Japanese multinational technology giant Sony intends to patent a technology solution that will improve digital rights management (DRM). The solution is based on blockchain, and the United Stated Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently published the application.
In the age of Internet, digital contents are already mainstream, and are becoming ubiquitous. However, with the spread of digital contents comes the important question of DRM. While creators of digital content should be remunerated where applicable, and shouldn’t see their content is being used without credit to them, the users who have purchased the rights to digital content should also be able to use their rights with ease.
DRM solutions currently prevalent are based on one unique ‘point of failure’, i.e. if the central server managing the DRM solution goes down, the users are affected. With millions of users accessing various digital contents every minute, even a small percentage of failure in the DRM solution is costly to the users.
Sony believes that blockchain technology, with its promise of decentralization and immutable records, can help in building fail-safe DRM solution. Blockchain is a distributed database where computers on the network, called ‘nodes’ maintain a shared version of truth. There’s no central server, every node has the complete information on blockchain, hence blockchain is also called ‘distributed ledger technology’ (DLT). Rigorous consensus mechanism and the need to solve complex cryptographic puzzle by using very high computing powers before a record can be added, makes hacking blockchain economically non-viable.
A summary of Sony‘s proposed solution is following:
- A user, signing up for the proposed DRM will have her unique private and public keys.
- For this user, a separate blockchain will be created on the proposed DRM, i.e. one blockchain per registered user.
- The genesis block in the above user-specific blockchain will contain the user-specific information.
- Digital rights for every new content that the user purchases will be added as a new block in the blockchain. The private and public keys pertaining to the access rights to this content will also be stored in this block.
- The content provider, the registration authority, and the user will have rights to the specific blocks pertaining to a content, using their private and public keys.
- Within the blockchain, protected content will be encrypted, using the encryption control word.
- When the user wants to view the protected content, the system will validate against the genesis block to authenticate the user first, and then validate the access request for the particular content against the content-specific block.
Sony, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, isn’t new to blockchain. In addition to the DRM patent application, they had filed a patent application earlier for a blockchain-powered multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution. Sony’s interest in blockchain conforms with the growing trend of tech giants exploring this promising technology, for e.g.:
- IBM is formulating their plans of entering the crypto space.
- Microsoft is investing on blockchain start-ups through their venture capital (VC) arm.
- Intel has filed patent application to use blockchain in genetic sequencing.