Re: Crypto for People Who Don't Follow Crypto

The Implications of Blockchain Media on The Creator Economy

In a 1729 article Jon Stokes provides a layman friendly overview of some of the biggest implications of blockchain technology for the next decade or so. At the end of the article he notes that because content on Bitclout or LBRY is impossible for anyone but the publisher to take down, paywalls for content on the internet are doomed. As blockchain based content hosting becomes more common, copy-pasting the copyright enforcement tools of the 20th century won’t work and the landscape of content creation will radically change.

Stokes emphasizes the ‘destruction’ element of this creative destruction in his article, and what he says is not wrong. The traditional content industry (think big name movie and music production studios) is a multi-hundred billion dollar industry and several billion of those dollars go directly into copyright protection. These intellectual property rents are not sustainable in the face of blockchain content distribution. Although there will be significant destruction in the transition period, the content economy will be remade and thrive like never before because of the affordability of content creation and distribution on the blockchain, proofs of originality, and the universal access to online content.

The concomitant rise of cheap production methods and internet communication have decreased the costs of creating high quality content, making strong intellectual property restrictions unnecessary. Free software like Reaper and Lightworks mean that individuals and small teams can create content as good as the big studios without the hundred million dollar budget. Intellectual property is intended to compensate creators for the cost of production, but this cost has come down astronomically over the past few decades, meaning that the growing IP protections are far out of line with what is needed to incentivize creators. The decreased costs of production and distribution enable new forms of monetization. On YouTube and Twitch creators put out studio quality music and movies entirely for free and thousands of people donate money to them directly or through services like Patreon. Distribution is so cheap and widespread that artists can rely on finding their thousand true fans, who want to patronize their work regardless of the free riders, and be able to make a living from their work without having to rely on intellectual property rents.

The patron monetization model is made even more viable by blockchain content hosting. Content on the blockchain is impossible to erase so creators who make controversial art or who find themselves in the ire of an authoritarian government can still contact their supporters. For the same reason, the revenue stream for artists is impossible to cut off and, since the content hosting protocol they’re using probably comes with a coin, tipping your favorite creators is seamlessly integrated into the viewing experience.

Even though copyright enforcement is basically impossible with blockchain content hosting, creators have alternative and more secure ways of getting some monetizable exclusivity from their work. Content posted to a blockchain is inextricably linked with the time of its posting and an identifier of who posted it. This data can be used to definitively prove that a certain piece of digital content is the original posting by the artist themselves, or one of the first hundred or thousand copies. Humans go crazy for this sort of exclusivity and originality. The Mona Lisa is free for all to see online, and anyone can make and sell an imperceptibly different reproduction, but the original still holds a multi-million dollar allure. You can print out the rarest baseball cards on nice cardstock but no one will pay you anything for them while the ‘real thing’ sells for hundreds of thousands. Anyone can watch and copy Lebron James’ slam dunk or Beeple’s art but the status of owning the verified original print is enough to bring in millions. Importantly, the unrestricted access to the actual content of art and video does not discourage creators from making more. I don’t need to be prevented from watching a video for free for the creator of the video to make money from it.

Artists won’t be able to prevent their work from being copied and posted by others on the blockchain, but everyone will know that these copied versions are fakes. Real fans will proudly display their NFTs as proof of their support of their favorite artists and they will serve as desired status symbols within that group; like band t-shirts or getting your name on a building.

Because creators will have ample ways to fund the ever decreasing costs of creating and distributing content, the fact that anyone who wants to access the content for free can do so is an amazing thing. In Stokes’ relatively pessimistic take on the effects of blockchain on the content industry he does have one optimistic message “every large publisher will effectively get the same treatment Springer and Elsevier et al have gotten with Sci-Hub.” The freedom to both directly support the academics whom you personally respect without a journal publisher siphoning off 90% of the $100 access fee while also being able to access every piece of academic work for free would be an enormous boon to the collective knowledge base of humanity. The same is true for other art and content of all kinds. The fact that so much zero marginal cost, infinitely copy-able knowledge and entertainment is locked behind unnecessary financial barriers is a tragedy.

Blockchain content hosting may be the downfall of many traditional media organizations. Their billion dollar investments in copyright protection cannot defeat the mathematics of distributed ledgers. This destruction, however, paves the way for the creation of a new creator economy, one that is focused on direct interactions between creator and consumer without the need for any middlemen. The blockchain will give creators cheaper ways to distribute what they make, tamper-proof avenues of interaction and trade with fans, and lucrative methods of monetization. It will give the entire world access to the repository of human creation and the ability to directly support the creators you love the most.