by Ché Baker

Imagine a world where filmmaking was fair, transparent and efficient. Imagine a world where the tedium of administration, hidden expenses of the ‘middle-men’ and the complexity of multiple fluctuating currencies all just went away. That is the goal of X Motion Picture’s founder James Vegter – a pioneer of a new world in the film industry. Vegter turned to David Oh of CopyrightBank, a registration and verification platform, to form a new partnership. The pair are continuing the tradition of leveraging technology to disrupt the film industry. In every area of filmmaking, technology has always played a large role. From the earliest moving image on film, to the advent of the ‘talkies’, colour, digital, 3D and streaming, the industry has experienced an ever-increasing rate of change.

Technology has heralded many recent advantages to the film world; access to equipment, cost and quality of production, ease of distribution; but new challenges have also emerged. The digital world competes with piracy, changing formats, and a scramble to monetise an ever-evolving business model.

Enter X Motion Pictures, a Melbourne based filmmaking company looking to streamline the business of film production. X Motion Pictures describe themselves as ‘a decentralised platform that runs XMP, a worldwide filmmaking currency that, through blockchain technology, will integrate smart contracts and provide accounting, communication and administration tools to streamline film business operations.’

You may have heard the term ‘Blockchain’ before. If you’re at all familiar with the crypto currency world of Bitcoin, Etherium and the like, you’ll probably already know about it. ‘Blockchain’ technology is a way to keep a record of every transaction of a digital file. It uses ‘Decentralised Ledger Technology’ (DLT). Imagine a spreadsheet that is copied thousands of times across a network of computers and is continuously reconciled, constantly updating, and you start to get an idea of how the technology works. The basic idea is that the ledger is decentralised, so it becomes virtually impossible to hack.

X Motion Pictures is using a digital currency designed specifically for the filmmaking world, this currency is called XMP. Think of it like Bitcoin for filmmaking. The idea is to use this currency in conjunction with a suite of filmmaking tools to handle everything from legal, accounting, contracting and complex financial arrangements. The goal is to enable a truly fair, hack proof system for making films. XMP looks to digitally facilitate, verify and enforce the negotiation of film contracts without the need for third party intervention.

“X Motion Pictures will provide multiple smart contract templates which will define the particulars associated to the specific agreements,” James Vegter says. “These contracts, once executed, will be stored on the decentralised ledger. This ledger will be fully transparent, completely immutable and cannot be lost or erased.

“Furthermore, XMP will take advantage of the benefits of the blockchain technology to digitalise accounting systems across the film industry by simplifying the compliance with regulatory requirements to enhance customary double entry bookkeeping, mitigating costs and time.

The idea is to cut down the many of the legal, accounting and finance administration costs associated with filmmaking. By using a single digital currency, the platform removes the need for many of the transaction costs, international currency conversion costs, and other financial inefficiencies.”

Keeping track of the many assets and files a film produces has long proved a challenge. For example, currently on a movie set, each copy of the script might have a giant watermark across the pages, with the script owner’s name on it. This means that if the script is photocopied, it’s obvious whose version of the script leaked. In a similar way, blockchain technology also allows copyright owners to keep track of every single digital asset, whether it be a song, artwork, script or a digital video file. Each file or document has its ‘history’ baked in, so it’s easy to track every transaction, copy or move the file has ever had. To enable this, X Motion Pictures has announced a partnership with ‘CopyrightBank’ copyright registration and verification solution. The partnership seeks to enable filmmakers and videographers to register and record the copyright of their original works on the blockchain.

“CopyrightBank’s partnership with XMP will deliver a 21st century copyright solution to the filmmaking industry. It is an innovation that is long overdue,” David Oh, CEO and founder of CopyrightBank said.

Recent research shows that 21 per cent of Australians aged 12-64 download film and TV content from pirate websites despite the proliferation of legal content services. In 2017 alone, there were an estimated 22.9 billion visits to streaming piracy sites and 9.4 billion downloads of pirated films and TV shows.

The trend of protecting copyright digitally is growing. In a recent move, Sony has also turned to the blockchain for copyright management. The Japanese powerhouse has developed their own blockchain based technology and although they’re currently using distributed ledger technology (DLT) only for written works to control and deal with intellectual property rights, there are plans to move into films, music and e-books.

“Today, advances in technologies for digital content creation allow anyone to broadcast and share content, but the rights management of that content is still carried out conventionally by industry organisations or the creators themselves, necessitating a more efficient way of managing and demonstrating ownership of copyright-related information for written works,” Sony explained in its press release.

DLT has the ability to be implemented throughout the entire filmmaking life cycle. “At the moment, X Motion Pictures is using the technology to manage the production side of filmmaking, however there are plans to expand this into the realm of distribution,” founder James Vegter says.

Using blockchain technology in film distribution could be a real game-changer. Imagine you have a film where several parties have a profit-share stake; investors, filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors, and when you make a sale, everyone instantly gets paid their share into an account. The idea is that the transactions happen automatically. It’s a fully automated, fully transparent system without the need for any third party interaction.

So how does the XMP platform work? After undergoing a quick verification process, the XMP user will have access to the XMP member’s portal. Here, they will find tools for accounting, finance administration, marketing and even ‘smart-contracts.’ XMP will use the Ethereum (NEM) blockchain technology to create smart contract templates and to facilitate payroll, film distributions, film investments, copyright arrangements and business plans. Users can purchase XMP via a cryptocurrency exchange, and start using all the utilities in the portal.

XMP users also have access to communication tools for private and open messaging. This allows communication for strategic partners including lawyers, accountants, film crew and marketing agencies to facilitate film business transactions.

“We’re running several productions through the system right now, the latest being a short film. But XMP is a one stop shop for anyone producing a digital video, feature film, documentary, music film clip, web series, or television show,” Vegter says.

When asked about the birth of the idea, Vegter says that it was frustration with the shortcomings of the film industry that led him to the opportunity. “There were so many legal costs, accounting costs, international banking costs that were involved that just didn’t need to be there,’ he answers. “This technology can solve many of those issues.”

CopyrightBank’s David Oh says that the ability to register the many assets created during a film production either individually or as part of a bundle, gives a huge amount of protection for the intellectual property owners.

So, is this the future of film production? It’s certainly clear that the digital age has penetrated many of the facets of the filmmaking world, but filmmaking is a multi-headed hydra. It’s one industry that encompasses a range of other industries all within the one beast, and there are still many manual processes in the lifecycle of a film. Now that the content creation has all gone digital, it might be that the protection of intellectual property goes digital as well. The partnership of X Motion Pictures and CoyrightBank certainly looks like a valiant effort to address a number of the outstanding issues.

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