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Protecting Rights to Digital Works with Blockchain Technology

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:47 PM
Lester Coleman
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:47 PM

A New York startup called Mine Labs  has started a metadata protocol based on blockchain technology called Mediachain that uses the Interplanetary File System (IPFS ), a “hypermedia distribution protocol,” to protect rights to digital works, according to Nasdaq. Other blockchain-based authentication systems use an encoded ID to reference centrally-hosted data, but these have limited storage per transaction.

To encrypt and store digital rights onto the bitcoin blockchain, most blockchain startups do one of two things: 1) they encode an ID onto the blockchain using OP_RETURN or CoinSpark to reference centrally-hosted data, or 2) they use a custom-built distributed ledger to attach metadata directly to transactions.

There are disadvantages to both of these techniques in encoding metadata onto the bitcoin blockchain.

Limited Storage

The most data storage per transaction the bitcoin protocol’s built-in OP_RETURN code allows is 40 bytes. The limited storage makes it hard to store extensive strings of metadata onto the bitcoin blockchain. Using OP_RETURN to encrypt metadata onto the blockchain becomes very inefficient, and developers think it contributes to “blockchain bloat.”

The problem with the second technique for building a custom blockchain is security. Newly-established networks that have a lack of miners and hash power can be vulnerable to 51 percent attacks. The issue intensifies if the blockchain and the data expands and there is insufficient hash power to secure protected information.

Consider Network Hash Rate

According to blogger Pete Dushenski , as shorter walls are easier to attack, “the city has grown at the expense of security.” The size of the city he refers to is the blockchain, and the height of the city walls is the network’s hash rate. The larger the distributed ledger, the more hash power needed to maintain the security level.

Rather than solely relying on the blockchain’s built-in features to store metadata, Mine Labs offers a new way to validate data without storing large amounts of information onto the distributed ledger.

A New Way To Validate Data via Blockchain

The Mediachain protocol utilizes the limitations of existing startups by using the IPFS to store the data, publishing the data onto the blockchain to authenticate the information with time stamps. This enables digital content providers to encrypt rights to their content by making information and images interoperable and discoverable through a decentralized hybrid system.

Denis Nazarov of Mine Labs said Mediachain is a collaborative federated media metadata protocol allowing parties to make statements about creative works. The contributor cryptographically signs these metadata statements. The blockchain time stamps these statements in the distributed ledger which are stored in IPFS. The statements can then be accessed via perceptual search using the media itself.

IPFS Protocol Arrives

IPFS is a new hypermedia distribution protocol developed by the IPFS community and open source community contributors to allow the creation of fully-distributed applications. The IPFS concept is similar to the Web in providing a high-throughput block storage model with content-specific cryptographic hyperlinks. IPFS’ unique advantage as an application’s foundation is that it provides cryptographic proof or hash to all data sets stored in the system.

Arkadiy Kukarin of Mine Labs said IPFS, billed as “a new hypermedia distribution protocol,” is a stack incorporating many of the best-distributed systems ideas of the past few years (such as self-certifying file systems, BitTorrent swarms, DHTs, and Merkle DAGs) to provide a global, uniformly-addressable namespace anyone can participate in. “A recently-landed new object format patterned after JSON-LD allows us to store richly-structured and interlinked data within this system,” he said.

Since a unique cryptographic hash of its digital content accompanies the data encoded into the IPFS system, the actual links to the content can’t be changed. The Mediachain publishes the cryptographic hash of the content onto the bitcoin blockchain. This provides unalterable and irrefutable data to be used to authenticate and verify digital content.

Featured image from Shutterstock.