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Art Digital Assets - 2. The Value of Authorship

This article is the second of the series on Art Digital Assets. To better understand how art works can be Digital Assets for artists to manage on the Internet of Value, you can read the previous article “Defining Art Works as Digital Assets”.

Professional artists and digital contents creators need to claim their Digital Assets ownership in order to be able to control their use. Blockchain provides new easy immutable timestamped Intellectual Property (IP) Registry, and Smart Contracts can make it easy to execute licensing agreements for artists to bring their artworks on the web with a license of use.

Intellectual Property Registries

In the physical world, authors count on IP Registries to be able to claim their rights when abused. On the web, this hasn’t been possible with art works’ digital files so far. It’s time to fix this!

Use and Abuse of Copyrights 2.0

On our research* an author explained she had seen her work on sites she didn’t know before. Others explained their images had been used for commercials without their consent, and never getting any benefit for that. Another one told us he had uploaded videos to Youtube that had been put down with no good reasons. In all cases, authors felt abused, but in the last one the artist was really upset because he had put a lot of work on making his videos and now he was wondering: “Is this really my channel? Am I in control of my videos once I upload them on Youtube?

When an author brings to the web a creation in the form of a digital file, he/she is sharing his work, but he/she still remains legally the author. Any creative content on the web is its author’s Intellectual Property, and this includes all rights associated by law (even for undeclared intellectual property). Therefore, the use of such different rights should be licensed within the terms the artist decides. On the web2, the terms of use are usually defined by the platform services the author has to accept. The author rarely can take the time to understand those terms and conditions imposed, and usually gives up and accepts whatever. Moreover, the terms of such sharing are usually undefined or ignored by the user. Considering the author’s law protection, to prevent abuse is a challenging and nearly impossible task. As a consequence, abuse has become an easy common practice, leaving authors actually unprotected, on the web despite registries. Despite some controverted intents, the fact is that no legislation has actually solved this problem so far.

Authorship as a Value

How can authors claim ownership of their art works files and control their use on the web? How can they become digital assets with actual value? Can authorship recover some value on the web3?

What is the value of authorship on the web today?

So far, IP Registries have been the only way for authors to prove and defend the ownership of their art works. Although this may work in the physical world, it has been fairly inefficient for authors to defend the IP ownership of their art digital files. Fortunately, with blockchain technology new more efficient solutions are on their way. It is nowadays very easy for artists/authors to have their digital files registered, and many wonderful projects are ready to provide such service. Moreover, digital fingerprinting technology services have been developed to help track the uses of your artworks.

Nevertheless, still today, when an author finds out that one of his/her artworks is being mis-used without his/her permission, what can he/she do? Are authors willing to start claiming their rights in court?

According to our research*, by no means that is the case. The truth is that few authors are ready and can afford fighting for their rights on the web. Artists show either disappointment or skepticism, so they don’t find real interest in their digital files, and they don’t seem to attach to them real value. Hence, they give up on the defence of authorship and copyrights. The report following our research stated that “recovering those concepts on the web, and re-thinking them according to our times and to the new digital paradigm seems very important. Otherwise, with no proprietorship recognition for a digital file, it is difficult to consider a value attribution and who is entitled to such value. A redefinition of the role and the value of artists and their art works has to be considered at this time in history.” And it is only fair to ask oneself: what is the value of authorship today?

Taking back copyrights for authors 3.0

Whatever the value we give to Intellectual Property / authorship, a reliable and inmutable ledger of art work digital files has become an essential necessity for any author on the web in order to start using them as assets and be able to make deals on the new Internet of Value. Registering art works' digital files on the blockchain is not just a way to prove your Intellectual Property in court. Registering art works' digital files on the blockchain is the first step for artists to “tokenize” the valuable art content they bring to the Internet of Value.

The value digital files - including any art digital file - comes actually from their potential use. Therefore, authors / artists will only be able to benefit from their art digital assets by licensing licensing their copyrights use upon fair deals on their owners terms. Authorship recognition is a conditio sine qua non for an art digital file to be tokenized by authors themselves, although the actual value of any art digital file will be defined later on.

Artists who decide to take control of their art works digital copies, and who think of making deals with them on the web are what I like to call “Smartists”: self-managed artists, and they want to benefit from the upcoming opportunities provided by smart-contracts on the web3.

First step for authors to take control of their art work on the web is by using a Registry on the blockchain. The second step is defining the terms for such art work to be used on the web, and how they want to be paid. Such services are already on their way. If you want to know more, have a look at the upcoming article “Dealing with Art Digital Files”.

by Georgina Mauriño, founder of Smartists, “Bringing together Artists and Art users on the Internet of Value”.

* The team building Smartists, is leading some research for the development of a more useful DApp connecting artists and art-users fo communicate and deal with benefits for all.

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