If there's one thing that I hope regular readers have noted, it's that I enjoy a story about the unintended consequences of decisions and actions. Perhaps enjoy is too strong; I highlight them to hopefully serve as an example of the perils of not fully thinking through one's choices, perhaps as a way to justify my own ponderous nature, if you were to take the thought to its logical end. Regardless, this is a space where you can see many an individual or business go astray because they simply thought about the good that might come of their choices without considering the bad that might accompany it.
Audius is a music-streaming service that, like many of the new iterations on existing applications, exists on the blockchain. There's an obvious appeal to the idea; the blockchain provides security and permanency to the works posted there, free from the reach of piracy or the vagaries of corporate decision-making on what should stay or go on the platform. That's the good part. The bad part, as those familiar with the functioning of the blockchain might have figured out, is that once a song is enshrined in the said platform it can't be removed, and that includes versions of copyrighted songs. It's a problem that prompted The Verge to refer to the service as a "copyright nightmare."
As the article points out, there are real problems with existing platforms, from questions of payments making it to the right people due to poor metadata as well as fights over percentages and terms in the payments themselves. And piracy is a concern for smaller artists particularly, who rely on what royalty payments they do get absent the other revenue streams bigger artists can tap. Unfortunately, Audius and the blockchain do little to solve these problems absent content ID systems and a coherent system to make payments to artists, neither of which are in place on Audius at the moment.
The decentralized nature of the blockchain may allow for Audius to shirk responsibility for infringing material for the moment, but it won't be long before artists and labels bring a fight to their doorstep, and a shrug and a nod towards the freedom of its users to do as they wish will do little to win the case in court. Copyright and music is a complicated business, and it's one that even major players like Spotify have suffered their licks in. It's not enough for Audius to say "do as thou will" and turn a blind eye, hoping that the platform is populated by nothing but good actors. It's a lesson they will have to learn the hard way.