Blockchain Hype vs. Skepticism: A Poll

At last week’s Public Meeting on Developing the Digital Marketplace for Copyrighted Works at the Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, it appeared that my article from the previous week expressing skepticism about some of the hype around media applications for blockchain technology had, as more than one person put it, “made the rounds.”  As a result, I found myself on a panel in which I explained my arguments and then had to defend them against two experts: Paul Jessop of County Analytics, the noted (pun subconsciously intended) music industry identifiers and metadata guru, and Lance Koonce of Davis Wright & Tremaine, one of the leading legal minds in the blockchain community (who will be speaking at our conference on January 24).

In a nutshell, my argument was about the potential of blockchain technology in direct-to-consumer media services.  I said that while I see great potential in B-to-B applications such as licensing and royalty processing, no one has yet put forward a convincing argument that blockchain technology will enable features of such services that will interest consumers; for example, the vast majority of consumers don’t care about authenticity or provenance of digital media (except in the visual art market, which is tiny today), and that “the ship has sailed” on any interest in micropayments for small items of content.

Jessop and Koonce disagreed.  For example, Jessop said that as the music industry goes more deeply into high-quality audio, people who pay higher price points for better quality will want assurances that what they are getting is indeed high-resolution audio from the source and not oversampled standard-quality audio.

Time for a poll; what do you think?



  1. Excellent thinking as usual, Bill! I think anyone assuming that consumers care about block chain are engaged in magical thinking. If block chain will make a difference, it will most likely be upstream, possibly including honest creators engaged in mash-up production. Certainly not end users. That just funny…

  2. Hi John,

    I don’t think anyone expects consumers to care about blockchains per se, any more than they care about sampling rates or SSL negotiated ciphers. It’s a question of what features does blockchain technology enable, or make easier, that’s both desired and impossible or hard otherwise. So far no one’s come up with anything compelling — including Paul Jessop’s high res music argument, which a) doesn’t strike me as a big enough market to bother with, and b) you can solve without the overkill of blockchains anyway (digital certificates would work just fine).

    Plus, anything that has even the faintest whiff of DRM starts out with a big disadvantage in market perception

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