Why does the world need Web3 when everything works anyway? A startup based in the Netherlands, whose founders are Techstars Seattle alumni, offers breakthrough technology to create digital proofs of authorship and an automated service to remove unauthorized copies of the content.
We spoke with the co-founders of SharpShark about how their technological Web3 tool helps ensure copyright compliance.
Web3 is the next iteration of the Internet, powered by blockchain and decentralization.
Can you please briefly introduce yourselves and your background?
Tatiana: Hello, my name is Tatiana. I have entrepreneurial experience in my project, which I sold as a profitable company and moved to Chile as an investor. I graduated with a degree in philosophy but quickly entered the business world. I started an offline project from scratch and ran it successfully for 6 years before finally selling it as a profitable business.
After that, I moved to Chile, met my partners, and joined SharpShark. My interests include crypto, SMM and marketing hacks. I have visited over 40 countries, acted in theater, taught Argentine tango, and finally dived with Olympic champion Dmitry Sautin for 3 years.
Valeriia is our business partner and a product-oriented UX specialist with a background in Web3 and media. She is passionate about design, blockchain, and education. Empathy and the drive for structure are her superpowers.
She has a BA in linguistics and is involved in design. In 2017, she became interested in the world of cryptocurrencies, making a journey from a content designer at a crypto media company to the founder of SharpShark. She is also invited as an expert to the Blockchain Office of the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation and helped to launch the Metahistory.gallery museum of war — the first NFT initiative of its kind supported by the government.
Valeriia is an invited expert at the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Virtual Assets Office. She was involved in the creation of the first government-supported NFT initiative, the Museum of war Metahistory.gallery, which raised 1М+ in donations
Sasha: I studied IT engineering and later moved to Latin America. I graduated as an information systems engineer, studied Spanish at the National University of Colombia, and then returned for my postgraduate studies as a digital media editor at the School of Editors. In 2017, I enrolled in what was then the largest online remote school for editors in Eastern Europe, where I got into technical writing and soon won an award for an article on a blockchain. Since then, I have evolved from a blockchain startup writer to a business development and product manager. Later, I was a driving force in the adoption of Blockchain in Latin America. With significant previous experience as a translator, writer, and columnist in the technology sector, I started a new career as a blockchain writer. I evolved from writer to blockchain media editor, public speaker at cryptocurrency meetups and conferences, event organizer, and finally business developer.
Sasha Ivanova, CEO, Founder – former NEM business developer for LATAM South Cone, former editor-in-chief on several content projects, UCLA Anderson Business School certified (Strategic Leadership).
When did the idea for SharpSharks come about?
Tatiana: It all started in December 2018: Sasha came up with the idea of extending the usual timestamp method and porting it to the blockchain.
Sasha: This idea came to me on the eve of Christmas 2018, at which time the Argentine Trade union was constantly complaining about copyright infringement (authors’ fees were based on views, so if their articles were published in other media without consent, the number of views dropped, and they naturally were losing money.) They asked if all this fuss about blockchain could be helpful in their case. I thought about it and once recalled the information from the copyright course at the school where we studied with Valeriia. It stated that copyright law emerged the moment the work was created in a tangible form, but that proof of authorship should meet three criteria – immutable content, time-stamped, and signed by the author. And it stroked me! This is exactly the use case for distributed ledgers, and blockchain can drastically simplify the process. My former student Valeria helped me visualize the prototype, and a blockchain developer friend of mine brought it to life. Eventually, we got our first funding from the Chilean government – and that’s how it all started. Somehow, thanks to chance and the Trade union of Argentine journalists, I found myself in the right place at the right time to talk about the problem that had arisen and how to solve it. Since that time, the idea of a “blue ocean” for copyright protection was born.
What is the story of SharpShark from the beginning? What are your vision and concept?
Valeriia: SharpShark is a blockchain-powered tool for managing intellectual property throughout its lifecycle. Our product can track the use of copyrighted works, such as texts or images. We state that our vision is to provide a technical means for copyright compliance. 179 countries have signed the WIPO Copyright Treaty. We have developed an automated tool to help comply with this treaty, because vast amounts of digital content can still be stolen, and most of these cases go undetected.
This tool reflects today’s reality with digital proof of copyright and automated service to remove unauthorized copies of the content
How does it work? The blockchain stores the timestamp and the IPFS saves the content, so the data is immutable. When stored, the system provides a digital certificate that becomes a digital proof of authorship. If someone tries to save another author’s content, the AI will not allow it: Before saving, it will check the Internet for reversed content.
What problem does your tool solve?
Tatiana: SharpShark is a blockchain-powered SaaS that helps content creators protect their intellectual property
Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology (DLT) that consists of a growing list of records called blocks, securely linked together by cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. An author inserts his content into SharpShark’s editor. If it passes the originality check, the system generates a certificate of authorship that contains all the necessary data to prove authorship under the Berne Convention and the EUCD. After that, the system constantly monitors the Internet looking for reversed content, and sends an alert when the author’s content may be unlawfully republished. If this is the case, Shark helps the author to create and send a complaint – first to the website owner, then to providers and search engines. For now, SharpShark has achieved solid results working with articles, i.e. text content. The team is also working on its next solution: a way to help marketplaces fight hijackers by using computer vision and integrated watermarking.
What are the features of your product?
Tatiana: Our service helps create a proof of copyright with clear distribution terms, track the use of protected content on the Internet, and resolve infringements. The main features of our product are Quality Assurance, Protection, and Rejection. When our client cooperates with external authors, he can be 100% sure that their materials are original – otherwise, SharpShark will not approve them. Quality assurance comes when our clients learn about their pirated or incorrect attributions in time and have our service on their side. Protection – the creator protects their content and sets the terms for its distribution. They license their material, whether it is a commercial pay-to-use license or a non-commercial Creative Commons license (we also offer CC licensing). SharpShark will issue a copyright notice and track usage on the web1. Rejection – in case of infringement, SharpShark helps to fix it (have it removed/pay for it).
Our clients are media outlets with 1 million traffic per month/media holdings with 15+ original releases daily, various marketplaces and their merchants suffering from visual content theft and non-original content theft, companies needing help to tokenize copyrighted property to sell to their end users, or institutions looking for modern and affordable tools to comply with the law in case of copyright infringement.
How does your company differentiate itself from the competition?
Valeriia: We are blockchain agnostic. This means that we are not tied to a specific ecosystem but will implement our protocol across chains. The user himself has complete freedom to choose whom he wants to use. And this is confirmed by protocol support – we have already been supported by near & polygon, which confirms the validity of our principles. We are supported by the underlying technology IPFS (it’s a decentralized cloud) and are committed to working with both commercial (all rights reserved) and non-commercial (Creative Commons) content. That is, we are not a mere enforcement service, but a change in the way content is treated online that has an encouraging character.
IPFS is a distributed system for storing and accessing files, websites, applications, and data.
Sasha: From the beginning, we have done reverse vetting of the content we protect. As a result, unlike some other alternative products, we do not have any precedents where confirming authorship (issuing a certificate) could happen to text that has already been written. Also, most of our competitors do not use web3 and only accept fiat payments. They can also often focus only on copyright protection and work with a limited number of CMS (for example, only with clients whose sites are implemented on WordPress).
How do you see the trends and future of Web3 and your company’s role in it?
Tatiana: WEB3 is the idea of a new iteration of the blockchain-based Internet, which includes concepts such as decentralization and a token-based economy.
Valeriia: Everything that is created must be treated fairly. Fairly, that is, as the creator wants it to be. This transition has already happened in Web2. With Spotify, for example, we can all enjoy music by paying for it and not downloading it from pirated sites. And this is no longer a fringe phenomenon, everyone has Spotify or Apple Music. With the NFT art boom, people have learned to do the same with visual art, but it’s still not a widespread practice. Yes, Spotify is not a perfect example. The other question is about the “fairness” of royalties – in our case, the author is at the center of what’s happening.
Sasha: We want to make it easier to buy something than to steal it – or just take it as it is, without bad intentions, but still without “respect” for the author, since there is no easy way to get correct usage rights quickly. We want copyright to become a commodity, and we are already building the infrastructure for that.
There is a belief that Web3 will be able to shake the monopoly of the technological giants and return control over the Internet to ordinary users. Do you think it’s true?
Valeriia: Web3 allows you to use mechanics that Web2 did not allow. This primarily concerns ownership. For example, the ability to fully manage assets in your wallet without relying on third parties. In Web2, everything is built on trust in authorities, but in Web3 you don’t need to trust anyone because you can check the facts and you have complete ownership of everything. There are also more opportunities associated with microtransactions, which means not only the ability to put money on them but also other functions—and this is more efficient, faster, and more transparent. Though, Web3 in its pure form does not yet exist. So far, there are aspirations, first projects, and initial steps in this direction. And Web3 will not completely replace Web2, they will simply evolve under the influence of the transformation of people’s habits, which are based on the desire for fast consumption on the Internet, thoughtful and long term.
Tatyana: Web3 is an alternative to digital totalitarianism, which Web2 has slipped into. For example, Web3 makes it possible to respect human rights in the sense and in the form in which they were declared in the declaration of human rights, that is, objectively, and not subjectively or based on a criterion that a person cannot influence a priori.
Why blockchain? “Why do you need it at all? It has worked for a hundred years without it.”
Valeriia: Distributed immutable databases such as blockchains and IPFS enable this product to exist. It is important to understand that the blockchain and other distributed immutable databases (decentralized immutable databases) work on the principle “by itself and owe nothing to anyone”, but thanks to the blockchain and the fact that this database is immutable and transparent, absolutely anyone has the opportunity to check the information and draw their conclusions. This ultimately increases the culture of consumption and the level of awareness of society as a whole. Slow changes, but we’re getting there, and SharpShark is already developing in this paradigm.
Tatiana: It’s just much cheaper and much faster. Previously, it was unprofitable to deal with such “minor” (actually — no) violations, as it was long and expensive – manually search for violations, compare, hire a lawyer and address every smallest case… We know that the article collects the main traffic in the first 24 hours. Therefore, the media chose to simply ignore it, lose money, and make new money by creating new cases. But finally, we can afford not to lose this money, because we democratized the tools of copyright protection.
Sasha: After money, IP is the situation where data immutability is most vital. Since the nature of data is significantly more complex because we deal with money primarily through variables, copyright means both variables (if it is a simple text) and a string. This presents a significant difficulty (if we are talking about visual content, and so on). Since everything is dependent on hashes if this is a string, it is far more difficult to guarantee immutability. The hash or ID information of a photograph fully changes if a single pixel is changed, according to the IPFS protocol’s nomenclature. It appears utopian and insoluble at first, but we are working on it, and there are already some developments on how to implement it.
What are the current situation and prospects for copyright protection in the Web3 era?
Valeriia: It is obvious to all Internet users that digital content is difficult to check for authenticity because now it is very easy to copy and post any information. It is worth noting that two modern directives (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the EU Copyright Directive) have improved the situation concerning copyright, but the problem of copyright protection in the digital environment is still relevant. As a result, the DMCA, which was introduced in 2000, can be regarded as a practical reincarnation of the Berne Convention.
Sasha: The Berne Convention copyright is 169 years old. Previously, according to Berne Convention rules, a masterpiece was protected by copyright at the time of creation. To prove this, it is necessary to meet the following criteria: the immutability of the work, the timestamp, and the signature. Previously, all this could be done through centralized services, approved, or certified by the state. This process took quite a long time and was not cheap. Today, we technically simplify the process under the principles of the mentioned convention.
The Berne Convention for protecting Literary and Artistic Works, usually known as the Berne Convention, is an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886.  The Berne Convention has 181 contracting parties, most of which are parties to the Paris Act of 1971.
There is a quick way to get authorship confirmation—faster, easier, and more reliable. And this is accomplished through distributed ledgers such as blockchain and IPFS. For the first time in history, we can store content in an immutable form digitally. The proofs we create in this form are ideal for use with EUCD and DMCA. First, there was the law, and the technology to enforce it did not appear until 100 years later. That is a unique phenomenon because usually everything is the other way around. Technology comes first, and only then, belatedly, legislative norms are created.