Will Blockchain Transform Movies?

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Will Blockchain Transform Movies?

By Frankie Wallace.

By 2014, the blockchain had made it to the big screen with documentaries about the revolutionary software taking the digital currency world by storm. But in 2019 (and beyond!), it appears that it will do more than just be a topic discussed on screen. Rather, it could revolutionize the film industry as a whole, putting power in the hand of moviemakers and changing how Hollywood reaches its viewers.

Maybe you’re reading this asking yourself, “what the heck is a blockchain?” Answer: it’s a shared network or database that tracks and allows transfer of data (If you want a more in-depth explanation, this video is always helpful), and is often associated with digital currency. The most revolutionary aspect of blockchain technology, however, is the transparency and accountability it holds users to, simply by design. Villanova University described it as such:

Like the internet, (blockchain) exists as a shared database that is constantly checking itself for continuity, allowing for digital information to be distributed or transferred without being copied. This is how cryptocurrency can exist digitally without anyone making copies, the way that you might “copy” a computer file.

A lot of other industries and businesses are seeing the advantages it brings and are beginning to incorporate it into their operations — and the film industry is no exception. It’s very possible that blockchain could transform this business on a wider scale, especially in the next few years. Here are some of the ways that could happen.

Further Security of Independents

We are in an age of empowerment for independent filmmakers, or at the very least on the cusp. However, we’ve all heard stories about the independent artist who gets hoodwinked by the bigger businesses they work with. It’s a story that keeps repeating. Artists are often creating for passion’s sake, but since businesses need money, they sometimes go back on contracts with the artists, or use loopholes that the creator doesn’t know about to cheat them out of what they are owed. 

Hackernoon author “Blockchain DuDe” thinks this blockchain’s focus on accountability will give independents a bit of a safety net. He had this to say regarding blockchain’s use in distributing films:

A smart contract on a blockchain can register and enforce distribution and release agreements between producers and distribution partners thus building trust. Once recorded on the blockchain, smart contracts can also be used to trigger actions such as enabling automated distribution of revenue when collections are received and recorded.

The DuDe actually wrote this regarding distribution (which we’ll get to in a minute) but it’s notable to think about how an independent film maker might be taken advantage of by those distributing their films or others they may work with. Blockchain would allow the entire communication to be recorded and followed more carefully, with full transparency. No “handshake deal” could be betrayed without being visibly proven, and people could not go back on their words. This goes the other way as well; movie investors can make sure their money is being used for film-making purposes, and companies like MovieCoin have even created cryptocurrency for movie investors to be able to track their funds and keep film makers accountable as well.

Transparent and Direct Distribution

Blockchain has actually become a platform on which movies can be distributed, though this hasn’t yet been taken full advantage of. Recently, Two Roads Picture Co. released a romantic comedy full-length movie called No Postage Necessary, which was distributed via blockchain. It’s about an internet hacker being inspected by the FBI for missing bitcoins (he also falls in love apparently). To deliver films this way is an intriguing concept, and the more popular blockchain becomes, the more we’ll probably start seeing it used in all forms of entertainment.

Nate Bolotin of XYZ films spoke to Screen Daily about this, and mentioned that filmmakers could “circumvent distributors around the world by going directly to the consumer.” SingularDTV’s Kim Jackson also chipped in on this in the same article, saying that at a basic level one could essentially distribute their own IP networks with blockchain, allowing only those inside to be able to watch the movie in question.

Having a direct line to consumers and not having to deal with as many hands could be extremely freeing to production companies. If they do choose to go through multiple hands, blockchain could track the supply chain regarding the movie distribution. It would make the movie production to distribution process smoother as a whole.

Further Roadblocks to Piracy

Streaming services are seen by some as a necessary evil, as they are a response to piracy’s assault on the industry. Movies and music get leaked, but they get leaked less and artists get paid a little more with streaming services. Once again, blockchain comes to the rescue! It may be able to take what streaming services have done a step further, as it’s currently revolutionizing data theft. To see how this will affect movie piracy, we look no further than that of the healthcare industry.

While you may find this to be an odd correlation, healthcare is using blockchain in a way that’s unique to identification. Right now, hospitals are starting to use a software called “health data exchange,” which allows data to only be accessed by people with the correct unique identity security key. It will be patient mediated and allow them to see who is accessing their data and why. Again, blockchain allows you to be part of one’s IP — kind of like it allows you to be a part of an exclusive club, but it makes it extremely specific as to who can get in, and you need the right identifier.

Imagine if you could only see or download movies with a unique security key that you purchased. Imagine how that might change video piracy and give power back to the film industry. It wouldn’t solve the whole piracy issue, but it could throw another wrench in its gears. If movie makers learned to use something like the health data exchange to monitor who is able to watch and download their movies, they could stay in control and possibly inflate legal viewership.

So in short, blockchain being inserted into the movie business would improve transparency from the actual process of moviemaking to distribution of completed films. It would give power to the filmmakers and hopefully keep viewers happy. While this is still a work in process, it’ll be something to see how it’s being used 10 years from now.

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