Social media platform Milio wants to give credit where credit is due by offering content creators a chance to earn money off their intellectual property, while keeping them safe from online piracy.
RightsLedger Digital Sdn Bhd founder and CEO Ray Young points out that Malaysia sits at a troubling confluence: being a nation with high social media usage with 25 million active users online while also being categorised as one of the top 10 countries committing online piracy, causing organisations to lose billions over content they worked hard to produce.
Malaysia's ranking in copyright protection has been taking a beating in recent years, dropping from number 26 to 32 out of 127 countries, and ranking seventh out of 19 in the Asian and Oceana regions, according to the International Property Rights Index 2017. The intellectual property rights score specifically dropped due to poor perception regarding Intellectual Property Protection, Patent Protection, and Copyright Piracy Level.
In 2018, Malaysia dropped four spots to 23rd place in the sixth annual US Chamber International Intellectual Property (IP) Index, which is based on an evaluation of how it addresses patent, trademark, copyright and trade secrets protection.
Young adds social media and online piracy are inherently linked as the platforms make it easier to illegally share others' copyright while devaluing original content by having creators hand over their rights for the convenience of sharing content and getting exposure.
RightsLedger flips the traditional rights management strategy of incumbent players like YouTube and Instagram, which take ownership of creators' content to be monetised. Instead it merely houses the digital content to allow other users to find who owns it.
"We're trying to solve the problem where companies are making profit without paying for production costs: fair pay for fair play," says Young, referring to how content aggregators take on the copyright from the creators without also taking on the financial burden of producing the valuable content.
He describes RightsLedger as a blockchain-backed content registration and digital rights marketplace that helps individual creators license and monetise their work.
RightsLedger operates through three subsidiary companies: Milio which acts as a social platform where users can promote their content, streaming platform MilStage, and online marketplace Mil Deals, which pitches and sells users' content to media studios all over the world.
Creators can upload media in various formats to Milio – from photos to videos, audio and even documents. Milio in turn drives traffic to its sister platforms. When users upload to one platform, it automatically populates to the other two platforms as well.
Uploading also registers the media to the blockchain which authenticates ownership, and also facilitates the use of smart contracts to ensure quick delivery and payment.
RightsLedger rewards Rights Tokens – a digital token built on the Ethereum platform – to creators for uploading content to any of the platforms, as well as viewers who sit through advertisements.
"We have investors backing the tokens now. It's going to a token exchange by September, then people can be rewarded by cashing in their tokens for fiat money (real world currency). We target the token to not cost less than US$1 (RM4.16)," reveals Young, during a recent interview.
On the company's end, RightsLedger takes a 50-50 split with content makers for advertising revenue through its platforms and a 10% cut of deals made through Mil Deals.
Young stresses that all content uploaded to RightsLedger's platforms stays as the copyright of its creator, who can choose to what degree they want to share and sell their content. "You stand to make more money from your content when you control your copyright," he says.
Using Rights Tokens also solves two problems: authentication and cross-border transactions.
Young reveals that RightsLedger's authentication platform uses blockchain to create a digital fingerprint to record and verify whose content it really is. Meanwhile the Rights Tokens issued offers an alternative to cross-border payment which incurs costly banking fees.
Asked how these efforts will curb online piracy, Young says it comes down to education and money.
"People pirate stuff as no one is valuing content. Social media platforms make you feel your content has no monetary value so you just give it away. Another problem is when creators upload their content to these sites, they sign off on ownership, so it can't be sold off to others afterwards," he says.
He believes that RightsLedgers' approach of offering content creators a fairer cut of income will encourage people to respect others' content more.