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The Access Economy: Decentralized Identity, Digital Rights, and Ownership in the Age of Web3
In an article authored by Elacity CEO Sasha Mitchell and Elastos Growth Team member Jonathan Hargreaves, the necessity of a decentralized identity system is highlighted. This transformation would empower individuals by reinstating ownership and control over user data and content, countering the prevalent centralization on existing platforms. It proposes a model based on blockchain-enabled Digital Rights Management using access and royalty tokens that would allow creators to retain ownership while enabling fair monetization.
This “Access Economy” approach could democratize content access, empower creators, and promote an open, inclusive digital ecosystem where individuals control their online narratives. New tokenized digital asset models would enable open markets for trading access rights to content, blurring geographic boundaries and decentralizing revenue generation from digital assets. Here is the article in its original version:
In today’s digital world, your online identity and content are often at the mercy of centralized platforms that control your data and monetize your creative output. Imagine a creator who had millions of followers and an income from their online presence, only to lose it all overnight due to platform decisions beyond their control. This scenario illustrates the need for a paradigm shift — a decentralized system that returns power and ownership to the individual.
The Mysterious Case of X: Open Markets and Identity
There is a story that the owner of the Twitter account @X was relieved of their account and rights without being offered any compensation or even asked for permission. Shortly after this, the holder of the Twitter @music handle since 2008 was disconnected by X, along with over a million followers. In many circumstances, this could be seen as theft, but not in a Web2 model, as every platform you join owns your identity. It also owns your data and, critically, it owns the rights to your content and the ability to make an income from your talents.
However, it is not just X that has this legal right; all Web2 platforms work on this premise, and we willingly sign consent forms to this end. What is legally permissible has become normalised as morally acceptable. In this way, the connection between an individual’s rights to an identity and the idea of an open market for people to sell their content is killed stone cold. Indeed, what happens is that creative output becomes the subject of a heist by the platform that owns the rights to use and sell advertising around your content. This ruse ranges from X to YouTube and Meta.
Decentralised Identity and the Open Market
This is why a decentralised identity is such a revolutionary force, as it creates a model where every user has the choice to own their data, decide where they store this data, and how they can use it to create content and even a business for themselves. What’s more, this identity is recognised across the whole system as being yours, and this can clearly be extended to real-world business (and even Web2), so a new kind of genuinely open market can be built around this ‘sovereign’ identity and subsequent content business.
This kind of optimism did exist around the creator economy in Web2, but it got subverted as the platforms took advantage of their ability to control identity and access to the Web. The challenge is how to ensure that Web3 is not co-opted in a similar fashion but enables a decentralised identity to shape a new kind of open market. If a decentralised identity can own its data, what use is it if access control still belongs to a few?
Digital Rights Management and Owning Identity
Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a system that protects digital content from unauthorised use by encrypting it. When you purchase digital content, you receive a license with a decryption key, which unlocks the content but also enforces usage rules. Today, a central server manages these licenses and ensures compliance with the rules. However, centralisation can lead to issues such as server failures and high costs, especially for smaller content providers. Managing rights for numerous users and content can also be complex and costly. When centralised entities have control over the keys to your online ‘house,’ ownership can feel elusive, and there is the inevitable abuse of such power.
New Access Economy and Tokens
To avoid Web2’s pitfalls, we must build a new economy centred on democratising access and ensuring individual ownership remains invulnerable to commercial forces, whether from Web2 giants or traditional businesses, Elacity’s Access Economy model addresses this with access tokens, enabling decentralised identities to create a permission system for content creation, sharing, and consumption. As an example, individuals or organisations can package a video into an encrypted ‘Video Capsule,’ accompanied by a blockchain-based smart contract which governs rights with scarce, tradable access tokens for decryption, royalty tokens for revenue distribution, and distribution rights tokens for resale and transfer rules.
Unlike centralised methods, access token buyers get a license key directly from the creator’s smart contract using their rights, allowing the same playback experience as in Web2. This decentralisation democratises content access, empowers creators with ownership and control, directs profits to stakeholders, and fosters a fair access economy. It enables creators to set monetisation models, connect directly with their audience, avoid centralised risks, explore new revenue streams, gain resilience and security, and promote a fair, inclusive digital ecosystem. The Access Economy allows everyone to own their online narrative.
New Models and Capsules
In the emerging world of Encrypted Digital Assets (EDAs), new digital value forms are creating an open market for the Access Economy. This can fuel various Capsules, including art, music, gaming, software, and robotics application. These capsules can be hosted, downloaded, and access to them traded. Envision a future where shoppers could purchase access to decentralized AI services from healthcare to financial sectors, enjoy AI-generated media featuring familiar faces and preferred styles, or trade software access for robotics applications such as healthcare, environmental restoration, or home maintenance tasks. Individuals could contribute to sustainability by selling access to excess renewable energy or sensor data supporting smart cities.
Royalties would be distributed to all contributors with every transaction, promoting shared wealth, collective intelligence, and inclusive innovation. In this future, the Access Economy blurs geographical boundaries and democratizes access to revenue-generating assets in an open, global marketplace. It allows asset owners to monetize their resources by offering temporary access, and creating new income streams without sacrificing ownership, while consumers benefit from cost-effective, flexible access to a wide array of resources, fostering innovative business models and strengthening community ties.
Explore decentralized identity solutions, engage in discussions about Web3, and support projects that promote the Access Economy. Together, we can build a digital future that respects individual rights and fosters shared prosperity.