InvArch EduSeries 1: The IP War Zone & Innovation Graveyard We Live In.
Welcome to the InvArch EduSeries: a series of articles introducing the significance of the InvArch network, explaining its technologies, & highlighting the dire problems it solves! In the very first of the collection, InvArch EduSeries 1: The IP War Zone & Innovation Graveyard We Live In, we’re going to start by refreshing our readers with the painful history of intellectual property rights & reflecting on the problematic state of today’s outdated practices that are suffocating the future of innovation.
Stealing Ideas & Taking Credit: A Tradition As Old As Time.
If you Google the name “Samuel Slater” in the United States, you’re likely to discover a man commonly known as the “Father of the American Industrial Revolution.” Now, do the exact search in Britain, and you’re likely to find a man cited as an intellectual property pirate who stole & sold ideas.
Go back even further & you’ll discover that William Shakespeare’s famous Romeo & Juliet derives from the poem written by Arthur Brooke in 1562 titled, The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet.
Fast Forward a bit & then ask yourself who invented the original telephone. The world remembers Alexander Graham Bell; however, if you do your research, you’ll discover that Italian inventor Antonio Meucci created the very first voice-communication apparatus in 1871. The difference is that Antonio Meucci failed to pay the total amount needed to register the entirety of his patent in the U.S. In contrast, Bell secured a complete patent for the telephone in 1876.
If getting cheated out of being recognized as the inventor of the telephone & why humanity evolved from Morse code doesn’t seem rough, how does getting robbed blind for over half a trillion U.S. Dollars sound?
Facebook (Meta, Inc.), the largest social network the world has ever known, worth over $500,000,000,000, is a product of intellectual property theft? Cameron Winklevoss & Tyler Winklevoss (Founders of the crypto exchange, Gemini), joined by Divya Narendra, had first partnered with Mark Zuckerberg with their vision for a social network. Zuckerberg became inspired by the idea & secretly developed his social networking site, unknown to them. That site is known as Facebook today. Unsurprisingly, the Winklevoss twins & Narendra filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg & walked away with over $300,000,000 in 2008. Imagine being the founder of the intellectual property (I.P.) behind over half a trillion USD & you own less than 0.0006% of it while another guy is spending the rest to buy an entire island in Hawaii.
The reality is that your intellectual property is not safe on its own. We come from a lineage of robbed success & misguided credit, and the world where I.P. theft once thrived is only a pond compared to the ocean of I.P. piracy today.
Seeking Copyright Protection: The Amazon Of Legal Jungles.
One of the oddest habits forced on society is that if individuals want to protect their idea, they have to pay for them. However bizarre it is, the current system makes sense when you consider the following:
- I.P. ownership coincides with the earliest verifiable records of ownership involving that I.P.
- Records of ownership need to be verified or otherwise undeniable. If they are not, there is no fact to say otherwise that the documents are fake.
- If someone can’t prove that their records are genuine, then I.P. ownership would derive from a trusted agreement, a risky condition that is impossible to guarantee.
- Having a single point where all records of I.P. can be registered allows them to be checked against one another, watching out for any infringement.
- If an individual wants to protect their I.P., it naturally costs money for another individual to take the time to determine whether or not they believe you warrant the claim as the founder of your I.P.
However, suppose you are like most individuals around the globe & lack the means to protect your idea. In that case, you sometimes get lucky & have the skills and resources to realize your I.P. Otherwise, without protection to expose & share your opinion for funding securely. Without the capital to protect your vision, you’re stuck playing a dangerous game risking your I.P. in a world that’s blind to favor those who need more help than others.
Suppose somebody gives you permission to use their NFT in your video or even their code in your dApp, and there is no verifiable proof or record of the original ownership agreement. If this same person only ever verbally permitted you or if you mistakenly lost your prior message records, and this person secretly retained the registered trademark, what stops them from turning on you & suing you after you’ve generated success? Can you prove that you are not using stolen or protected copyright?
It must sound like a far-fetched idea that somebody would knowingly permit I.P. rights without question and that you find that same person a year or two later telling a courtroom that you blatantly stole from them.
Seeking to claim successful work as a derivative of one’s own may not seem apparent; however, as the U.S. music industry has proven, it happens all the time. You’ll see a pattern of multi-million dollar lawsuits claiming that one party had stolen an essential contribution of lyrical I.P. from them…
Lizzo (Melissa Jefferson) v. Justin Raisen, Jeremiah Raisen, & Justin ‘Yves’ Rothman
or one party claiming theft over their I.P.’s “general vibe,”
Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams v. Marvin Gaye
and even an instance where one party had to prove that a song they recorded didn’t infringe on a previous piece that they, too, had initially been recorded 15 years ago but did not own anymore.
John Fogerty v. John Fogerty
What’s evident is that people in possession of successful I.P. often find themselves either defending the truth that they are its founder or trying to conceal the fact that they aren’t its original owner.
The truth is that without verifiable proof of ownership or verifiable evidence of being given the rights to use I.P., the facts of the matter are not decided by the history of events as much as they are determined by how others choose to believe & interpret your claim or defense. Sometimes, even after blatant proof of ownership, it isn’t enough to guarantee your I.P. safety.
Without verifiable proof of ownership or licensing agreements, you may need to fight for the ownership rights over your I.P.
When all it takes is the right words & a signature to transfer copyright ownership, it can be easy to forget & or even to get fooled.
Possibly the clearest example of copyright ownership confusion & how costly it can get is found in the case of SpiceDAO. In November 2021, a blockchain-based community known as SpiceDAO bought a copy of Frank Herbert’s book, Dune, for more than 100x the expected price at approximately $3,000,000.
To summarize the painful details:
- SpiceDAO paid more than 100x the anticipated value the book was expected to fetch, buying the book at approximately $3,000,000.
- The book was only a copy of the original I.P.; while the copy is considered rare, it is not the same as the underlying parent IP of Dune.
- The intentions behind SpiceDAO’s decision were that they would make the book public & produce an animated series based around the Dune story.
- Spice DAO paid $3,000,000 for a copy of the book, not the rights to its content; a requirement for an animated series.
- The book is & was already public, available for anybody to browse on Google Photos.
To summarize everything more swiftly: Collective ignorance wastes $3,000,000 on a copyright misunderstanding. While some readers may assume what should be clear and that buying something doesn’t mean you own its brand, SpiceDAO proves that even a decentralized body of multiple individuals working together can all misunderstand the realm of copyright.
We live in a world where collaboration has more barriers than launchpads.
Plagiarizing “One Of A Kind” Assets: Right Click, Save As, Mint.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are quite possibly the fastest evolving, largest potential-wielding, & most commonly misunderstood piece of technology today. However, they are also some of the most misused innovations of the 21st century.
NFTs are unique digital certificates of ownership recorded on a blockchain network. More basically, an NFT represents a non-interchangeable unit of data or a “one of a kind” digital asset. To the broader public, it’s essential to understand that NFTs are fundamentally different from the actual JPEGs that have taken the world by storm. It’s not the metadata (JPEG) of an NFT that is “one-of-a-kind”; it’s the unique content identifier (CID) linking your NFT & its content that serves as an immutable certificate of ownership over that particular instance of data pegged to your NFT.
NFTs possess specific facts that are currently pain points for their broader adoption. While this new ability to verify the ownership of digital assets is compelling, it’s important to note that it is the ownership of a specific instance of data that is verified. This is different from every instance of that data being verified & or copyright being provided. While many Web3 developers & NFT collectors may be clear & at peace with their understanding of NFT technology and the direction the technology is heading, the rest of the world is making it increasingly clear what they want & expect. How would you feel if you found out that 11.4k Eth (~$29,000,000) was spent toward a plagiarized collection of Crypto Chicks?
Individuals don’t just want to make a token that proves they own a JPEG file. Individuals want ownership to mean something, want the data that they store to matter, and want NFTs to enforce uniqueness so they can stop being a source of plagiarism.
There is no current solution for seamlessly & trustlessly authenticating NFTS, let alone the ability to retroactively do anything from a protocol level when it comes to authentication. What was once a world making jokes about hovering over an NFT and simply clicking “right-click, save as“ has quickly become a world of images stored all across the internet on centralized protocols getting “saved as” in just two clicks & then minted into NFTs. Since NFTs today lack any native functionality for actually enforcing that their contents are legitimately unique to the world. Bad actors are exploiting them to propagate immutable certificates of ownership over plagiarized data & creative works.
While it may be a comparably quick process to report a user over social media for impersonating an account, there currently is no similar decentralized functionality for NFTs.
One platform that has halted NFT sales entirely due to uncontrollable amounts of plagiarized content is Cent, the platform where Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, minted & sold his first Tweet as an NFT. As the CEO of Cent, Cameron Hejazi discovered for himself that centralized solutions could not compete with the speed & size of the web.
“It kept happening. We would ban offending accounts but it was like we’re playing a game of whack-a-mole… Every time we would ban one, another one would come up, or three more would come up.” -Cameron Hejazi
An artist whose work is getting stolen for millions, a digital art collector purchasing plagiarism, and a marketplace overwhelmed by the risk of hosting plagiarised (illegal) content. Nobody is safe from the fallbacks.
Most fascinating to all too many is that even if you buy a legitimate NFT that truly is one-of-a-kind, NFTs aren’t the same as copyright agreements. Nearly all around the globe, if an individual can provide the earliest verifiable record of ownership over I.P., then that individual is often cited as the founder of that I.P. The possession of I.P. is not the same as the ownership of I.P. These two aspects are entirely separate. Unless there is a documented agreement of the transfer of rights for I.P. between the former (and verified) owner and a current owner of said I.P., then there is no way to prove that the I.P. is real unless otherwise verifiable beyond any doubt. So, unless it comes with a license or copyright agreement signing the rights over, the ownership of an NFT is similar to buying a Pokémon card that has a unique code at the bottom of the card linked to an online profile.
- You can also prove that you have that Pokémon card by signing in to your online profile & providing proof of ownership.
- You can give your Pokémon card away, sell it to another user, you can even burn it.
- You don’t own the Pokémon franchise or have the right to produce a Pokémon movie because you bought a Pokémon card.
We live in a world surrounded by technology that could one day have the ability to completely redefine a majority of everyday transactions & entirely transform the capabilities of the internet. Instead, NFTs are showcasing the most prominent fears & misunderstandings often shared in the Web2 crowds.
Trusting Corporations With IP: Risking Ownership For Free Storage.
At last, the final highlight of this InvArch EduSeries article. In a world with the internet, individuals from all around the world are more connected than ever, collaborating & communicating to provide joint contributions to development no matter where on the globe they’re located. Social collaboration brings us to the topic of where to store your I.P.
Remembering that most of the globe insists on the earliest proof of ownership to claim the rights over I.P., individuals worldwide have resulted in the tried & true practice of storing all of their I.P. & their contributed work on a private corporation’s centralized database.
In all honesty, GitHub is far from a toxin for innovation; however, the world can ignore certain truths forever:
- If you don’t have access to the database, you don’t have access to your files.
- If the GitHub platform goes offline as it has in the past due to a DDoS attack on the server, you don’t have access to your files.
- If you ever lose access to your account or your 2fA code (if applicable), then you could permanently lose access to your files.
- Microsoft owns & oversees GitHub. When using Github, you trust that Microsoft will not get hacked or attacked & that you will not lose access to your files.
- It’s not your sandbox. You must commit to the limits of centralized hosts like Github. It would help if you trusted that Microsoft would continue to use their platform under the current terms of your experience.
Why? Because we don’t live in a world where big tech companies provide us services for free, we live in a world where human data is a multi-trillion dollar market in Silicon Valley. So again, while GitHub is far from a toxin for innovation, too much reliance and trust in a single system is a recipe for disaster where one kick at the foundation could watch teams, companies, & individuals all get knocked to their feet.
More importantly, if you are a defendant of copyright infringement, you are given one opportunity to make your case before the future of your I.P. gets decided. Otherwise, it will be gone regardless of whether you were the valid owner, and there is nothing you will be able to do about it. The same goes for if you discover somebody has stolen your I.P., you have one shot & a single brain will decide on the future of ownership of your work whether you like it to not.
These things are possible because of the critical point made earlier: For free, you can store your code on GitHub in exchange for the actual possession of your files & by relinquishing a few rights.
Looking Towards The Future & The Next InvArch EduSeries.
While society has made attempts to find the balance between open-source collaboration & copyright protection, it can often be painfully evident from a first-hand experience that the world we live in is not optimal, nor is it currently capable of providing a trustless environment where I.P. can be quickly recorded & aspects such as licensing agreements & copyright access can be handled with simplicity.
As an innovator, you are often forced into situations that demand you trust others regardless of whether you have a good reason. During these moments, half a trillion-dollar social network was accusably stolen, and it is during these moments most individuals have learned that trust isn’t a requirement that is wise to trust.
Surrounded by red tape, with revolutionary technology used to massacre copyright rather than protect it, and with the walls of trust squeezing in on; The 21st century has turned into an I.P. war zone & innovation graveyard.
With a current system so dependent on trust, imagine what a system that requires zero trust at all would do for the world of collaboration?