The relevance of blockchain for culture

Copyright management and how to distribute the monies attached quickly became a key issue, as we were researching our business model for Scenso.tv : we were looking to properly and openly reward each of the parties involved in the value chain of a video production.

Copyright related to the VOD / sVOD broadcast of a show in VOD is typically distributed as follows :

  • Authors of a given show are represented and paid by collective management societies such as SACEM, ASCAP, BMI, etc.

  • The video of the same show will institute new copyright holders, who are usually represented and paid by producers or distributors

  • Representation contracts must take into account the temporality and locality of copyright, as this may affect each of the rights holders differently, according to their specific rights and location.

This results in an administrative nightmare of complex, distributed and overlapping rights; furthermore this situation does not contribute to the development of relation based on mutual trust between parties.

We therefore made a decision to develop our own software based on blockchain protocols : an ideal tool to generate certified evidence regarding how a show is viewed and thus enabling an automated distribution of copyright. We designed and developed a specific Smart Contract addressing the constraints of copyright management, including location, time-stamps, third-party or second tier, etc.

Main principles

A blockchain is defined as a set of protocols for storing and transmitting information without a central authority. It consists of a distributed ledger, where the information sent by users as well as internal links of the database are checked and grouped at regular time intervals in blocks. The set is secured by cryptography and protected against falsification or modification by the storage nodes.

Polkatulk has elected to implement blockchain protocols as the behind-the-scenes technology to empower real-time, tamper-proof and automated management of content and its associated copyright. Our solution, including a back-office and specific reporting tools, soon to be available in a SaaS environment, enables copyright owners to record & monitor the specifics of the contents they provide, as well as to track the economic life of their catalogues, in real time. Access to the solution is granted by our authentication service to the specific catalogue of each contributor. This solution relies on unique identification of films via the ISAN reference, and records the full contractual data (rates per show, per copyright owner, per territory and so forth). We then derive the copyright distributed in a revenue sharing model, computed directly from the subscriptions of the end users of the application.

Thus, Polkatulk’s DLT is a private blockchain based on the Ethereum protocols, relying on a Proof of Authority validation system. This enables certification of blocks by a number of identified users of the network. These sealers are the sole members allowed to add blocks; they are elected and revoked by consensus on the network. This validation method has been chosen as it is perceived as requiring less resources and less maintenance than PoW (Proof of Work), whilst the block reward, specific to PoW, is not deemed to be relevant for the purposes of copyright & content management. The strength of PoA resides in the trust generated between users and sealers : due to to the consensus method of election and revocation, the latter have a vested interest in guaranteeing the resilience and integrity of the network, whilst the former have constant and direct access to data. Furthermore, all transactions are linked to a public address, which corresponds in turn to a unique user : all of the actions of a given user are immediately readable and trackable by the whole community. With an impossibility to anonymously approve blocks, and no possibility for disputable transactions or malicious actors, this a strong use case for generating trust between competitive providers, helping them collaborate in a common distribution system. All stakeholders could be welcome to hosting a node, making this one of the first collaborative networks to enable distribution of cultural content.

Use Case

Polkatulk launched its first use case in October 2018 : Scenso.tv, aiming to stream an edited and enriched catalogue of films centered around performing arts - theater, opera, ballet, concerts (classical, jazz, pop / rock, world music….), circus, documentaries. The platform offers a complete catalogue across all genres through a unique SVOD subscription. It also aims at opening the cultural field of live entertainment films to as many people as possible, on a nonlinear basis. It thus offers a new visibility to these currently under-distributed contents, whilst enhancing the diversity of the European scene by facilitating access to varied programs. Finally, its revenue-sharing model as certified by blockchain protocols pushes forth a new revenue source for the ecosystem.

We encode traffic for a given show by using its ISAN registration number, a unique identification code for each video production. Each and single view of a given production is then hard coded into our blockchain, thereby creating tamper-proof accountability : each time a viewer watches a video, this triggers the pre-defined smart contracts and determines the rights per copyright holder as defined in the contract.

As each view can be traced to the subscriber, we can therefore trace revenue owed as per the copyright agreement to our sales turnover. We can determine monthly closings showing bullet-proof evidence of how any production was viewed. This enables us to allocate a precise numerical value per view, which can be compiled to produce a solid account statement, driving income for the copyright holder and linked to the actual economical life of the production considered.

Our blockchain runs with APIs : we can interconnect several platforms distributing the same production, whilst being able to determine precisely and in real time the income these productions and views generated on any given connected platform.

Using the blockchain protocols entails we produce qualified and audit-quality consumer data. We opted out of crypto-currencies for the time being, as we wanted to preserve our model from the volatility of these markets. However we still reap the benefit of the inherent cryptography, thus guaranteeing the inviolability of our consumption registers. Replicating the blockchain with several distributed nodes, hosted by parties with vested interest, also helps secure the data and generate reciprocal trust

This application is currently increasing its roster of subscribers and steadily adding to its catalogue and functionalities. We aim at economically demonstrating the viability and relevance of our business model and technological solutions in 2019.