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Blockchain technology provides safety and flexibility for artists on the internet

Monegraph is designed to aid the creators of digital media, providing licences that are flexible, and recording ownership on the blockchain. Supported by Law Firm, Pryor Cashman, the process brings copyright procedure into the 21st century.

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The advent of the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th Century allowed the reproduction of reading material on an unprecedented scale. Within 50 years the number of books in Europe had gone from thousands to millions.

In 1710 the British parliament enacted the Statute of Anne, the first full-fledged copyright statute in the world. The Statute granted the publisher legal protection for 14 years, as most authors during this period would sell their works to printers.

The Statute of Anne began to appear in other countries, and the Copyright Act of the United States came into effect in 1790. It wasn’t until 1886 that an effort was made to co-ordinate legislation, both nationally and internationally, with the Berne Convention, which remains in force to this day.

The Convention was a revolutionary shift, and is now adhered to by 167 UN member states. Copyright became automatic, and member states were no longer permitted to require authors to formally register works.

According to the Intellectual Property Rights Office (IP Office), “While the adoption of the Berne Convention has had many benefits for the creators of original works, the systems for protecting unpublished works remain fragmented internationally, with some states offering optional registration services within their own jurisdiction, while others offer no kind of registration at all.”

The IP Office is an independent, non-governmental organization with international scope, covering all nations which are signatories to the Berne Convention. Artists are able to register their works with the office, although the primary focus is to offer protection to unpublished works, where it can be most difficult to prove authorship and copyright ownership.

“Without registration, it can be difficult to judge who is the rightful owner of a copyrighted work. The national registration systems may not be willing to offer support in a dispute in another country.”
— – Intellectual Property Rights Office

Digital artists face all of of these issues, and many more if they want to get noticed online. “They make work and then they give it away,” stated Kevin McCoy at TechCrunch New York, in 2014.

“They have to put it out onto social media platforms where it circulates and they will fight for attention, meanwhile, the basis for any sort of market that they have is undermined by the action of giving it away and it floats out to billion dollar platforms that then monetise it."
— – Kevin McCoy, Monegraph Co-Founder CEO

McCoy is the creator of Monegraph and intends to provide solutions using cutting edge technology. In order to ensure they are covering all their bases, the platform has enrolled the legal expertise of New York Law Firm, Pryor Cashman. “The evolution of digital media has given consumers the ability to locate, access, copy, transmit and share a virtually limitless array of copyrighted content. Those new platforms and technologies that license and pay royalties to use the content are of great benefit to consumers, as well as to copyright owners and creators,” states the Firm.

“Every year, tens of billions of dollars change hands in the international art market. In this vibrant but volatile and unregulated industry, galleries, dealers, lenders, collectors, heirs and the artists themselves face real challenges to the ownership, provenance and authenticity of their collections.”
— – Pryor Cashman LLC

The Monegraph system is designed to streamline licensing, payment processing, media handling, and the distribution of work, “everything you need to be in business and get paid for what you do.” Anyone can buy and sell fully licensed digital media on the platform. “We bring artists, photographers, designers and illustrators together with collectors, publishers, advertisers and brands.”

Artists can visit the Monegraph site, sign in, and submit the URL of a digital image they’ve created. In return they receive a blockchain key and value, which they can store in a NameCoin wallet, in the same way they would store bitcoin. This is their digital deed, a unique claim of ownership to the piece of art. If someone else submits the same image, Monegraph detects that it’s already been claimed.

Monegraph initially supports typical digital image types, JPG, PNG and GIF image files, up to 100 MB. “Our system will work for many other kinds of digital files, and we are working hard to support more. Next up will be support for video files and various types of source files. Stay tuned,” states the team.

Monegraph“The information about who made a work, who owns it and what the license terms are is stored in our own database, but it is also stored in the Bitcoin Blockchain. This helps provide an independent verification of the attribution and ownership information, so you stay in control of your intentions around your work. It also is part of the digital signature process that shows that a contract has been executed and a hand-off of rights has occurred.“
— – Monegraph

Once a creator watermarks a digital art piece as the original, they can then share copies however they want. The piece can be redistributed or remixed, and the artist can watch as it takes its own viral course, knowing they haven’t lost control.

Four types of Monegraph license are available; The Artwork license, for non-commercial use; The News Photo License, for non-commercial editorial use; The Product Image License, a commercial rights managed license; The Snapshot License, a commercial agreement which gives full ownership to the buyer once the piece is purchased.  If they wish to sell the piece and the rights to it, the owner can sign the Monegraph deed over to a buyer.

The company is currently managing the blockchain transactions, which provides a user friendly approach for artists unfamiliar with bitcoin. Artists can set their own price and are able to select from a menu of sale, licensing, resale and remixing rights.

Content buyers can purchase directly, without the need for brokers, and with the comfort of knowing that title and artist attribution are verified through the blockchain’s cryptocurrency technology.

"Monegraph is paving the way for nearly instantaneous digital exchanges of art," states William Charron, who co-chairs Pryor Cashman’s Art Law group. "Just as people look for a little circled ‘c’ to know that something is copyrighted, in relatively short order they will look for the scripted ‘M’ to know that something is ‘Monegraphed.’ It will become part of the commercial art and legal vernacular."


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