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How musicians are using blockchain to make a profit from their songs

How musicians are using blockchain to make a profit from their songs

How musicians are using blockchain to make a profit from their songs

Bitmark Ambassador Series: Pochang Wu works to defend property rights for music hosted on streaming platforms

Pochang Wu on stage at an Echo show

The Bitmark Ambassador series highlights innovators who understand the importance of property rights for data and digital assets. They are industry pioneers — artists, lawyers, scientists, health researchers, hackers, makers and creators.

“We want to develop a complete ecosystem for indie music….We created an infrastructure that we hope allows all the people in this industry to build a decentralized distributed system for managing artist rights.” says Pochang Wu, the first Bitmark Ambassador (see video embedded at end of this story).

Wu is an entrepreneur and the lead singer for 回聲樂團 (Echo). He has been a major player in a movement to correct issues in Asia’s independent music industry. Wu is the founder of iNDIEVOX, which was the first DRM-free music store in Taiwan. iNDIEVOX’s decision to remove DRM was an important one: it recognized and corrected a problem with online MP3 sales, where DRM was restricting the property rights of consumers buying digital music.

Generally, this has been Wu’s approach in his endeavors: to identify the flaws in the music field and then correct them.

“Give the power back to the people, to each individual, the creators, and those who love music.”

Property rights for songs and royalties.

Wu has worked with many music industry institutions, including labels, streaming services, and more. By using the Bitmark digital property blockchain, he has created a digital solution to the complicated management process of song rights and royalty payouts.

Streaming music services have done much to raise the profiles of indie musicians by providing instant distribution to a mass audience. Yet, the process of paying royalties has generally remained a cumbersome, manual process that can take up to twelve months after a song is released. (Typically, royalty rights are recorded in spreadsheet files stuck behind corporate firewalls.) This time-intense and costly process cuts into the profits of both sides and reduces transparency for the artist.

“We created an infrastructure that we hope allows all the people in this industry to build a decentralized distributed system for managing artist rights.”

Now artists, like Wu, can register song rights as property via the Bitmark blockchain. This enables them to track who owns which rights more effectively, without cumbersome databases or paperwork. Rights owners can more easily transfer their holdings. With clear property ownership, royalty payouts will go directly to the artist.

“Blockchain gives us imagination and possibility, allowing each individual to control his or her own things, whether they are rights, assets, documents, or information.”

Wu is leading the music industry toward a much needed collaborative system of transparency for music rights and management. This is a fantastic first step for individual artists, who will be able to make a living from their digital content because they can legally prove the rights to their original works. It is also pioneering a path, for the music industry as a whole, to implement more transparent systems that benefit everyone involved.

“I think to hold rights in our hands, is a core concept and value for blockchain as well as independent music.”

Watch to learn more about what drives Pochang Wu to help musicians all over the world.

By Bitmark Inc. on January 28, 2019.
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CEO of Bitmark Sean Moss-Pultz: Working with Fung Fellows

CEO of Bitmark Sean Moss-Pultz: Working with Fung Fellows

Fung Fellow team Soteria Health, Hamilton Chang, Alejandra Leynez Chantres, and Yanna Gong (left to right)

The best learning often comes from outside of the classroom. With this belief as a founding principle, the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations gives undergraduate students access to real-world experiences in the health and tech sectors. Fung Fellows apply their knowledge to impactful projects, collaborating with real customers and working directly with industry partners from many fields.

Bitmark, a startup that focuses on creating tools that enable ownership and property rights to digital assets through blockchain technology, has been an industry partner since 2017. Bitmark sponsored two Innovation Lab projects — Soteria Health, a blockchain-based health data exchange for research and Peerlocity, a transportation data exchange platform using blockchain. We got a chance to learn more about these collaborations and talk with Bitmark’s CEO Sean Moss-Pultz about his experience working with Fung Fellows.

Sean Moss-Pultz, CEO of Bitmark

Bitmark first began working with UC Berkeley through a collaboration with doctoral-level researchers in the School of Public Health (SPH). Using a blockchain-based data-donation app from the company, the researchers were able to crowdsource health data for their studies. Through the success of this project, Sean was connected with Director of Fung Fellowship, Joni Rubin, and Lead Faculty Instructor, Jaspal Sandhu, initiating the Fung Fellowship partnership.

The Bitmark Health app with School of Public Health

“It’s like getting a second brain. The Fellows have a totally different set of perspectives and skills from us,” Sean said.

Team Peerlocity poster, Fung Fellowship 2018

The Fung Fellows particularly emphasized human-centered design — something that the Bitmark team had not focused on previously. In the project focused on the creation of a data economy around bicycle sharing, the Fellows interviewed key stakeholders. Their interviews revealed interesting insights into how local governments could participate in similar programs. This led the Bitmark team to reevaluate their approach and consider local governments as key stakeholders in making the system sustainable.

“We learned a lot about how they look at what’s important for new projects from their process,” Sean said.

The Fellows also learned a great deal through this partnership. One of the Fellows and member of Soteria Health, Hamilton Chang, was offered the opportunity to travel to Taipei and work with the Bitmark team in person.

Poster stand from Soteria Health at Fung Institute’s Winter Spotlight 2017

“I had the chance to learn not only how the software development cycle runs in a small tech startup, but also got to do so in Taiwan, which was an entirely unexpected and invigorating experience,” Hamilton, a Philosophy major with an interest in data, reflected.

Diversity is another big part of the partnership and area of synergy for Bitmark and the Fung Fellowship. Bitmark’s team is very diverse — with 25 employees from six different countries and a 50/50 gender ratio. Similarly, the Fung Fellows come from vastly different academic and personal backgrounds, representing 22 unique majors and hometowns ranging from the Bay Area to Malawi.

“I wanted to learn from the Fung Fellowship how to structure teams with very different backgrounds and make something coherent,” Sean said.

Equipped with intentional teaming curriculum and Fellowship staff directly supporting team dynamics, Fung Fellows began their industry projects with skills and strategies to work across disciplines.

“I learned that a lot of product work is quite similar to what I was doing in my philosophy classes at Berkeley: taking incomplete, sometimes outlandish ideas and systematically breaking them down into tangible pieces. Looking back now, I realize that the Fellowship gave me the space to combine my own strange way of thinking with others to tackle real problems that required creative, interdisciplinary answers,” Hamilton said.

Working with Fung Fellows has made Sean realize how much the youth have to offer businesses like Bitmark.

“By integrating their perspective into product development, as early as possible, I believe we can make better products for everyone,” he said.

Fung Fellows Léa Tran-Le and Omar Muhamed presenting the project

Inspired by the future use cases proposed by Fung Fellows working on the health data exchange project, the Bitmark team is now working on a health app to help people digitally aggregate and control all their health records. This app acts like a “health data trust” that crowdsources data directly from individuals. Not only does it free people from the hassle of keeping different paper documents, but it also decentralizes the oversight of data. The system is governed by a public blockchain which avoids any third-party institution, making the transfer of data more transparent and secure.

“We’re absolutely looking forward to doing more with Fung Fellowship in the future,” Sean said.

By Jessie Ying on January 03, 2019.
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A more sustainable business model for artists—register property rights on the blockchain to own…

A more sustainable business model for artists—register property rights on the blockchain to own…

A TEDx talk by Bitmark advisor: Amy Whitaker

A more sustainable business model for artists—own your work and get paid via property rights on the blockchain

A TEDx talk by Bitmark advisor: Amy Whitaker

“We live in an age of democratized creativity, but not yet democratized ownership.”

Anyone working in the arts knows the greatest plight of an artist is finding a sustainable business model that simultaneously, (1) generates enough interest from patrons and income to afford materials to continue creating work while also (2) allowing unencumbered time to create. It’s a fine and tricky balance, and one that plagues all types of artists: writers, painters, choreographers, directors, designers, the list is long.

“Two fears I think we all have: the fear of not being able to make a living, and the fear of not being true to yourself creatively.”

Many artists find comfort in creating commissioned work: finding an established partnership where a patron funds the entire project and the artist is freed from the task of raising the money for project or personal expenses. A patron might allow a large budget for a work of art, but oftentimes, the higher the budget, the more particular the parameters of the project. This influence extends into pleasing the patron’s whim or ideas of what the artist should create. Additionally, in a commissioning partnership, the patron owns the artwork, not the artist.

Maybe this structure feels outdated, but it’s not; the same set-up happens all the time for artists who receive grants, which in the arts is the most common way to fund work (and also happens to make up the highest percentage of funding for most projects). Any artist who applies to receive grant money must also report back to the grant organization on their progress. It is often the case that if an artist does not fulfill the grant requests, money is either taken back or not given at all.

Artists who choose the different path of funding their own work can get bogged down by spending time making money (i.e. a “day job”) that leaves them with little time for their art.

A new potential solution: ownership rights

Intertwined with this time versus money conundrum is the concept of ownership. Selling artwork is the most traditional way of making money in this particular field. But, any notion of selling, first requires a clear notion of ownership. Plagiarism in all art forms is rampant. And it’s only become worse because social media platforms are a great tool to engage large audiences and followers, to accumulate views and shares and likes, but the copying and freely sharing have ruined many artists’ ability to claim ownership of their creative works. And clear ownership is a coveted thing.

Blockchain isn’t a panacea for all issues that artists face. However, specific types of blockchains can provide artists with a way to establish ownership of their work, which in turn facilitates clear exchanges with others and leaves them with a more sustainable, efficient way to be paid for the work they create.

Amy Whitaker, an NYU professor, artist and researcher, describes eloquently in the TEDx talk posted below how the blockchain can help amend many woes for artists (in both digital and physical mediums) by providing a tool to register ownership rights of their works.

As Amy describes in a WSJ article, the formulation of blockchain technology came about to organize information and data in a more truthful, secure and efficient way. The decentralized structure of a blockchain means is set up by having “many dispersed but interconnected copies of a shared ledger. The truth could never be typed over if there were too many linked ledgers to alter.”

Blockchain provides the backbone to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum — this immutable, truthful ledger is what solves the double spending problem (the act of spending the same tokens in two places and getting away with it) in those currency systems. A blockchain set up specifically to record property rights employs a set of digital rules (basically a secure transfer system that enables you to share or sell an asset or property without “double spending” that property and tricking the system or your potential buyer) that ensures your property is yours and not anyone else’s — not even the platform where you register the property. The Bitmark blockchain, for example, is public and open source. It is decentralized, with complete transparency for all parties who wish to see its contents (not the secure details of data and personal information, rather just the ownership titles and transfers). It is structured to register property rights at minimal fees, and set up to essentially issue legal (not smart) contracts with any buyer or seller at scale.

Ownership rights are twofold: 1 claiming the artwork as personal property means defining the work as well as the entity who owns it; 2 establishing the rights of that property: fair use of the image in other forms (prints, posters, cards, etc), and payment if and when the work is sold, or used in the case of licensing.

When artists can clearly register their work as personal property, buyers can then request to buy their work. The artist can receive payment upfront before they transfer the title of the work to the buyer.

With ownership rights, artists can benefit in the following ways:

  • Limit issues around fraud and copying — The blockchain is a digital ledger, with immutable time stamping that is public. When something is registered on the blockchain, it’s permanent, which mitigates questions of who owns what when looking at copies of art work.
  • Set the rules and terms of use for their works — Blockchain security makes it possible for artists to get paid for their works without giving their art over before receiving payment.
  • Enable faster payments — Because the blockchain can be linked to banks and digital currencies, artists can get paid faster than with traditional models.

In the TEDx talk below, Amy describes how the blockchain can help artists:

For further reading, check out Amy’s original whitepaper “The Social Life of Artistic Property” and her previous academic paper “Artist as Owner Not Guarantor: The Art Market from the Artist’s Point of View.”

By Bitmark Inc. on December 11, 2018.
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Nobody is keeping track of your health. It’s up to you.

Nobody is keeping track of your health. It’s up to you.

Nobody is keeping track of your health. It’s up to you.

I was wrong to think that having good health insurance meant I’d have good (complete) health records.

Written by Shelly Lai

Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

I went on a mission to collect my health records, and was surprised with what I found:

  1. Only the last seven years of my health records are intact and retrievable. All the previous records have been deleted.
  2. Even though I’ve had centralized, national health insurance for my entire life, my records are not all in one place. They are scattered among the doctors, clinics and hospitals where I’ve ever received care.
  3. I have begun keeping my own health records because I don’t trust the direction medical care is headed with AI or machine learning tools “predicting” diagnosis based on such limited health data.

I have really great health insurance because I live in Taiwan. Our National Health Insurance makes it easy and inexpensive to receive great care, because it’s built upon a simple system of centralized health records. When I was recently challenged to track down my medical records, I assumed it would be easy. I was wrong.

Image used in theBloomberg article linked below

I work as a researcher at Bitmark, helping find digital solutions for the issues plaguing the health industry: institutional data collection, medical record management, public health research at scale, and much more. Lately we’ve been heads down building an app to help people collect and own their medical records in order to pair their records with the daily health data already tracked by their smartphone, giving them an easy-to-access more holistic view of their health. [Shameless plug, if you want to know more about that app (it’s in beta, we need users!), jump to the bottom to read a bit more.]

I assumed the work we’re doing is to help people in countries without national healthcare manage their health records. Little did I know I’d need this just as much…

Most of the Bitmark team lives here in Taipei, Taiwan — it’s our main office. But Sean, our CEO, is American. He’s explained the plight of a fractionalized healthcare system, how in the US it’s difficult enough to just to sort through healthcare registration, let alone manage health records from so many insurance carriers and doctors’ offices. All along, I’ve assumed the work we’re doing at Bitmark is to help Americans and people in countries without national healthcare manage their records. Little did I know I’d need this just as much in Taiwan.

Sean said “If it’s that easy to collect your health records, show me.” I embarked on this task that appeared easy enough, even though I (and I’m pretty sure the majority of our Taiwan team) still didn’t believe it was necessary.

The Taiwanese National Health Insurance System (NHI)

Taiwan launched its national health insurance (NHI) in 1995 with comprehensive coverage including inpatient and outpatient care, dental care, over-the-counter drugs and traditional Chinese medicine. Taiwan’s NHI is touted as a model for other countries (hint hint, the US) since Taiwan had many of the same issues that plague the US like high insurance premiums, non-comprehensive (or no) coverage for people without private insurance.

NHI Smart Card (found at nhi.gov.tw)

The NHI has been a big success, now covering 99.6% of Taiwan’s residents, with service contracts with 93% of the country’s hospitals and clinics, according to the NHI’s 2017–18 annual report. Bloomberg ranks Taiwan’s NHI system #9 in the world for health care efficiency. (The US is #54).

Everyone in Taiwan has a NHI Card, which contains all their basic info and medical history. When someone visits a doctor or hospital or clinic, the doctor inserts her NHI card into the card reader, and can scan through key information like prescriptions, allergies, and past care or visit information.

With this card system, I thought it’d be easy to collect my records. According to the Taiwanese Medical Care Law, patients have the legal right to request copies of their medical records as well as medical imaging.

And it did start out easy enough. All the big hospitals have clear instructions on their website explaining the application process and fees. People can apply for their health records via phone, email, or in person, and the application form is easy to complete. Once submitted, it takes less than 3 working days before the applicant can collect the records.

Yes, hospitals and a centralized system made it relatively easy to retrieve what I wanted. However, there were some issues.

This centralized system isn’t so …. Hm, centralized?

You still have to go to multiple offices if you’ve received treatment from various spots.

If I saw a specialist across town once for a surgery, those records would be at that particular hospital. It turns out the Taiwanese NHI system doesn’t store my medical records — each hospital and clinic does.

In line to collect my health records.

Although our costs in Taiwan for healthcare may be drastically lower than in the States, our ability to personally collect our records may not be so dissimilar. In Taiwan, our healthcare system may not be as centralized as I thought.

To collect a comprehensive set of records, you need to remember every single hospital or doctor’s office you’ve ever had treatment. That poses a serious challenge. I knew this was a problem for Americans and people without a national healthcare system, but I didn’t expect it to be an issue for me.

They are mine, but they are very clearly not mine.

It was a disturbing feeling to have to ask and pay for something that should be my property. For all intents and purposes, these records are about my physical being, my body and health; they should be mine.

Nothing screams “this does not belong to you!” quite like having to pay for it.

Yet, ten pages of medical records cost approximately NT$ 150 (~$5 USD). It’s not an extraordinary amount of money, but it added up after going to every place. And nothing screams “this does not belong to you!” quite like having to pay for it. These are my records. Yet I have to pay every time I want to get a copy of them. Even if I retrieved a copy and then accidentally dropped them down a storm drain, if I went back to get a second copy the same day, I would have to pay again.

Did I mention that you get a literal stack of papers stapled together? And any images you request come on a CD — which only works on Windows. (Who has a CD rom anymore?) The hospitals/clinics I visited didn’t have the capability to offer me a digital file. If I cannot feasibly even see or read my records, this is a clear sign that my records don’t belong to me, they are not my property.

It’s incomplete! There’s a limit to the amount of data they keep.

This was the biggest shocker for me: The NHI is only required to keep seven years of your medical records.

The hospitals and clinics that I went to more than seven years ago do not store my medical records or imaging anymore. Eeeep! I assumed everything about me is safely stored in a centralized database, and that I can get it anytime I want. Nope. After the obligatory seven years, records are destroyed and there’s no way to get them.

Finding out that my health records from the first 20 years of my life are irretrievable, really scared me.

How can a health care system with only seven years of data on me truly make the best medical decisions for my optimal health? A doctor might not know of a major surgery, past medications, allergies that only showed up once. Those are the things that I would probably remember. But what about all of the detailed terminology that I wouldn’t remember about those medical appointments? Plus, diseases and health conditions develop over a lifetime, not just over seven years. The conditions that lead up to more serious illnesses need to be tracked over time. Without that lifetime of information, I feel I’m not getting the fullest medical treatment I can. It’s kind of scary when you think about it.

And what about the future of healthtech? As we start to use AI and machine learning for predictive medicine and patient engagement, will these robots only be using the last seven years of our data? Even if it’s only to make minor medical decisions to predict health outcomes, I don’t feel very comfortable with that. How can new tech be effective with such limited data history? I don’t want AI determining my health outcomes based on only the last seven years of my health information.

If nobody is keeping track of my records or health, it’s up to me.

So in the end, I’ve learned that even in the best of circumstances, like living in a country with a well-regarded national health system, I need to take control of my own medical records to have comprehensive info on my health. In order to only establish ownership over what should actually be mine, and to guarantee that I will be able to source my records when I most need them.

via Giphy

Bitmark Health

If you jumped down here to see about the Bitmark Health app (or made it through my story, thank you!) here are the details:

Bitmark is working on an app that will allow people to record and register their health data (the stuff already tracked by a smartphone) as well as their medical records (imaging, scans, photo uploads… if you can retrieve them all) and empower people to keep everything in one, secure, easy to manage place — to gain a more holistic view of their health.

Screen shot from Bitmark Health

We’d love your help as we work out the best version of the Bitmark Health App: download it on iTunes, and join the FB group to give feedback.

By Bitmark Inc. on October 30, 2018.
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The Emergence of Blockchain in Taiwan

The Emergence of Blockchain in Taiwan

Amazon Alexa, self-driving vehicles, and robotics. These are all widely known technologies available to the general public which utilize hardware, but rely heavily on software that is programmed into it in order to function. As many are able to perceive, technology is shifting towards a software-based environment. Namely in Taiwan, one of the world leaders in hardware manufacturing, technology leaders see opportunities beyond hardware. A specific area of interest in Taiwan is blockchain technology, which is a public ledger utilizing a peer to peer, decentralized structure. As of now, we put a lot of trust into a third party such as banks, retailers, and corporations to keep our private information safe (which isn’t always reliable). Blockchain is a clever technology whose versatility is becoming increasingly apparent to the Taiwanese government. With blockchain, transactions are recorded in a public ledger and verified by none other than the users themselves, allowing the transfer of cryptocurrency and other data in a decentralized structure. Due to its almost guaranteed security and its easy traceability of irregularities, it’s not hard to think of the many possibilities for practical application that blockchain can provide — recording information such as healthcare data, tracking natural resources, and removing the need for an intermediary to name a few. Various Taiwanese businesses, institutions, and the government have begun to utilize blockchain technology in order to benefit citizens.

Taiwan has traditionally been a very hardware-focused country in its technology sector due to cheap labor costs and a high marginal profit. Sharp, HTC, and Acer are some of its most prominent names. Recently, however, Taiwan has been working towards integrating software as well, such as IOT, software development, and blockchain. Led by Jason Hsu, a legislator who is known to be a strong advocate of blockchain technology, the Taiwan Parliamentary Coalition for Blockchain was founded to push blockchain projects through legislation. Before, the Taiwanese government adopted a “hands-off” approach to blockchain technology — it neither supported nor prohibited it. In recent years however, authorities are becoming increasingly aware of its capabilities and have announced its support to turn Taiwan into a global blockchain nation. Due to various projects which have proved the usefulness of blockchain, its advantages and improvements in the public sector are clearly recognized by the government.

Some of these projects include a blockchain-based payment system which greatly reduces transaction costs and a virtual ID card that prevents identity theft. As a Taiwanese citizen, the impacts of having blockchain integrated in the public sector are very visible. For example, a blockchain-based payment system running on Ethereum has already been implemented near National Chengchi University, used by restaurants and merchants. Since its implementation, the number of transactions in this area has increased fourfold, showing how well its improved merchant sales. There are plenty of reasons for this — decreased transaction costs, elimination of intermediaries, and increased profit that follow. Because of the Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus protocol that allows two nodes to communicate safely through a network, if a consumer were to pay for something through this system, the transaction times would be cut to less than a second. It would also greatly improve the efficiency and security for the average Taiwanese merchant because of the blockchain structure: transactions are easily verifiable and located on the public ledger, with little doubt of fraud. Due to its low cost for each transaction, merchants forgo extra payments to banks and corporations, allowing more profit to be made.

Another project aimed to integrate blockchain in the public sector and therefore improving the security of Taiwanese citizens’ data is “TangleID”. Think of it as a “Digital Citizen Card” that stores important health data, personal information, and other identification. Identity theft is always a risk when dealing with traditional public ledgers of data. Data leaks, criminal activity, and other threats can all compromise one’s personal data and identity. Yahoo is infamous for a data leak which compromised three billion user accounts. eBay has had a similar crisis in 2014, in which 145 million users’ names, addresses, birthdays, and passwords were all exposed. By utilizing the security of a blockchain ledger and its decentralized nodes, the risk of data being leaked intentionally or unintentionally from a third party is eliminated without an intermediary needed. This is the main basis of TangleID’s security. This way, citizens will be able to rest assured that identity theft as well as voter fraud will be eliminated.

One application that would be especially useful in Taiwan would be using blockchain to track natural resources. Although Taiwan has been going through a very rapid industrialization for the past decades, the environmental costs of doing so is enormous and often times shrugged off in the name of advancement. A blockchain could be used in this situation to track where resources are going towards and how much is being used. By using a blockchain and a “transactive grid” to track energy usage, businesses and the government would be able to easily query where energy is being sourced from and how much is being used. The fact that adding anything onto a blockchain is a immutable record and its low transaction costs make this a very efficient implementation.

Through the multitude of projects that are already in the works, it is very visible that blockchain can have an enormous impact in the public sector, improving Taiwanese citizens’ lives in many aspects. The unique security that comes with utilizing a blockchain structure, its fast transaction times, and low costs can be integrated in a number of creative ways. Jason Hsu hopes to continue this momentum of innovation and change with blockchain. As one of the writers of the “Financial Technology Innovation Experimentation Act” passed in Taiwan, Hsu constantly rallies for legislation supporting blockchain and cryptocurrency. With the pro-blockchain environment in Taiwan, new projects that may be in the works will utilize this technology and be a driver for next generation’s innovation, benefitting citizens and the government alike.

By Kenneth Lee on October 12, 2018.
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Finding Satoshi… And A New Way To Finance Film

Finding Satoshi… And A New Way To Finance Film

Jamie King is the founder of Totemic, a recently launched platform that lets creators issue digital collectibles around their work — and fans to support them. Jamie is an experienced crowdfunder, having created one of the first free-to-share, crowdfunded films, STEAL THIS FILM (2006–2009) and VODO, a pioneering platform in crowdfunded, P2P-distributed film. This article explains how Totemic could become a significant force in the crowdfunding space via the perspectives of experienced filmmaker, crowdfunder, and one of Totemic’s first creators, Emily James.

Finding Satoshi isa hybrid documentary/fiction film set in the world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. It follows a detective hired to hunt down Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s pseudonymous inventor. As the detective’s quest takes him on a tour of crypto’s key protagonists, the pursuit of Satoshi’s identity leads him deep into the roots and identity of cryptocurrency itself. The search for Satoshi becomes a way to examine crypto and how it is changing the world around us.

The film’s detective, Jimmy, stalks London for leads.

The film, which is currently in development, has a lot going for it. Not only is its topic incredibly current and urgent, but its director, Emily James, is an experienced documentarian with award-winning films and large TV commissions under her belt. Yet even for an established filmmaker like Emily, raising money can be daunting in the fast-moving, highly uncertain film industry.

The Funding Maze

“Funders often want to see nearly a full rough cut before they’ll jump in. The creators of the film have to carry a great deal of the financial risk themselves…”

“In documentary,” Emily explains, “the majority of funding comes from TV commissions — and now platforms like Netflix. And often commissioners want to see quite a lot before they’ll commit any financing — in fiction a script is key; in documentary they will often want to see nearly a full rough cut. Often the creators of the film have to carry a great deal of the financial risk themselves in order to get the project far enough along for others to finally jump in.”

Enter crowdfunding. The crowd (that’s you and me) have proved to be way less risk-adverse than traditional funders, and provide a kind of moral and financial support commercial financers can’t. Platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the film-specific Seed & Spark have made it possible for less established film makers to go direct to potential audiences with their ideas, raising funding for films that otherwise wouldn’t get made.

“Industry money is dragging its feet even more, as it’s now almost expected that a film will ‘prove its audience’ by raising some funds from the crowd.”

But many filmmakers are starting to feel the crowdfunding pinch: it’s getting harder and harder to raise money as the novelty wares off, and a new problem has been created— industry money now tends to drag its feet even more, with expectations that a film will ‘prove its audience’ by raising funds from fans and audience.

Is that… Satoshi I see?

Crowdfunding: The Current Model

To date the main model for crowfunding has been incentivised donations, which are paid by the audience at a variety of levels in return for a designated perk or reward. For example, a fan could fund $20, $50, or $200 and in return receive posters, a place in the credits or a special edition of the film — though the latter can, in practice, be problematic for distributors. Emily’s Film Just Do It, for which over half of the budget raised came from donations in three rounds of funding appeals, is a good example of this approach.

Trouble In Paradise

The perk system, it could be argued, is a flimsy way of rewarding early backers who are really motivate by something more substantial: a sense of protagonism, of an incorporation in the filmmaking process, conferred by being an early believer and investor. This does beg the question of the possibility of incentives that are equal to the risk of investing so early in a film’s life.

There’s a reason micro-financing never took off. The legalities of accepting investments can be sketchy at best — and the only safe route is to limit fundraising to so-called ‘sophisticated’ (read: wealthy) investors who understand, and can bear, the risks involved.

Some approaches have tried to align rewards with risk, especially early on in the history of crowdfunding. Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid, which Emily produced and was an early pioneer in crowdfunding, pioneered a micro-financing system in which each investor owned a little piece of the ‘back end’ profits of the film, rather than donating and merely getting perks. Clearly, if The Age Of Stupid could deliver profits as well as perks, that might galvanise investors who weren’t ‘superfans’ and for whom perks alone wouldn’t swing it.

There’s a reason that model never took off. In many countries the legalities of accepting investments remain sketchy — and in practice, the only safe route would be to limit fundraising to so-called ‘sophisticated’ (read: wealthy) investors who understand, and can bear, the risks involved.

This somewhat defeats the point of the ‘crowd’ part of the crowdfunding. It’s true that the passage of the JOBS Act has, at least in the US, opened private investments into indie film to investors with a lower net worth — but there’s another (and perhaps bigger) problem for films raising funding. It’s kind of an open secret amongst indie filmmakers: the vast majority of the films out there, even some of the ones you may have seen or heard of, don’t wind up turning a profit. Indie films run on a shoestring, often with the majority of the team deferring much or all of their payment until when (or if — and that’s a big if) a film is sold. Any profits may come only after everyone gets paid, and marketing and other expenses can eat into returns investors were expecting. “It’s true indie films often don’t make much money,” Emily admits, “and when they do hit the ball out of the park, the people who made it (or the crowd who invested) don’t necessarily see as much of that money as you might think. Sales agents and distributors can often take over half of gross revenue off the top, before it even starts to trickle back down. People who invest in films have to understand it’s a very risky investment indeed, and be motivated by something other than hope for large returns on their investment.”

Totemic: The Middle Way?

Could there be a ‘middle way’ for crowdfunding film? A way in which filmmakers can fund their work, and funders receive not only feel-good perks, but incentives tied to the value of that work, without getting tangled up in messy equity and financing thickets? We think so, and our new platform Totemic is setting out to prove it.

Totemic offers a simple, accessible means for creators to issue collectible assets (which can be thematically aligned with their work, or totally separate) and then purchased by audiences and fans in a similar way to the perks of other crowdfunding platforms. You can think of these assets as the digital equivalent of baseball cards, in provably limited edition, and with a provenance guaranteed by the Bitmark blockchain.

From Emily James’ first set, ‘Finding Satoshi’. Each card represents a potential candidate for the real Satoshi Nakamoto.

For a physical world analogue, consider buying a numbered photographic print from a gallerist. While anyone wanting that image could very well scan and reproduce it themselves, what the gallerist is guaranteeing is access to one of a limited number of authorisednumbered copies. In effect, it’s the deed of title to the asset which is being purchased; a deed which confers an indirect relationship with the artist and guarantees provenance, producing a tradeable asset with real value.

Totemic’s collectibles have two key functions: first, they let fans collect work from creators they enjoy, by acquiring the creators’ cards. Being limited edition, if a creator’s reputation increases, the value of the cards could behave similarly. If I acquire Emily’s Finding Satoshi set, for example (which I have, except for those damn Rares… just haven’t got lucky yet!), then if her film does well, I can expect the value of the collectibles to go up. The renown of the film and its creator increases demand for the associated collectibles, which are in limited supply. Perhaps I will collect two sets of Finding Satoshi cards, hoping to sell the other one in the marketplace at such a moment.

Balancing Self Interest & Patronage

Without having an equity stake in a creator’s work, acquiring Totemic collectibles confer similar benefits — and remain outside the difficult film distribution business.

This is a new approach to crowdfunding, balancing self-interest with patronage: as with other platforms, backers benefit from the feel-good factor, (supporting Emily and her film) and also from any perks the creator might offer for holding her cards — invitations to screenings, behind-the-scenes access and so on. But they also enjoy a new, speculative relation to the creator and her work through holding the collectibles — similar, indeed, to that of wealthy art collectors and the artists they collect. When a collected artist gets a significant show, or some other cultural event occurs around them, all the works they’ve sold may well increase in price. Without having an equity stake in that artist, buying their work essentially confers similar benefits.

There are clear advantages to this approach. For film investors in Emily’s film, for example, it means holding assets which stay cleanly outside the thorny film distribution business. Even if the film turns no profit, these collectible assets may well rise in price. And this is achieved without Emily promising any equity stake in her film — leaving her deals with traditional financiers unencumbered. Nor has she promised her crowdfunders advance or special access copies of the final film, which can annoy distributors and make deals difficult to do in practice.

Emily, one of the first creators to try out the Totemic platform, agrees on the potential here. “Digital collectibles could be a great way to crowdfund. It adds real value for the backers. In traditional crowd-funding of films you are always trying to come up with ‘perks’ that will encourage people to give larger sums, but you have to be careful to not promise so much that it ends up costing so much to deliver on that you don’t actually raise enough money for the making of the film! I think that the donors also have become fatigued with giving large sums but getting something in return that’s not really equal in value.

“With Totemic’s collectible model, on the other hand, the backer’s making a bet on you, and by extension on the future value of the cards. As well as helping the film get made, they are also potentially acquiring something of real value for themselves. It’s a win-win! Best of all this money comes with no obligation to pay it back, which is immensely useful for an independent film, where every penny needs to go a long way. Money that doesn’t need to recoup (be it crowdfunding or grants) can be a crucial part of making a film more economically viable: it allows one to deliver a film that punches above its weight production value-wise, and which industry money feels safer getting involved with — because they are getting a film for only a fraction of its real cost.”

This is why we started Totemic: we see a massive potential, in the emerging class of collectible digital assets, to create a new opportunity in the crowdfunding space — both for creators and backers. Of course, crypto-assets are a new and turbulent space: on any given day skeptics are proclaiming their doom, while boosters are determined that whichever token they’re pitching is going ‘to the moon’. But the fact remains: Bitcoin has, for all but the most hardened ‘nocoiners’, shown that trustless, blockchain-based digital assets can gain and retain real value. We believe the same can and will be true of digital collectibles — backed not only by blockchain, but by the reputation and projects of artists both new and emerging.

Thanks to Emily for being one of the first filmmakers to make use of the Totemic platform to raise funds for her film. You can buy her cards right now on the Totemic platform at https://totemic.co.

By Totemic on July 23, 2018.
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Introducing Totemic — the new digital trading card exchange built to give artists and creators a new model to fund their work.

Introducing Totemic — the new digital trading card exchange built to give artists and creators a new model to fund their work.

By Sean Moss-Pultz

Jamie King & I met about three years ago, introduced through a mutual friend, one of the founders of BitTorrent Inc. Jamie had distributed his documentary STEAL THIS FILM via the Bittorrent protocol, and gone on to found VODO, one of the first distribution companies based on P2P tech. I just started Bitmark, and was looking for new distribution channels for artists.

Right from the start, it was clear something interesting could happen.

Over the next year or two, Jamie and I discussed different ways that Bitmark could support people creating all kinds of digital work — music, photography, video and writing. The “ah-hah” moment came after we found out, separately, about Rare Pepes — a platform using blockchain to create scarce assets from memes. Having both decided that blockchain-based, digital trading cards would be the wave of the future, we decided to work together and build a new platform: Totemic.

Totemic is a digital trading card exchange in which artists can issue limited edition digital card sets for their fans to purchase, sell, and trade. One of the things I like about trading cards, is that they can allow artists to re-use bits and pieces of their original works. They’re not having to create whole new assets to get access to this valuable new revenue stream. And for fans/collectors collectibles trigger this kind of immediate nostalgia. To this day, I can remember opening up baseball cards with the stick of gum. You never knew what you were going to get. Even the duplicates created more fun — you could easily trade those with friends for cards you did not have.

Where Totemic stands apart for buyers and collectors is that card ownership is completely decentralized. On any other digital collectibles platform, a company owns your collection. By using the public Bitmark blockchain, however, Totemic makes sure your cards are truly yours, forever. Ownership of a card and its ownership history are always maintained independently from any third-parties — even including Totmetc and Bitmark Inc.!

An important part of Totemic’s raison d’etre springs from Jamie’s insight, from both his own experiences as a filmmaker, and distributing other people’s work at VODO, that artists increasingly don’t make money from their artwork directly. Popular new platforms like Patreon, for example, are based around indirect ways of monetizing the creative practice. This can lead to skewed incentives and peculiar projects endorsements that don’t really create value for their fans.

In contrast to other platforms, which pay creators through one-time licensing fees, artists who publish trading cards via Totemic profit from their cards’ appreciation. When fans sell and continue to trade cards they are extending the value, funding and visibility for the artist who created that card. This in turn motivates creators to offer unique and compelling experiences within each card to their fans, like adding giveaways, concert tickets, videos, etc. And fans can feel like they are participating in their favorite artists success, plus they gain value from the cards themselves. Totemic becomes a jumping-off point for a deepened relationship between the artist and supporter — a dynamic missing from crowdfunding and digitized campaigns like Pateon, Kickstarter, Behance, etc. We think Totemic is one of the first platform to align creator and fan incentives, creating a valuable new channel in digital arts.

Totemic has been through a number of different prototypes and iterations already, and it’s now in testing with the very first, live sets of cards from a few invited creators. Soon we’ll be opening up the platform to more artists — we hope you can enjoy creating and collecting cards! Join the site here.

By Bitmark Inc. on May 5, 2018.
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Art and Blockchain [Part1]: VRintelligentART and the Bitmark Blockchain

Art and Blockchain [Part1]: VRintelligentART and the Bitmark Blockchain

I just recently bought my first two pieces of #VRintelligentART and thought, that the process and underlying blockchain technology is interesting enough to share with you.

The output for numbers 2 and 3 on DApp Gen1

VRintelligentART

I came across this digital art project through a small conversation, that I had with twitter user Von Likenstien, who is an Economist and Aerospace Engineer with an interest in AI, VR, and AR.

He created a small AI tool, that is called “DApp Gen1” and that transforms any input into a small piece of digital art.

Screenshot from DApp Gen1

If you like the output, you can then contact Von Likenstien on twitter and purchase the small digital AI-artwork using Ethereum. He then uses a blockchain called Bitmark to transfer the ownership of this digital asset to you.

Bitmark

The Bitmark blockchain has been designed to particularly enable the making of property from digital data.

By bitmarking the first public instance of your data, for example editions of photographs on your webstore, you can absolutely control the number of bitmarks there are and who owns them. Using the Bitmark tools you can easily begin registering your claim of ownership by bitmarking your data.

Source

You can either upload a digital file, input a text or even use IFTT applets to automatically bitmark your output on several social media sides and apps.

Screenshot from IFTT

The IFTTT service gives individuals the ability to easily extract their data from the places where we create and share things: social media, fitness and health apps, productivity and financial software, and much more. Bitmark Applets allow users to simply apply a mark of accepted ownership to a new creation (photos on Instagram, articles on WordPress, code on Github, and more) and embed it into Bitmark’s standardized, universal crypto property system.

Source

Transfer of Bitmarks

After someone has bitmarked a digital asset, like the output of the DApp Gen1 by Von Likenstien for example, these bitmarks can easily transfered to another Bitmark user. All you will have to know, is the email address of the user, you want the asset transfer to.

There is a Web App where you can see, manage and transfer all your digital assets.

After I sorted out the payment details with Von Likenstien and gave him the email address, I signed up with on Bitmark, he transferred the outputs of his DApp Gen for the numbers “2” and “3” to me.

I took a while until I received an email for every digital artwork, in which I was asked to accept the transfer of the properties by signing them.

Screenshot from Bitmark email

After that, I was able to see and download those artworks at my Bitmark account.

Screenshot from Bitmark

As you can see, I could also transfer those bitmarked artworks to another user and there will always be a provenance and history of ownership available on the Bitmark blockchain.

The block explorer is called The Bitmark Property Registry and is a historical ledger of all property transactions in the Bitmark property system. At this place you can check, if the transfer was successful.

Check it out!

If you are an artist or art collector, you should definitely check out the DApp Gen1 VRintelligentART generator. For example the output for “steemit” looks very rad.

Screenshot from DApp Gen1

Just contact Von Likenstien on twitter and ask, if it is still available.

Bonus (for Steemit users)

Alternatively you could purchase a digital artwork from me called “bomomo blue”, that I just issued as an edition of 10.

If you’re interested, you can buy one of those digital artworks by sending me 2 Steem/SBD to my Steemit account (@shortcut) and add your email in an encrypted memo. You can encrypt the memo by adding a # followed by a space in front of the memo.

For example # For 1 bomomo blue artwork. Here is my@email.com

Thanks in advance!

This was just the beginning of a series about blockchain and art, please follow me to keep yourself up to date!

@shortcut


Originally published at steemit.com on April 3, 2018.

By Joern Bielewski on April 04, 2018.
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Third World Countries are Richer Than You Think

Third World Countries are Richer Than You Think

written by Bitmark intern, Kenneth Lee

Source: https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-7283b00e311a28c8502822b242e5a70b-c

Capitalism, Capitalism, Capitalism. In a world where many would argue is “western dominated,” Capitalism is revered as the most successful economic system in the world. Many third world countries try to implement this system and fail. But why? Is it because they aren’t as smart as those in the West? Do they not have as much entrepreneurial spirit? Or do they just lack the wealth and resources? A myriad of help campaigns and news media outlets highlighting their grievances condition us to think the above, but in fact, the people in these countries are just as smart, just as willing, and richer than you think. But for various reasons, they cannot turn the capital they have into wealth. Thus they are only rich in what some call “dead capital.”

What is capital?

To understand what dead capital is, let’s define a few things that are considered capital. Capital is a human made, durable product that can be used to produce other goods and services. Some examples of capital goods include:

  • vehicles such as commercial aircraft and cars
  • software used by companies
  • tools that are used by construction workers,
  • buildings such as office buildings, factories, warehouses, and hotels

As long as it’s used for a business purpose and not a consumer purpose, it’s considered capital.

What makes capital “dead”?

Many factors contribute to a capitalist society’s success, but let’s talk about one of the main characteristics: clear documentation of assets. In the West, everything is recorded and documented in a fairly clear manner: office buildings have titles registered by the state or local government; stores have inventory lists for wares and equipment. Processes like these “list” the asset, creating a clear record of ownership in one singular system, and proving its existence in the eyes of the economy. Because these items are well documented (including both the values of the asset as well as the ownership claim attached), they can be more easily transferred into collateral for loans, credit, and other things. This is why documentation is vital — it allows the asset to have a value in the economy (based on, for example, how big a piece of land is, its desirability, who owns it, etc) and it makes the asset more easily transferable when there is a clear owner. When there is verifiable proof of an assets value and clear ownership claim to that asset, it has all the necessary components to turn it into capital. Having these structured systems in place in many aspects of culture and business is one of the many contributing factors that allow capitalism to thrive.

However, in many non-capitalist countries, assets are not recorded in the same clear manner. Because these assets are not represented in registries or documentation, there’s no way to prove its existence and subsequently turn it into capital. “The value of savings among the poor is, in fact, immense — forty times all the foreign aid received throughout the world since 1945,” as stated by Hernando De Soto in his book The Mystery of Capital. So in reality the hurdle they face is that their systems don’t allow the clarity that could turn the many assets they do possess into usable capital. It’s like if you tried to use pesos in America; it has a value, but it isn’t the currency in America and therefore is of no economical use.

Source: https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/AAEAAQAAAAAAAAzSAAAAJGMyYzVhODJmLTc1Y2MtNDgyNi1iZjI1LWZkMTYwNjkxODMzOA.jpg

Why does it matter?

Moving toward a more globalized economy, recording all assets is key to economic success; you might think: “Why can’t they just start recording all their assets now?” In an ideal world, where everyone is moral and honest, of course that would be a great solution. However, in countries where three people claim to own the same piece of land and have their own separate made-up documents supporting their claims, it’s hard to confirm who owns what. Without a uniform system, the assets that people possess are difficult to transfer and don’t have clear economic value. Lots of ambiguity arises from these issues. They need a uniform solution that efficiently records their assets without confusion, failures of a broken system, or fear of duplication or criminal activity. In essence there needs to be a trustworthy system that provides the authentication of property records as well as verification of ownership claims in order to rectify the huge amount of dead capital many countries possess.

The Bitmark system was created in order to “level the playing field” within the digital environment by bringing the established rules of western land rights to ownable digital things. Bitmark relies on a blockchain, a public digital ledger of records (property titles, in this case).

By recording your property in the Bitmark blockchain, it is verifiably yours, and viewable along with all other recorded property titles, as well as any transfers of these records. Because of its public nature, any user can submit information to be added to the blockchain. Each record, once added to the blockchain, is resistant to being removed, changed, or added to without detection by other users. This transparency of modification adds a layer of security to your asset records. By permanently recording each item on our blockchain, the public record of who owns what can be rectified if discrepancies between owners arise due to this immutable pointer allowing the asset to be clearly identified by its property title.

Transaction of assets are authenticated by public-key cryptography, making them virtually impossible to fake. The decentralized nature of the network makes data leaks more difficult (there are no central parties to hack).

By bringing more accessibility, security, and automation to outdated systems, the use of blockchain technology to record property has the potential to jump-start a country’s economy. Now the immense amounts of dead capital will be able to be correctly documented, introducing a lot of desired resources into the flow of the economy.

If you are interested in using the Bitmark blockchain to record property or assets, or are interested in a partnership, please contact us! We would love to hear from you at support@bitmark.com.

Sources:

https://www.thebalance.com/capital-goods-examples-effect-on-economy-3306224

https://simplicable.com/new/capital-goods

“The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else” by Hernando De Soto

By Bitmark Inc. on March 5, 2018.
Categories
blog

Bitmark Enables KKBOX to Pay Music Royalties More Efficiently — Musicians Get the Transparency they Deserve

Bitmark Enables KKBOX to Pay Music Royalties More Efficiently — Musicians Get the Transparency they Deserve

In an era of global tech monopolies, the implementation of decentralized systems can’t seem to come quick enough; we need more transparency from large companies and more infrastructure that supports individual privacy and control.

Today, Bitmark is pleased to announce a partnership with KKFarm (investment group of KKBOX) and CTBC, to enable KKBOX to more efficiently record, track and transfer the rights of access to musician’s royalties.

Many publications are predicting 2018 will see large companies and institutions implementing digital currency, blockchain technology or property rights for digital assets; this initiative weaves all three together.

The issue at hand

KKBOX is the largest music streaming service in Asia, with over 80% market share and 10M+ paid users. (Think Spotify of Asia — yet KKBOX actually started before Spotify.) One of their biggest pain points is knowing who owns what rights for a given song.

Currently, this ownership information is stuck in excel files behind corporate firewalls and is thus opaque. Both the streaming platform and the artists (rights-holders) are aligned in wanting to clarify lines of ownership and streamline this process. Even though in the news streaming companies (eg: Spotify) are being constantly sued by rights holders, they also want more transparent accounting. Bitmark makes this possible.

Musicians who license their work to KKBOX will now be able to have their song rights recorded in the Bitmark blockchain. Initially there will be 50 artists who participate, but we intend it to be in the thousands by year end.

The main goal of recording music rights is to enable automation of the payout for royalties. Artists can then get their money faster and more efficiency. Subsequently, and in our second phase of the project, we will establish ways the rights can be traded and transferred, creating liquidity of the royalties associated with rights.

How it works…

Music rights will get recorded in the Bitmark blockchain. When royalties need to get paid out, CTBC will verify the digital signatures of both KKBOX and the rights holders before distributing payments. Royalties will be paid out based on whoever holds rights to the music.

Music rights and royalty payments flow

A system of transparency and efficiency

Problems associated with IP rights and digital property have been around since the dawn of the internet. Bitmark’s public protocol, paves a way to solve these issues, by creating clear and verifiable ownership of rights.

Because rights are recorded in Bitmark’s public blockchain, it will be possible for artists to always see who owns what rights (or for anyone to see who is holding rights to what music). It’s possible that artists will begin to get a larger share of their royalty revenue because this system is cheaper, more efficient and automated.

“Bitmark provides tools and services that make rights more clear in the digital environment. Making music rights transparent and transferable is central to both KKBOX and Bitmark. Pochang and I have been in conversation for quite some time and I know these long standing issues he has been working to solve in digital music. Together we are building a solution that will enable the music ecosystem to grow and thrive”

— Sean Moss Pultz, CEO Bitmark

What the future holds

Every digital medium is going to have problems verifying and authenticating digital property and clear lines of ownership. This partnership creates a clear path to a solution.

This project is a cheaper, more predictable, and much more efficient way for streaming service platforms to pay artists their royalties — introducing more options for revenue streams from these royalties in the future.

Bitmark’s mission is to record rights to the world’s assets and make them universally accessible for sharing and trading. Being able to do this with music rights is exciting to us because everyone knows the current royalty model is badly broken. We read articles about artists suing digital music companies all the time; Bitmark really sees a solution to this and we’re thrilled to be making it happen with such a strong partner as KKBOX.

We at Bitmark believe securing property rights can trigger a multiplying effect of opportunity: it creates social inclusion, economic stability, and even environmental stewardship. In the coming months you will see more announcements from us as we roll out even more tools that enable transparency and clarification of rights for many types of assets, and subsequently liquidity for the revenue associated with these rights.

By Bitmark Inc. on January 11, 2018.