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Prospects and challenges posed by blockchain technology on the copyright legal system

Huang-Chih Sung

Keywords: blockchain; copyright; authentication; transaction; IPFS; smart contracts

In the current copyright law and technology environment, two prominent problems must be considered when enforcing and executing copyrights: (i) the difficulty of proving authorship/ownership of a copyright; and (ii) the difficulty of conducting copyright transactions. The invention of blockchain technology has made it possible to solve these two issues. First, the use of blockchain technology with the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is an excellent mechanism for copyright authentication and document preservation. This mechanism allows authors (copyright owners) to prove authorship of their works and copyrights ownership. However, this mechanism for copyright authentication and document preservation may not be applicable in the future primarily because the computer software currently used may be upgraded in the following years. Second, the combination of Ethereum Blockchain and smart contracts can reduce transaction costs and enhance the efficiency of copyright assignments and licensing transactions. However, many legal problems regarding smart contracts have yet to be addressed. These problems include identifying the contracting parties in the anonymous blockchain network, dealing with scenarios where both contracting parties want to amend the implemented smart contracts, explaining code-based smart contracts and setting up an internal dispute resolution mechanism. Unlike the traditional transmission control protocol/Internet protocol network, where any activity is traceable, users on blockchain technology remain anonymous and their activities on the blockchain are hardly traceable. Although the blockchain itself is unlikely to become a hotbed of copyright infringement, the combination of the Ethereum Blockchain, the IPFS and smart contracts may make the entire process a hotbed of copyright infringement. Therefore, this situation poses considerable worries regarding copyright infringement on the blockchain. When the decentralized and anonymized blockchain and peripheral technologies mature, they will have considerable influence on copyright protection. This problem must be addressed by the copyright legal system in the current wave of blockchain technology implementation.

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