Blockchain, Crypto & Smart Contracts: What they are & what they mean for IP

© 2018 Tonya M. Evans

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Recently, I delivered two presentations in Bangkok, Thailand about the intellectual property implications of blockchain technology. The first was an internal preso for the prominent Southeast Asian law firm of Tilleke & Gibbins, and the second was for the Licensing Executives Society-Thailand Conference.

In each preso, I engaged attendees (live and via video conference) in a macro-level exploration of blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts to clarify what this relatively new disruptive, empowering ecosystem is, what it means for our collective future as attorneys, corporate leaders, startup founders and entrepreneurs, and its implications in intellectual property law.

Recently, Darts-IP.com published an article I wrote titled IP + Blockchain: A Primer based on some of the information I shared in Bangkok.

I could spend all day every day falling down the proverbial rabbit hole of information about blockchain. There is literally breaking blockchain and cryptocurrency news every minute, if Coindesk’s website and twitter feed are any indication. Each bit and byte of information leads to more information (and misinformation), FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), FOMO (fear of missing out), and speculation about all of the potential pitfalls and opportunities in this new technology frontier. So it’s difficult for most people to figure out where to begin. If this describes you, you’re not alone and you’ve come to the right place! Read on.

You probably have questions (or you wouldn’t be reading this post). Lots of them. The first may very well be where to begin to get a handle on the power and promise of blockchain. Everyone should have some baseline understanding. But lawyers, in particular, must achieve basic technological competence in this space to be well positioned to help clients solve problems. Given my background and expertise, I am particularly interested in the intellectual property issues triggered by blockchain’s rise in mainstream adoption as research & development use cases transition into full implementation and refinement.

In future posts, I will share trends and current events in the blockchain ecosystem that raise copyright, patent, and trademark issues. Follow me on Twitter @IPProfEvans for breaking IP-related blockchain and crypto news. Below are some blockchain basics that I cover more substantively in IP + Blockchain: A Primer and some additional resources about blockchain, crypto, and smart contracts.

So … what is Blockchain? [Updated excerpt from IP + Blockchain: A Primer Continue reading “Blockchain, Crypto & Smart Contracts: What they are & what they mean for IP”

Professor Evans’ scholarship in line with DOC’s latest reccs re: copyright statutory damages, remixes

iptf_logosThe Department of Commerce‘s Internet Policy Task Force recently released its much-anticipated report on statutory damages, remixes, and the first sale doctrine. The report, titled White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory DamagesCopyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy (The IPTF Report), recommended numerous important and long overdue changes to the Copyright Act. Those recommendations focus on three key areas:

  1. the legal framework for the creation of remixes;
  2. the relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment; and
  3. the application of statutory damages in the context of individual file-sharers and secondary liability for large-scale online infringement. (p. iii, The IPTF Report).

The Task Force Report made three recommendations overall:

  1. To enact a new section 504 of the Copyright Act that lists factors for courts and juries to consider when determining the amount of a statutory damages award.
  2. To remove the “notice bar” to the Innocent Infringer “defense” and instead treat notice as merely a factor. This change is especially important to protect a good faith, mistaken user (who I refer to as a “mea culpa infringer” in Safe Harbor for the Innocent Infringer in the Digital Age).
  3. To give courts the discretion to assess statutory damages in ways other than a strict per-work basis in cases involving non-willful secondary liability for online services offering a large number of works.

I write primarily about the impact of new technologies and new forms of artistic expression on copyright law. Therefore, I am excited and encouraged to see that my assertions and recommendations in Safe Harbor for the Innocent Infringer in the Digital Age (50 Willamette L. Rev. 1 (2013)), Reverse Engineering IP  (17 Marquette Intell. Prop. L. Rev. 61 (2013)), and Sampling, Looping & Mashing … Oh MY! (21 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 843 (2011)), are consistent with the Task Force’s approach to these critical areas in need of substantive reform.

For example, in Safe Harbor for the Innocent Infringer in the Digital Age I explored the role of the innocent infringer archetype historically and in the digital age. I also highlighted the tension between a “20th century” copyright regime and “21st century” user expectations regarding generally accepted online uses of copyrighted materials. Those customary uses reflect the efficient use of digital technologies and the Internet. Finally, I offered a legislative fix in the form of “safe harbor” from liability for certain innocent infringers akin to the type of protection afforded online service providers.

In that article, I argued that such an exemption seems not only more efficient but also more just in the online environment where unwitting infringement for the average copyright consumer is far easier than ever to commit, extremely difficult to police, and often causes little, if any, real market harm.

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In a current work-in-progress titled “Safer Harbor” from Statutory Damages for Mea Culpa Infringers: Remixing the DOC White Paper, I approach the topic from the damages-instead of the liability-phase.

I offer a legislative fix to the statutory damages section that would inject greater balance, fairness and uniformity into the damages assessment. I began writing this article in 2014 but in light the IPTF Report, I intend to analyze and incorporate the Report’s findings and recommendations against the backdrop of my own recommended fixes to copyright law.

 

Evans joins world class panelists at Ent, Arts & Sports Symposium in DC 9/18-19

On September 18-19, 2015 Howard University School of Law is hosting a national conference focusing on entertainment, arts, and sports law. It will be held at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC. The conference agenda is below. Online registration is available here:  http://newglobaleas.com.

The gala dinner and awards ceremony honoring Professor Spencer Boyer is on Friday night. The tickets for that event are available here: http://www.law.howard.edu/1952.

Conference Agenda  Continue reading “Evans joins world class panelists at Ent, Arts & Sports Symposium in DC 9/18-19”