Sony Considering Blockchain for Digital Rights Management

A new patent application filed jointly with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Sony and Sony Pictures Entertainment, confirms that the Japan-based tech giant is considering implementing blockchain technology as the foundation behind their digital rights management efforts.

Sony explains in the patent application that current digital rights management (DRM) solutions “may not be very reliable and rely on one unique point of failure,” continuing:

“If the rights locker provider or system goes out of business or otherwise fails, the user loses all the acquired content."

DRM systems are used to verify that access to copyrighted content was paid for by a user, thus preventing software piracy. However, oftentimes these systems go down for unforeseen reasons, and users are left without access to content they rightfully paid for. According to the patent, a blockchain could be used to store the identification info required to verify ownership of digital data, ensuring users can access the digital content they have purchased without failure. 

While movies are an obvious example use case for Sony Pictures, Sony also has subsidiaries that offer everything from music to computer software, to video games and more under the PlayStation brand. The patent itself covers just about every one of Sony’s business units, applying blockchain to "various types of content or other data, such as movies, television, video, music, audio, games, scientific data, medical data, etc.”

According to the methodology described in the patent, a user’s rights information will be stored on a dedicated blockchain, starting with a genesis block that saves user identification. Once a user has purchased the rights to specific content, such as a movie for video game, the rights will be added to the blockchain. After that, a DRM system will “verify the rights in the blockchain and then decrypt the media when needed.”

Blockchain could have tremendous value in DRM systems, effectively eliminating the possibility of piracy and copyright infringement. It is no surprise a company with as large of a content offering as Sony would be researching blockchain technology for digital rights management. In addition to DRM blockchain solutions, Sony is also said to be considering blockchain to authenticate user data and possibly build a suite of educational services.