As regular readers have probably noticed, one of the hottest trends in blockchain technology at the moment, and one which I have been focusing on a great deal recently, is decentralized media.

There are loads of great new projects working in this area, and offering substantial benefits over established services and with huge potential to make media freer, fairer, more honest and accessible, and just plain better. But whilst most of these projects are focused primarily on the distribution side of the equation, the SingularDTV platform is busy creating decentralized rights management services for the entertainment industry (particularly film and television).

You may have heard of SingularDTV as a result of the original TV series ‘Singular’, which they are producing. The Singular series will be an adventure series with science fiction elements, tracing the transformation of the world by technology (including decentralized technologies!), leading through AI wars and other epic world changing events to the eventual ‘singularity’ and the age of transcendence. The team have an upcoming crowdsale to raise funds for the completion of the series. This crowdsale will use Ethereum to issue tokens to supporters using the ‘CODE’ structure which I explain a little more below.

While the series itself has generated interest in the media, it seems to me that a potentially even more interesting aspect of the project has been largely overlooked – the decentralized rights management platform that they are also building. Although there are a few hints about what this will look like on their website I could find only a few details, so I got in touch with CEO Zach Lebeau to tell me more…

Intellectual Property Rights on the Blockchain

We anticipate the SingularDTV rights/revenue/royalty platform to become a billion dollar interest in the next 3-5 years”.

Registering intellectual property (IP) claims on the blockchain has been sort of possible for a while, as I wrote about back in 2015 in my article on the poor man’s copyright, but the SingularDTV platform will expand on this fledgling possibility and offer some interesting tools to media producers.

There are three obvious areas where registering IP on a decentralized peer-to-peer network can offer a substantial advantage: transparency, openness and ease of access. As Lebeau says:

The current distribution arm is so obfuscated with creative accounting practices it is difficult to get accurate sales figures of one’s film/tv project. Additionally, the entertainment industry is a large monopolistic and antiquated network of procedures and systems with an extremely high barrier for entry.”

The use of a peer to peer network gives small media producers a level playing field with the big boys, without the substantial costs and barriers that going through the current centralized system places in their way. Access is open to all, with no censorship or insider deals. Anybody can plug into the system and use it, with the rules of the game laid out on the blockchain through smart contracts. At the same time, all data is recorded in a public ledger rather than private company accounts, making it easily accessible.

This openness extends to the platform’s attitude towards geographical regions, and its flexibility around media formats. According to Lebeau:

Because our platform will be international, universal and non-regionalized it will alter and evolve the formats and formulas content usually adheres to in the centralized legacy paradigm.  Lines between film and television will be further blurred, runtimes will change and SingularDTV content will not be produced to cater to English audiences but will include language and culture from multiple regions of the world with an initial focus on also Spanish and Chinese.”

Smart Contracts & Financial Automation

As an Ethereum based project, the SingularDTV platform will make full use of new smart contract technologies to automate much of the financial management involved in this process.

Revenue generated by a project can be automatically and instantly distributed to all participants, paying out to individual actors and other employees, investors, producers and so on, according to rules laid on in smart contracts.

By using a modular approach, these smart contracts become a flexible toolkit which can be applied even outside the entertainment industry:

“This rights platform essentially moves value and data around the blockchain via smart contracts.  In the decentralized blockchain world everything will be moved around by these smart contracts.  SingularDTV is building smart contract “modules” to run its right’s platform.  These modules are fashioned around automating much of the business side of developing, making and distribution of film/tv content.   Because film and tv deals are so complex – often including hundreds, sometimes thousands of transactional participants in one project – most of the modules we build to operate this platform will translate easily to other industries, giving SingularDTV the ability to quickly customize or adapt these modules for other industries to use. ”

The combination of an open platform and extensive ‘off-the-shelf’ tools for structuring right management, combined with the built-in low cost payment mechanics of the blockchain are also expected to keep costs to a minimum, allowing media producers to retain 90-100% of revenue generated.

User Identity

The same approach also applies to the way in which SingularDTV interacts with other projects on the Ethereum blockchain. For example, the platform will link up with the uPort identity system to provide users with a decentralized way to manage their identity – and the digital assets they own (including movies and so on that they’ve bought) – without having to go through an account with some giant corporation like Apple or Amazon.

This is something Lebeau seems to take seriously:

“Currently, digital identities are owned and controlled by corporations like Facebook and Twitter.  Someday we’ll look back on this day and age and say we suffered from a form of digital enslavement.  Our digital experience, presence and identity will become just as important to our lives in the future as our physical presence and bodies are now.”

CODE: Creating and Managing ‘Blockchain Entities’.

As part of the crowdfunding campaign for its Singular series, SingularDTV has developed an alternative to the ‘DAO’ (decentralized autonomous organisation) model to allow for supporter participation whilst also ensuring security.

The creation of a ‘Centrally Organised Distributed Entity’, or CODE for short, provides a way to automatically assign a form of shared ownership over a project by its supporters, without fully ceding control to the crowd.

The same CODE structure being used by the Singular series will also be available to other projects wishing to use the rights management platform.

Distribution and More

Of course there is no way to fully separate rights management services from distribution, and the SingularDTV platform will also provide novel ways for regular consumers to access media.

One of these is a video-on-demand portal the team are developing, where users will be able to watch the Singular series, other content produced in-house, as well as select movies and television shows from other sources.