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Protecting intellectual property using the 'internet of value'

News and Notes Focused on the 3 Public Faces of IP Law

  • Brand Image Protection - Trademark Law
  • Visual Image Protection - Copyright Law
  • Personal Image Protection - Right of Publicity Law

The Image Protection Law blog has been created in order to share stories and information on the legal aspects of: 1) the marketplace reputation of a company or product captured in its trademark, 2) published or publicly-displayed artwork, photography, and any created visual design, and 3) use of a person's photograph or likeness for product promotion or other commercial purposes.

The "IP3" share at least one thing in common: Image is everything. In these posts let's look at what that means in the realm of intellectual property in the news, but let's also be prepared to explore if there's something more beyond "everything." Don't forget, the intellectual in "intellectual property" doesn't mean smart or brainy, although by nature true creators often are. The word is used to refer to any creation, i.e., a "product of the mind." While this blog will be regularly updated, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these posts.

In the early 2000s, we experienced what came to be called the dot-com bubble. That was when the internet came into its own as an economic power. Unfortunately, speculation about big tech sector earnings took priority over traditional business metrics. Eventually, according to Wikipedia, skepticism rose, venture capital dried up, and a crash followed.

Things are somewhat saner today, though some argue the dot-com age echoes in the roar surrounding the development of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and its supporting blockchain technology. The blockchain system is so enigmatic, though, that one writer notes some have taken to speaking metaphorically about it - calling it a controller for the "internet of value."

That might be an apt description. Consider that the internet is where any creative output with value can be published for the world to see in digital format. Unfortunately, it's just as easy for others to derive value from such works without paying for it. Bitcoin overcame this with the blockchain structure.

In simple terms, blockchain takes valuable data, encrypts it and spreads bits of it across many decentralized node servers. To transfer the chunks of valuable data you own, you give someone else a private key that unlocks the relevant block data. The keys serve as a record of the transaction. The blockchain encryption across anonymous, decentralized nodes provides inexpensive security, and a transaction can occur without the need of any intermediary.

Finally, blockchain holds the potential for giving creators more control of their copyrights by creating so-called "smart contracts." A bit of computer code inserted into a blockchain means release of material occurs only after specific conditions are met. So, a photographer might use blockchain to limit how users access, share, or copy works.

The potential of such a system is the inspiration for the latest venture by Kodak. The 130-year-old company, having failed to adapt to technology advances in photography, seeks to create a cryptocurrency, KODAKCoin, based on a blockchain system that it says will allow photographers to control sale of their work with more confidence.

Kodak's ambition may or may not succeed. The jury is still out and there are some signs of trouble. As always, safe copyright transactions remain possible and potential issues are best addressed by working with skilled legal counsel.

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