Do you know what blockchain is? Do you know how it can be applied to creative industries such as film, television, digital media and video games? We’ve asked ourselves that very same question! While cryptocurrencies are revolutionizing the way we think about such things as cash flow and monetary transactions, the blockchain goes even further.

But let’s start at the beginning. In January 2009, blockchain technologies were first implemented in a business context with bitcoin, the first digital currency. Bitcoin was accessible and exchangeable via its own open digital network: bitcoin blockchain.

The blockchain is in fact a distributed ledger that keeps track of bitcoin transactions. The ledger has two defining characteristics: it cannot be altered, and it is decentralized.

Cannot be altered, because transactions are encrypted and, in a way, “sealed” within data blocks, which are linked one to the other by a unique identifier in a chain of blocks… The longer the chain, the less it can be altered, and so the more secure it becomes. Decentralized, because it is based on the person-to-person (P2P) principle whereby blocks, once approved, are copied onto the network’s nodes. The network’s participants themselves approve blocks by consensus, a key element of the blockchain principle. The parameters for consensus (and its rules of governance) vary from one blockchain to another, whether it is public (e.g., bitcoin), private (for an organization) or controlled by a consortium (e.g., a sector of activity).

New uses, new forms of transactions and relations between stakeholders, and new applications can be imagined, particularly through the use of Smart Contracts that establish and automate the business rules of a blockchain.

Still having a hard time understanding the concept? 

Here’s a few concrete examples of how the technology applies to the audiovisual industry:

  • Protection of intellectual property (digital identity);
  • Rights management (traceability of transactions);
  • Collaboration (traceability of contributions, approval systems relating to coproductions and transmedia productions);
  • Distribution and monetization of content (disintermediation, direct connections and relationships with audiences);
  • Funding (crowdfunding, cryptocurrency);
  • Royalty payments and recovery on investment (transparency, automation, micropayment).

Here again, we’re continuing to innovate by playing a leading role, not only by testing the potential of these new technologies but by assessing their impact and the feasibility of their adoption by the industry. 

An extensive study on the blockchain will be published soon, in partnership with the Canada Media Fund (CMF), Pôle médias HEC Montréal and Badel Media.

In addition, this past February, a Let’s Change with Blockchain! event was held during the Berlinale’s European Film Market as part of the “Canada in Focus” program. Mixing case studies and creative workshop, the event was presented to some 150 professionals representing a variety of sectors and countries. Organized in association with Badel Media, Groupe Média TFO (which received support from the CMF for its blockchain prototype—the first of its kind by a Canadian broadcaster), Three Lefts, OVA and the Blockchain Association of Canada, this “think-tank” initiative on film distribution, monetization of content and onscreen diversity was presented as a panel/meet-up at the RDV CANADA space at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin (March 2018).

To sum up, experts sometimes refer to the Internet as a medium for networking and communication, whereas the blockchain is an “Internet of value.” A network for dealing in goods and content—a network for its users themselves—from which its enormous potential derives. So, it’s worth keeping a close eye on the blockchain! Because it might, one day, play a key role for the creators and consumers of Canadian cultural content and for the industry as a whole.