The rights profiles are one of the major innovations that are being developed within the Content Blockchain Project. This post aims to explain the idea and the motivation behind this legal concept, as well as the way rights profiles can be used in order to facilitate the process of licensing content online. We asked our legal counsels Ramak Molavi and Dr. Till Kreutzer to elaborate.
What is a rights profile?
A “rights profile” is the content of a customisable standard license that can be used to grant rights to use a copyrighted work. Rights profiles consist of a combination of predefined license modules. Every module describes a certain type of use, like “reproduction” or “sharing”. The rights owner, e.g. a creator, can combine the modules according to her needs and preferences in order to generate the license that she wants to offer to potential users of the content. The rights profile combined with other relevant aspects such as the term of the license or the price is called a “smart license”.
For whom are these rights profiles useful?
Looking at rights clearing on the Internet, we are far away from a good approach. Try to clear the rights for an image or a single article. It is time-consuming and unsatisfying. Authors are hard to find, contact possibilities are rare, licence texts are hard and long to read and often barely understandable. Rights clearing in the net is broken.
The Content Blockchain Project aims to enable an easy option to purchase usage rights for digital content like fonts, pictures, text, music and more. Our prototype will allow users to obtain content and licenses by using an easy access application ensuring instant legal security.
The creators now have the same simple possibility to offer their content to a mass audience without intermediaries. This way, also non-mainstream needs can be served in a better way, as our concept is fit to drastically lower the thresholds of time, money, effort and expertise that are necessary in order to come to a license agreement.
Another benefit of our approach is its flexibility. We are in a trial phase and by the response of the users, we can improve and adapt the smart licences to the needs of the audience.
Choosing a license out of pre-existing options may sound familiar to some people. What is your motivation?
The basic principle is adopted from the Creative Commons Open Content licensing system (see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/?lang=en). Different from Creative Commons our smart licenses can be used for “commercial” (non open) licensing. The main idea however is the same: We want to create a legal toolkit that facilitates licensing for users and rights owners alike and we want to make this toolkit available for everybody. Licensing is – apart from Open Content licensing – still a complex and tedious process. This fact is detrimental to one of the major potentials of the Internet: the ability to be a publisher. Whereas nowadays everybody can easily be a distributor and publisher in technical terms, legal issues often prevent people to do so. For non-professional creators or newcomers it is simply too costly and difficult to create legally valid licenses and contracts. And even for professional exploiters licensing is a very complex and costly part of the business. This is particularly true for online concluded, cross-border contracts. Facilitating these processes with easy-to-use legal tech and legal tools could lower transaction costs significantly.
What does your legal concept enable users to do?
The concept shall achieve the goal of facilitating the granting of licences by two features: 1) There is only a limited set of modules to be chosen from. This makes it easier especially for non-experts to understand the options, orientate oneself and make the right choice. 2) There are different versions of the rights profiles. Following the Creative Commons example the modules and the smart licenses that can be derived from them will be available in three forms: a) a “human readable” version that contains plain language descriptions of the use type, which constitutes a big benefit for all non-experts b) a full text version in “legalese” that ensures the legal validity of the rights profiles and c) a machine readable version that can be interpreted by computers.
Our rights profiles shall be usable in an unlimited variety of applications that all build on the proof of concept we are working on at the moment. First, we will develop a certain set of modules that are needed to demonstrate the concept with the help of prototype license mechanism that is also being developed within our project. Naturally other modules can be added to the initial set over time, maybe by us, hopefully also by other contributors.
If our concept is adopted and additional applications that can interact with the encoded rights profiles are built on it, the effect on commercial licensing could be enormous. Every creator should be able to license her works without the need for intermediaries like platforms or publishers and without counsel by lawyers. In the broader sense our mechanism could contribute to a more standardised, more international market for copyright licenses.
How are the rights profiles related to the ISCC, the identifier that is currently being developed by the Content Blockchain Project? What is their role in the overall context of the project?
We know identifiers like the ISBN for books, but not yet for single digital artifacts like a journal article, a picture or other single content items on the net. One of the innovations of the Content Blockchain Project is a universal identifier that can designate all these forms of digital content. We call it ISCC, the International Standard Content Code. The rights profiles and the license information that they contain are designed to be used concurrently with this ISCC. Thus, a certain rights profile can univocally be assigned to a specific manifestation of digital content. All of this can be done with a few clicks. Furthermore, the ISCC and the information contained in the rights profile – notably the license that applies to the referenced content – are designed to be published to a blockchain together. This opens up new possibilities for the trading of licenses and content.
We combine design principles and legal expertise with new technological capabilities in an interdisciplinary team to bring innovation and simplicity to an area that truly needs improvement.