it allows all information stored to be kept up-to-date, which is particularly important for the area of property rights.

TASS reports that the court’s representative, Ludmila Novoselova, hinted that the courts’ tech support will further evolve, noting that in five years all the legal disputes will probably be settled online.

As Cointelegraph reported before, IPChain has previously partnered with the Uzbek government to deploy its decentralized solutions in the local copyright sphere, especially in the field of science and invention.

Earlier this year, a similar deal was signed between IPChain and the State Patent Office of Kyrgyzstan to digitize patent records and store them in a decentralized database. Krichevsky has also stated that blockchain projects were discussed with Armenian officials as well, TASS notes.

Spanish public institutions are also exploring the use of blockchain in the copyright area. In July, the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers and the Madrid School of Telecommunications Engineering announced they started researching blockchain use in copyright management.

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Two Major Spanish Public Institutions to Research Blockchain for Copyright Management

The Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE) and the Madrid School of Telecommunications Engineering (ETSIT-UPM) announced July 26 a research partnership into implementing blockchain for copyright management in the digital era.

The two institutions have reportedly signed a one-year agreement to carry out collaborative research into building a digital processing platform for copyright management that would use blockchain alongside BigData, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). SGAE president José Miguel Fernández Sastrón outlined the partnership:

“The main lines of research will focus on disruptive technologies that address the challenges posed by the volume, diversity and dynamics of change in the use of content in the contemporary digital environment.”

The platform will reportedly harness these technologies to help protect authors’ musical and audiovisual content in the internet in particular.

The one-year agreement has been signed through the Rogelio Segovia Foundation for the development of telecommunications (Fundetel), and has resulted in the creation of a new SGAE-ETSIT-UPM chair to oversee the joint initiative.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier this week, the government of the autonomous Spanish community of Catalonia has just revealed its own plans for blockchain tech implementation in “all areas” of its public administrative activities by December 2018.

Spain-headquartered Banco Santander has also this month announced the creation of a blockchain research team to look into the technology’s potential to innovate securities trading.

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Copyright Issues and Censorship – Key Reasons Why Internet Needs Blockchain

Sometimes censorship seems like the practice is as old as writing itself and that, for as long as we have writers, we’ll always have someone that is willing to censor or silence them for their own personal gain.

From Socrates’ untimely death to internet sandboxing, censorship has taken many forms throughout history and the truth is that it deprives us of knowledge and keeps us from prospering as a society.

It goes far beyond what you don’t get to read in the newspaper or watch on TV. News and entertainment have a great impact on our society, shaping opinions and influencing the way we experience the world on many levels.

Over time, the Internet has acted as a safe haven for those that seek to find information and those that seek to expose it. However, its centralized, yet global, structure has made it the perfect vehicle for surveillance and censorship, allowing information to be edited and even removed at will.

Blockchain technology can be seen as the tool the Internet was intended to become. Decentralized Blockchain networks grant authority to none, regardless of their wealth or social status. Instead, authority is distributed proportionally throughout participants, creating a balance of opinions and views.

From exchange of value to exchange of information

The first applications for the Blockchain were focused on the exchange of value and not on the exchange of information/knowledge.

However, the evolution was bound to happen and now, complex cryptocurrency platforms like Ethereum and others allow users and developers to explore an infinite number of possibilities with none to tell them what they can or can’t do.

Although these networks allow for complete freedom, there is still much to be done. The information that can be stored on these networks represents but a tiny fraction of the content we can find online and, even though they are gaining traction, most cryptocurrency networks are far from being production ready.

Steemit, for example, has been able to create and maintain a network in which writers are completely free to write about what they want with no form of centralized censorship applied. Not only is Steemit a platform where writers are free to express themselves, but it is also a place where they can be rewarded for their work, depending solely on how well their content is received by the community.

It’s worth noting, however, that Steemit’s reward model has also made it somewhat unreliable, given that whales (users with large holdings) can have a big impact on the writer’s’ rewards. This can be done by downvoting content they don’t like or by using upvotes to sway writers into editing their content.

Cointelegraph asked Ricardo Gonçalves, a prominent witness in the Steemit community and the founder of SteemSports and BuildTeam projects, how he felt about this issue.

He stated:

“There will always be bad actors in any Blockchain community; Bitcoin for example has the issue of mining giants threatening consensus decentralization on the Blockchain and using their influence to steer decisions to suit their own agendas, in my opinion this is a much bigger problem to solve. The great thing is that this issue is outweighed by the many positive initiatives and support coming from the Steem community, who have demonstrated that they would rather use their voting power for the good of the platform.”

Bringing the Internet closer to its original ethos

Changing the way we interact with the web will not happen overnight and it will most likely be a long and arduous process. However, there are promising solutions on the horizon, many of which are leveraging Blockchain technology to bring the Internet closer to its original ethos.

While the Internet itself has much room for improvement, small changes can also drive evolution forth and bring our beloved web back to its original vision (without breaking it along the way).

Archain, for example, allows pages on the Internet to be stored on a Blockchain-like network that can scale to an arbitrary size.

The solution proposed by the Archain team allows a decentralized archive for the Internet to be created, giving users access to deleted pages and allowing them to go-back to uncensored versions of the content they are dealing with.

We asked Sam Williams, CEO of Archain, how a decentralized archive for the Internet can help end censorship.

He stated:

“We believe that access to history is a human right. By distributing an open archive of historically important documents and web pages across the globe, we are going to make it impossible for one country, or even a group of countries, to censor our collective history.”

Blockchain and copyright issues

On the other hand, we also have copyright issues, a polarizing subject. While some defend that all information should be freely accessible, others insist that authors must be rewarded for their work. While both are valid points, Blockchain technology may help reach a compromise in which both views are implemented.

Kim Dotcom, the Internet entrepreneur behind the Megaupload file sharing platform, has come up with a solution that can make both sides of the copyright debate happy. This solution is called K.im, a decentralized platform in which uploaders (a.k.a pirates) will be able to set a price for the files.

While viewers can pay to download the content, broadcasters, studios and other copyright holders can purchase ownership of the pirated files and profit from its sales. This allows the files to be accessible, while also covering the losses of the copyright holders to an extent.

Kim Dotcom seems extremely confident about the project. In a previous interview he stated:  

“It is the holy grail of copyright enforcement. It is my gift to Hollywood, the movie studios, and everyone else. […] Rightsholders can turn piracy traffic into revenue and users can access the content on any platform. Since every file is a store, it doesn’t matter where it ends up.”

While all of the aforementioned projects are not a definite solution to censorship problem, they are providing citizens with the tools their need to protect themselves from it while building the basis for what can one day become a truly free and open Internet.