How Do Smart Contracts Support NFT Books?

Diving into the realm of Web3 is like stepping into a whirlwind of jargon, with complex terms swirling around like confetti at a child’s birthday party. One such is the “smart contract”, a seemingly arcane concept that serves as the building block for everything Blockchain-related, pun unintended.

But in truth, smart contracts can be just the solution the publishing industry needs to solve many of its ongoing issues: piracy, problematic digital rights management, and IP conflicts.

How can we combine smart contracts and Blockchain technology to improve the publishing industry, and even support NFT books?

I daresay there are many ways to do so.

But first, let’s learn how smart contracts actually work.

Understanding NFT Smart Contracts

Simply put, smart contracts are computer programs that automatically execute and enforce the terms of an agreement or contract when certain conditions are met. 

If you think about it, they’re not too different from real-life contracts. They serve as a self-executing intermediary to enforce an agreement. As they’re directly written into the code, they run exactly as programmed without any manual intervention. Once deployed on a blockchain, a smart contract will do as programmed.

Smart Contracts Ensure Trust & Transparency

When every action and condition is transparently recorded on the blockchain, and visible to all parties involved, accountability and trust in digital transactions increase. NFTs have an inherent effect of causing distrust in those who don’t know much about them, (and unfortunately, in many who do delve into them and get burned by scammers), but that’s partly caused by the decentralized trait of the Web3 community. If they are to be integrated with the publishing industry, I believe a pure Web3 approach would cause more harm than good, and it wouldn’t be as readily accepted by writers or readers.

A hybrid approach could work better, one where NFTs are integrated side by side with traditional books. In this scenario, smart contracts would pave the way for a future where agreements are not only binding but also immutable, ensuring that the rules of engagement are clear, fair, and upheld without question, whether used for NFT books or their traditional contemporaries.

But, why use them if the traditional publishing industry doesn’t seem to need them so far? Think twice, for many of the traditional publishing and self-publishing literary industries have some glaring issues, like these:


Despite authors’ best efforts to safeguard their works, pirates brazenly upload and distribute books without permission, depriving creators of their rightful earnings and undermining the integrity of the publishing ecosystem.

Consider the frustration of an author who discovers their meticulously crafted novel freely available on countless illicit websites, accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Not only does this erode the author’s potential revenue stream, but it also diminishes the perceived value of their work, as readers become accustomed to accessing content without compensating its creators. Moreover, piracy undermines the efforts of legitimate publishers and self-publishing platforms to maintain quality standards and uphold copyright protections, creating a climate of uncertainty and mistrust among authors and readers alike.

The Smart Contract Solution For Piracy

Enter smart contracts, the digital knights in shining armor poised to combat piracy’s insidious grip on the literary landscape. By leveraging blockchain technology, smart contracts offer authors and publishers a powerful tool to defend against unauthorized distribution and ensure that creators receive fair compensation for their work. Imagine a scenario where every digital copy of a book is linked to a unique NFT (non-fungible token), representing its authenticity and ownership. When a reader purchases a copy of the book, the smart contract automatically verifies the transaction, securely transfers the payment to the author or publisher, and updates the ownership record on the blockchain. Should someone attempt to pirate the book and distribute it illegally, the smart contract acts as a digital watchdog, flagging unauthorized copies and preventing further dissemination. This not only safeguards the author’s intellectual property rights but also cultivates a culture of respect for creative endeavors, where content creators truly rewarded for their contributions to the literary world.

Smart Contracts Empower DRM

In the traditional and self-publishing industry, one existing concept that could be correlated to smart contracts and NFTs in Web3 is the concept of rights management and royalties.

As explained by Fortinet’s cyber glossary, DRM “enables authors, musicians, moviemakers, and other content creators to clarify and control what people can and cannot do with their content”.

In traditional publishing, authors typically sign contracts with publishers that outline the rights granted to the publisher for the distribution and sale of their work. These contracts also specify the royalty rates that authors will receive for each sale of their book. However, the process of tracking sales, calculating royalties, and ensuring accurate payment can be complex and prone to errors or disputes.

Just look at the digital rights controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, and Warner Bros.

In 2011, J.K. Rowling filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros., the studio behind the Harry Potter film franchise, over their plans to create an online interactive game based on the wizarding world without her consent. Rowling argued that the contract she signed with Warner Bros. for the film rights did not include the rights to create digital merchandise or online games.

While Rowling had granted Warner Bros. the rights to adapt her books into films, the contract did not explicitly.

Perhaps in another timeline, disputes like this could be completely avoided by using smart contracts and Blockchain technology.

By encoding the terms of the contract, including specific rights and royalties related to digital adaptations, into a smart contract on the blockchain, both parties could have had a transparent and immutable record of their agreement. On top of that, NFTs could have played a role in establishing ownership and authenticity for digital adaptations of Rowling’s work, providing a mechanism for tracking and monetizing digital merchandise or online games associated with the Harry Potter franchise.

This just underscores the need for tighter, more comprehensive, and easily enforceable contracts in the publishing industry, as well as the potential benefits of integrating smart contracts and NFTs to streamline rights management and royalties in the digital age.

Plagiarism & IP Rights

Whether it’s the unauthorized reproduction of literary works or the illicit use of copyrighted materials, the infringement of IP rights poses a significant challenge to the traditional and self-publishing industries. And so, the tangled web of copyright ownership begins to unravel. Traditionally, the initial bearer of copyright in any creative endeavor – be it a novel, a portrait, a symphony, or even a heartfelt letter – is the person who created it. However, the journey from the author’s pen to the reader’s hands is fraught with legal intricacies and contractual negotiations. Enter the publisher, poised at the crossroads of creativity and commerce, tasked with bringing the author’s vision to life and disseminating it to the masses. But the issue soon becomes evident: copyright law offers no protection for ideas that haven’t been expressed. Thus, copyright doesn’t protect ideas. Thus, a manuscript must be penned, a canvas must be painted, and a melody must be scored before they can claim legal protection. Yet many book publishers have a feeling of deep insecurity when it comes to intellectual property, leading to contractual pitfalls where the author ends up on the receiving end of their irresponsibility at best, or prey to the appetite of predatory publishers at worst.

But, once again, smart contracts can be used to solve these issues. First, by encoding the terms of copyright licenses and permissions directly into code and deploying them onto a decentralized blockchain network, smart contracts offer authors and publishers a robust mechanism to enforce their IP rights and ensure that their works are used by their wishes.

If someone attempts to reproduce or distribute the book without authorization, the smart contract acts as a digital sentinel, detecting the unauthorized use and triggering enforcement mechanisms to protect the author’s IP rights.

The Bottom Line

In this way, smart contracts offer a ray of hope in the ongoing battle against piracy in the publishing industry, offering authors and publishers a means to protect their works and uphold the principles of fairness and transparency in the digital age. 

As always, we have a long way to go before this technology is adopted by big name publishers, but the only way to get there is by starting ourselves, one step at a time.



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