LBRY – Disrupting Distribution with Blockchain

As I mentioned in Leveraging Disruption, distribution is the final chokehold Hollywood (and Silicon Valley) has on the entertainment industry.

They no longer have sovereign control over production, as the advent of digital cinematography has greatly democratized film production over the last 15 years. You no longer need to live in LA to shoot a professional film.

They no longer have sovereign control over film funding, as the advent of crowdfunding has taken the investment power away from corporate boardrooms and scattered it into the hands of audiences worldwide.

However, in order to get your film seen on a scale that gives it a fighting chance to become economically viable, you need to look at the right platforms. But to get on Netflix, into theatres, or even on YouTube these days, you need to please the gatekeepers of the Hollywood Priesthood.

YouTube has been purging accounts for political speech. I tweeted recently that Vimeo will now ban content critical of vaccines. What’s next? Abortion? Gun control? Pedophilia? The Democratic Party? For true artists like yourselves, this cannot stand.

So, while it’s easier than ever to fund and produce a good, counter-cultural film, it’s still very hard to earn enough money from such a film to make the whole thing worth it – especially if we want to eventually compete on scale and quality. Because, as we all know, making films is very expensive.

Remember, as I wrote in Leveraging Disruption, disruption always starts off inferior and, well, kind of crappy. It’s new and requires a learning curve, but soon enters the hockey stick curve of exponential growth.

Well, the disruptor of popular centralized content platforms like YouTube may already be here…

LBRY: Content on the Blockchain

LBRY (lbry.tv) combines blockchain tech with a peer-to-peer distribution network, where any given piece of content (video, audio, text, image, etc.) is hosted by users of the network.

The blockchain side of LBRY contains metadata pointing to whatever content is uploaded to the decentralized network. Because this metadata is stored on an immutable blockchain, the power to erase it does not exist.

The only way to censor content is to ban it from whatever user interface is connecting to the LBRY blockchain.

More on that in a bit.

Using LBRY

Users can view free content on their browser by visiting lbry.tv

Or, users can download the LBRY desktop app for a wider experience, such as the ability to watch paid content.

Artists can upload their work to the LBRY blockchain and charge a fee, or make it available for free and accept tips. Transactions on LBRY operate using their in-house cryptocurrency LBC, which can be exchanged for Bitcoin, or (apparently) even fiat dollars.

The credits get deposited directly into the creator’s wallet, eliminating the middle men that have made themselves indispensable to centralized distribution systems.

From what I understand, you can even set up automatic payouts to members of your crew on LBRY whenever a user pays to see your content.

Interface ≠ Network

As far as I know, LBRY’s own app is the only interface available at the moment. However, developers can write their own apps and curate what content is seen. True curation without the possibility of censorship – everything on the blockchain remains on the blockchain. (If illegal content is posted, it is flagged and banned from the app/interface.)

If an app unfairly blocks your content, you can try a different app or develop your own. (Of course, if you want to post illegal content and make it available through your own app, the consequences will rightly be yours.)

The point is, LBRY does not have YouTube-like powers to memory-hole content they disagree with.

This is significant.

Protocols, Not Platforms

With YouTube or Vimeo, the interface and the network are inseparable. With LBRY, the interface is separate from the network and (intentionally) vulnerable to competition. This is because LBRY is, in essence, a protocol like HTML.

Where the internet uses http://, LBRY uses lbry://

You could say LBRY is a blockchained alternative to the Internet itself.

True, you can create your own platform using the Internet’s protocol. But your hosting provider can still ban you. PayPal can still ban you. Stripe can still ban you. All these platform monopolies can make your existence on the Internet practically impossible. That’s hard to do on a blockchain.

Platforms: centralized control, gatekeepers, users=products
Protocols: decentralized freedom, no middlemen, content=products

As a filmmaker with an offending voice, I’ve been dreaming of blockchain distribution ever since Bitcoin started taking the world by storm. LBRY might just be the platform to make good on this dream.

To learn, in more detail, about the technical elements of LBRY, visit https://lbry.tech/spec

My Experiment with LBRY

I’ve uploaded the 2016 cut of my award winning short film ‘American Drone’ exclusively to LBRY, for free.

I produced and directed this film back in 2013 for an Infowars film contest, where it won 2nd place. It garnered over 100K views on Alex Jones’ YouTube channel, until it was summarily deleted by YouTube along with Alex’ entire channel.

To watch the new cut, use my referral link to download the LBRY app and navigate to my channel @jondutoit, or by visiting lbry.tv/@jondutoit

If you like the film and the LBRY experience, and want to see more films distributed this way, consider supporting “American Drone” by leaving a comment (even if you hate the film), or by donating LBC credits.

More importantly, create a LBRY channel and publish your own content. You can even mirror all your YouTube content automatically to the LBRY network.

Let’s continue disrupting.


So what do you think? Is LBRY a viable platform protocol? Is it disruptive? Did I miss anything, or get something wrong? Are there better competitors out there?

Would you like to see me produce a short film, or maybe a series, exclusive to LBRY?

Sound off in the comments below!

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7 comments… add one
  • Thomas Zarebczan Jan 3, 2020 @ 14:55

    Sending a tip over to your channels, thanks for writing this up and publishing on LBRY!

    • Jon Jan 3, 2020 @ 14:58

      Thank you!

  • Dave Mullen-Muhr Jan 4, 2020 @ 12:16

    LBRY is an interesting project. I remember learning about it and being excited when I fell down the blockchain rabbit hole in 2017 as video content and payment censorship was the issue that got me interested in blockchain in the first place.

    However, I don’t think the backend architecture or incentives of the LBRY network will allow it to fully scale to YouTube levels.

    I’d have to do a deeper dive to give a well articulated version of why, but their documentation claims they modeled it off of bit-torrent (with the benefit of a token to incentivize data storage rather than relay on altruism). A mesh network like bit-torrent is much less efficient than a network with centrality (like a small world network or near complete graph) and the bit-torrent incentive problem they solve is only as strong as the value of the token.

    Plus the added friction of having to buy a token and (likely) BTC or ETH is a bad user experience.

    I would check out Streamanity, a network on BSV that compensates users via micropayments. It doesn’t yet allow data storage/hosting on the blockchain yet but will with scale. And check out this great video to explain what I’m getting at with mesh networks vs small world networks. https://youtu.be/4hSxLlDlRow

    Big fan of your work Jon! Thanks for the post.

    • Jon Jan 4, 2020 @ 12:23

      Interesting, this is the kind of conversation I’d like to get going. As a creator / artist, user interface and experience is the first thing we look at, both from a creator’s perspective as well the audience’s. Backend and development is something we generally don’t understand in detail, so we rely on our friends in that area to fill us in. I’ll look into this more and check out Streamanity.

      Thanks

      • Dave Mullen-Muhr Jan 4, 2020 @ 12:27

        The video I linked is somewhat technical but not in a blockchain-y way. It’s technical as it pertains to graph theory. That video and a book he recommends in it (Small Worlds by Duncan J Watts) were my intro to graph theory. If you give it a watch or two it should make sense why centrality is important.

        • Jon Jan 4, 2020 @ 12:30

          Great, much appreciated!

      • Jon Jan 4, 2020 @ 12:28

        From personal experience, I haven’t had to buy LBC tokens since LBRY offers a reward program to get you started. So there is an incentive for creators to publish free content as well (if their main draw is charging prices), as it helps new users garner tokens.

        But you’re right, it’s hard to know how it will scale to levels that will allow it to compete with youtube,.

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