While many people initially treated Bitcoin and blockchain synonymously, entrepreneurs and innovators have taken bold steps to take blockchain technology out of the financial industry to realize its true potential.
Tang Ling, an early blockchain enthusiast in China and intellectual property expert, sought to combine his two passions to solve deep-rooted problems in the cultural and creative industry. He co-founded Singapore-based Ink Labs Foundation (INK), a global blockchain project for creatives.
“Blockchain technology can help artists and those in the industry in various ways,” says Tang. “The initial registration of the copyright, for example, is one thing that’s commonly ignored by artists and more broadly original content creators.”
Tokenizing intellectual property
“Artists and creators simply do not [possess] sufficient legal knowledge or enough funding to protect their work,” says Tang who came up with a decentralized solution to tackle copyright issues and intellectual property infringement through INK.
One way that INK helps artists and original content creators is by providing copyright for all content uploaded onto their platform. With the use of blockchain technology, smart contracts are created for every piece of creative and original content in the INK blockchain ecosystem, allowing legal registration to be filed almost instantly. Artists can then make use of the smart contract to get a copyright fee.
Drawing on musicians as an example, Tang says that rules can be written into the coding of the smart contract so that if someone plays the musician's piece once, a copyright fee can be received immediately. The copyright is then tokenized, so it becomes a blockchain asset.
Fundraising for original content
Another way INK helps artists and creators is by providing fundraising capabilities for their cultural content projects. Tang draws on the example of a singer who wants to raise funds for a single.
“The singer may not have the means to raise sufficient funds, nor enough legal support to protect their work from plagiarism,” says Tang. “But with the INK blockchain ecosystem, the singer is able to put 50% of the single’s worth on the platform and raise half of the funds by releasing its own token.”
After the single is verified and accepted by INK, Tang says that it will instantly have legal copyright protection in all regions INK covers. Ideally, investors will pledge their 50% ownership, and the singer will have enough money for production.
In that case and when the single starts to generate a profit, investors on the INK platform will see a rise in the price of the single’s token price, and thus will be able to sell their tokens to yield a high return, explains Tang.
Ink Labs Foundation received a million-dollar angel investment in April 2017, and multimillion-dollar Pre-A round financing in July. Currently, Tang says more than 3000 individual artists and 50 companies use INK, mostly from China, South Korea and Japan. Most of their services are free, while 5% is charged for fundraising.
Transforming the creative industry
Experts believe that the decentralized nature of blockchain will have far-reaching implications that will be felt outside of the financial industry.
“Blockchain will transform the creative industry. For the first time, creators will be directly rewarded by their fans based on the perceived value of their work,” says Sherman Lee, partner at Zeroth.AI, a Hong Kong-based accelerator that works with artificial intelligence and blockchain startups.
Tang acknowledges that blockchain, like artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data, looks very powerful to ordinary people. “Our mission is to make blockchain [accessible to] everyone,” said Tang.
“I believe the existing development of blockchain technology has only started to scratch the surface of what the technology is truly capable of,” says Tang.