Japanese technology giant Sony is looking at using blockchain to store digital rights data.
In an application published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Sony explains that current digital rights management (DRM) solutions that aim for interoperability "may not be very reliable and rely on one unique point of failure. If the rights locker provider or system goes out of business or otherwise fails, the user loses all the acquired content."
A blockchain could store the required identification information to ensure users could watch the products they purchase, according to the filing.
DRM systems refer to technologies that limit access to copyrighted materials only to those who purchase access. Sony cites UltraViolet, a cloud-based locker for digital rights, as one example.
The application was filed jointly by Sony and subsidiary Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the document specifically cites movies as an example of the type of media the system could be applied to.
However, Sony also argues the blockchain-based system could manage rights to "various types of content or other data, such as movies, television, video, music, audio, games, scientific data, medical data, etc."
The application describes several potential implementations of the technology. In one, each user's rights are encoded on a dedicated blockchain. This ledger begins with a genesis block, which stores identifying information about that user. When the user acquires rights to certain content – by purchasing a movie download, for example – those rights are committed to the blockchain.
Concurrently, a "DRM computer system would verify the rights in the blockchain and then decrypt the media when needed. This computer system can take different forms, including a "DRM agent" residing on a user's device, according to Sony.
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