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Blockchain And The Future Of Content DAM: Planned Industry Blockchain Consortium

by Ralph Windsor on January 23, 2018

Last month, Jean Lozano of Cloud DAM vendor, MediaValet wrote an article on their blog, Cryptomedia: Blockchain in the Digital Asset Management Space.  The piece is quite interesting since it isn’t about the currently deflating tradable Crypto-as-a-security (or perhaps ‘CraaS’?) bubble and neither does it write the whole thing off as the modern equivalent of tulip mania (which is similarly intellectually lazy, but just in the opposite direction).  The article echoes a number of the points I have been making about this technology:

The massively transformative vision for Blockchain in the DAM industry is for content distribution to be decentralized and democratized in a public blockchain network where creators of media assets can publish, broadcast and distribute their work and get compensated for the value they generate. This however, at this point in time, is more of a moonshot than a bankable strategy. I think, what we need right now, is a federation of digital asset media libraries that can serve as a distributed and decentralized ‘system of record’ for digital media in an enterprise Blockchain ecosystem. This will establish concrete media asset ownership rights and attribution for media assets as a first step before we tackle the much larger and more complicated content licensing and distribution space.” [Read More]

Jean highlights the rights management use-case for blockchain in his piece.  As he alludes to in the quote above, while there is a role for blockchain in Rights Management, the complexity of this subject has been underestimated by many and although a blockchain might provide the infrastructure for that eventually, it’s going to take a long time to achieve as it requires legislation and/or legal precedent to be established.  There are going to be a number of competing blockchains that want to establish themselves and the methods of definitively proving a content/media digital asset was originated by whoever claims it and the methods currently available (e.g. using hashes etc) are far from robust because of the ease with which they can be invalidated currently.

I do not want to detract from Jean’s article, however, as he has covered a number of other uses for blockchain in his item and (in full-disclosure) I have spoken to both him and David Maclaren from MediaValet about this subject on a phone call last year, so I know the background to the article.  I am also fairly sure they are not just latching on to this subject because it is fashionable in the wider tech sector.

There are two fundamental and relatively straightforward to implement usage scenarios for blockchain: interoperability and protocol standardisation.  Arguably these are two sides of the same coin (and I shall avoid making some obvious contextual puns about that metaphor).  The interoperability opportunity with blockchain I described in an article I wrote on DAM News last year.  Protocol standardisation means having some conventions for representing digital asset metadata and making them concrete (and therefore enforceable).  Whether this is achieved with a smart contract or a more basic method doesn’t matter a great deal (at least in the short-medium term). It must be acknowledged that while the implementation can be achieved relatively easily, adoption might well be a lot more difficult.  This is much the same as DAM software: although developing solution feels like hard work to those tasked with it, compared with getting people to actually use DAM systems, implementation is the simpler job.  One method of alleviating adoption issues is to try and get as many people participating, so they feel more like stakeholders (and therefore are emotionally invested into it) and the same approaches can be used with standards initiatives and industry consortiums.

Yesterday I participated in a call about the W3C DAM ontology initiative with Emily Kolvitz, Matthew Patulski, Spencer Harris and Tim Strehle.  It was not a closed meeting, these are open to anyone who wants to join the group.  While blockchains will be the rails the trains run on, the locomotives, carriages and passengers will be the data inside the blocks.  The conventions that determine the specifications for holding this data are likely to be decided in these kind of meetings, i.e. by people who can be bothered to show up and ensure their voice gets heard.  Later this month, I will be launching a DAM Blockchain industry consortium where I want to discuss this subject in greater depth with those who are seeing the potential applications of blockchain technology.  I intend to coordinate this with the W3C group to ensure there is some cross-fertilisation between both.  I plan to post a separate DAM News article about a blockchain consortium group, but for those who are keen to express an interest in discussing it further right away, there is a sign-up form here and I will send out an email with more info to anyone who has completed it.

As has been mentioned elsewhere today, I am also now involved with DAM Guru Program (DGP) in an executive role and I will be investigating what synergies exist between DGP and the innovations described.

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