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BFI, Intellectual Property Office launch blockchain initiative

Working group will explore opportunities in Public Domain, Out of Copyright, and Orphan works

The International Property Office (IFO), British Film Institute and blockchain rights company JAAK have launched a working group to investigate how blockchain technology can improve the availability of Public Domain works and processes surrounding Orphan work definition. 

The initiative will focus on the film and image industries in the UK.

The group also Design and Artists Copyright Society, British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies, and Federation of Commercial Audiovisual Libraries.

It will initially look at the process behind classifying and cataloguing works, particularly those where the copyright term has expired. This will include collaborating on a standard dataset, stored on JAAK’s rights network, KORD. The group will also consider more advanced features such as mechanisms that allow documentary-makers to prove they have obtained materials through official channels, custodians, and rights holders.

The working group will also explore similar opportunities for film and image ‘Orphan works’. Unlike Public Domain works, Orphan works are still under copyright, however, the rights holder is unknown or uncontactable. Licensing Orphan works can be time-consuming as licensees must prove they have conducted a “diligent search” to find the true owner of the material.

David Humphries, head of research at the IPO, said: “It is important for UK government to better understand how new technological solutions, such as blockchain, impact on the intellectual property framework. Initiatives, such as JAAK’s KORD network, provide a live case study to help inform the IPO’s thinking in future proofing policy.”