Jan 9, 2024 - Business

Exclusive: Fox Corp. launches blockchain platform to negotiate with AI firms

Illustration of a row of laptops with binary code, money and circles.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Fox Corp., one of the largest media companies in the U.S., has publicly debuted a new blockchain platform called Verify to help media companies track how their content is being used online.

Why it matters: Fox Corp. plans to use the Verify Protocol to negotiate deals licensing its content — an enormous trove of intellectual property across Fox News, Fox Sports, Fox Entertainment, and more — to artificial intelligence (AI) companies.

  • The company is also in active discussions with other media companies to use its protocol, suggesting that the tool will give them leverage in their negotiations with AI companies.

How it works: The Verify blockchain protocol is a distributed internet database of media content that's cryptographically signed to establish the content's origin and history.

  • It was developed in house by the Fox Corp's technology team in collaboration with Polygon Labs, a media software services firm.
  • Media companies can register their content to the platform to verify that it's theirs. Once the content is verified, they can grant usage rights to AI platforms that want to use their content to train the large language models (LLMs) that support apps like ChatGPT or Bard.

What's happening: The company has built integrations with third-party publishing systems to allow media companies to automatically assign their content to the Verify protocol when they publish it from their content management systems, Fox Corp. chief technology officer Melody Hildebrandt told Axios.

  • In conjunction with the public debut of the Verify protocol, Fox Corp. is also launching a new Verify tool that allows media companies and creators looking to cite a piece of content to confirm whether or not it's been verified on Fox Corp.'s Verify blockchain protocol.
  • Eventually, Fox Corp. hopes the protocol can be used to verify content from publishers all over the web.

Between the lines: Fox privately launched a beta version of the Verify protocol in August and first began uploading content to the database to verify it during Fox News' first Republican primary presidential debate last year.

  • Since that time, it's assigned over 80,000 pieces of content to the open-sourced system from Fox Corp.'s news brands, such as Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Sports and Fox's local television stations, Hildebrandt said.
  • Hildebrandt said the company is bullish generally on all content going through the Verify protocol eventually, including Fox's entertainment content.

Catch up quick: Fox has a history of experimenting with blockchain and web3 technologies.

  • The firm was one of the first big media companies to launch a major investment in blockchain tools and products for its entertainment division in 2021.

Yes, but: Blockchain-based projects outside of cryptocurrency and NFT applications have had a tough time gaining traction over the past decade, and there's no guarantee any of Fox's rivals and competitors will adopt its protocol.

Be smart: Fox Corp.'s approach to negotiating with AI firms is unique in that it relies on a technology solution rather than a business agreement or a legal proceeding.

  • For example, German and U.S. media giant Axel Springer last month struck a multi-year deal with ChatGPT parent OpenAI to license its content to provide ChatGPT users with summaries of news content from Axel Springer publications.
  • The New York Times, meanwhile, has sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement.

What to watch: It's unclear at this point whether or how Fox plans to commercialize the Verify protocol outside of using it to gain leverage in its negotiations with third parties using its content.

  • Pricing and terms for how Fox would license its content once it's been verified have not yet been set.

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