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Story Protocol and Magma will help artists grow with ‘programmable intellectual property’

Story Protocol is teaming up with art platform Magma to help millions of artists monetize their creations through programmable intellectual property.

In this new age of generative AI and user-generated content, Story Protocol cofounder SY (Seung Yoon) Lee said in an interview with GamesBeat that he believes that intellectual property is trapped in a medieval age. And with Magma, which has 2.5 million artists seeking new ways to make money, he hopes to set everybody free.

San Francisco-based Story Protocol is building a programmable IP layer that will allow IPs to compose, remix, and monetize via onchain rules set by their creators. By turning code into law on the blockchain, he thinks Story Protocol will catalyze the “Onchain Renaissance.” You can see a demo video below.

Lee foresaw a “tragedy of the commons,” similar to when farmers let their animals graze too much on shared commons, resulting in overgrazing. The same is happening with everyone helping themselves to human-created art that is being hoovered up by generative AI large language models (LLMs). The artists need to be compensated but nobody has an incentive to pay them.

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Lee believes the provenance, or attribution to various creators who contribute something to a mashup, should happen on the blockchain. That makes it trackable and the money that results from it can be share up the family tree for any given successful creation. Gaming is a particularly fruitful sector for this, as gamers love to create mods or user-generated content.

“Previously, to license works like this, you have to do it with an army of lawyers or BD people,” or take it to a stock photo company, he said.

Getting IP “programmatically enshrined onchain, with licensing, royalty sharing information — that’s a first step towards that future,” Lee said.

In the deal with Magma, the alpha version of this partnership will go live in a few weeks time when Story Protocol launches its testnet. The beta version will be available in a few months when Story Protocol launches its mainnet.

Background on the idea

Prior to founding the company, Lee had served as global strategy officer at Kakao Entertainment, a big Korean entertainment company creating and delivering original content and IPs across formats. Lee sold his first venture, Radish, the mobile serialized fiction app with millions of downloads across the globe, to Kakao Entertainment for $440 million in 2021.

Lee got the idea a few years ago as he was working on the intersection of mobile and storytelling, with the serialization of webtoons and manga in the Asian markets. The biggest pain point was that in working with IP, it’s really hard to create a network effect that makes that IP even more popular.

“With social media and now generative AI, there is such a super abundance of content competing with each other that you have to have an insane amount of capital to do marketing or create killer IP,” he said. “But there’s no structure or framework for IP creators or IP owners to collaborate on IP development.”

SY Lee is cofounder of Story Protocol.

This era started with cryptocurrencies, which were like programmable money, or “money Legos.” That infrastructure of billions of “programmable dollars” is in place, leading to a parallel financial system with network effects.

“The first wave of crypto was programmable money – the next wave of crypto will be defined by programmable IP,” said Lee. “Creators should now be the ones responsible for setting the rules for their creations, not centralized intermediaries. By collaborating with Magma, we can enable over two million artists on its platform to collaborate, monetize, and protect their IP. The exponential speed of content creation in the era of AI demands a programmable IP layer where each atom of IPs can become molecules permissionlessly.”

By bringing programmability to IP, Story Protocol allows IPs to compose, remix, and monetize via on-chain rules set by their creators. This allows creators to have control over the AI models and outputs they create, where attribution, authorized remixing, and revenue sharing are all captured on-chain.

With generative AI further exploding creativity, high-quality art, music, and video can be created by anyone with an internet connection. The biggest challenge for generative AI today is training models that respect creators’ rights. With this model, you’ll be able to track an artists’ contributions and reward them.

To propel sustainable generative AI innovation, Lee believes we need a human and machine-readable IP registry that allows any creator to easily set usage terms for their content, making IP programmable.

Making it work better

Story Protocol wants to enable remixes and mashups in a big way.

Story Protocol will provide its Programmable Intellectual Property (IP) Layer to Magma to allow millions of artists to register their creations, protect their IP, contribute to existing franchises, or even start a new franchise with other collaborators to monetize their IP.

Marking a departure from static JPEGs (the typical form of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs), Story Protocol enables any creator from around the world to register their IP and seamlessly welcome contributors to join with attribution while retaining control of their creations. Artists can showcase their original content while transparently highlighting any AI used in the creative process.

The rise of NFTs has meant that there is now a concept of ownership and scarcity for digital media files, as blockchain enables the tracking of digital files and non-fungible tokens allow for tracking unique content.

“Now there’s a token referring to a digital file and it makes it unique and scarce. But NFTs are still very trapped,” Lee said. “If you actually dig down on the technology, it’s just pointing to media file.”

But programmability for money started to create a new opportunity, Lee said. When you buy an NFT like a Bored Ape, you wan to take that character into a new game or something on the metaverse. You still have to obtain proper licenses and probably talk to a budget of lawyers before you can do anything with your Bored Ape that you could monetize.

The programmable IP layer is what Story Protocol is making.

“It’s all trapped in legal documents. To actually make that kind of licensing composability work in a permissionless, frictionless manner,” you have to do something more, he said.

Now, with this kind of programmable IP, the owner of the Bored Ape can set the terms for licensing their particular Bored Ape out to others — and do this very quickly.

“To make a remix, make a derivatives in a very frictionless way, you still need to talk to an army of lawyers, an army of people and a bunch of legal documents to make that happen,” Le said. With Story Kitchen, “anyone can now basically make derivatives of your character is a permissionless way.”

“What we do now with Story Protocol is we make all these onchain rights, usage rights, licensing, monetization of IPs — we make it programmable,” Lee said. “We have a built-in API for remixing, licensing, and monetization.”

You can make a master IP like a penguin. Then people around the world can work with the IP owner, following predetermined rules for how users can engage their creativity in connection with the IP. As the artist, you set the rules for how others can use your penguin. Then you get paid as they add value.

With the programmable IP, any creator can interact with any AI models and that IP. That IP can then quickly spread across media, or what Lee reverse to as the metaverse.

“And basically what this gives is a it gives an incredible network effect,” Lee said.

More collaboration

Story Protocol foresees lots of programmable IP in the future.

Magma allows teams to create and collaborate on digital art simultaneously, providing up to 50 artists with the ability to draw on the same canvas in real-time. All of Magma’s artists can create 10 million works of art a year.

With Story Protocol, creators and collaborators can easily contribute to existing projects, co-create new assets, and remix popular IPs. They can unlock new liquidity pools, license their IP at scale, and explore new revenue models. They can protect their IP through self-enforcing rules, easily track authentication and provenance, and benefit from transparent security.

Story Protocol is building a network for billions of people to produce and remix IP, tracked on-chain with attribution and provenance, Lee said.

More on the IP trap

Story Protocol wants to move beyond NFTs.

IP is still trapped in the Medieval age — with mountains of paperwork and lawyers, making it inaccessible to creators. It’s siloed and opaque, forcing creators to struggle to protect, distribute, and monetize their work.

With generative AI further exploding creativity, high-quality art, music, and video can be created by anyone with an internet connection. While the Internet has long been a haven for creativity and collaboration, introducing various ways to access copyrighted material and circumvent copyright claims, our IP infrastructure is unable to keep up.

Of course, it will be hard to figure out in each case where a work of art is shared and then derivative arts are spawned. How much do the creators of the derivative art get, versus the original owner’s share? That’s a tough question.

Through Story Protocol and Magma’s collaboration, artists and studios can now verify when their work is entirely human-made, with no AI assistance, while those that leverage AI to put the finishing touches on their work will be able to clearly distinguish their manual work from AI-assisted components or layers, protecting their artistic integrity. Story Protocol simplifies the copyright process and reduces legal risks by allowing artists to easily prove the extent of human creativity involved in AI-assisted work.

“Here at Magma, our core mission is to empower artists and creative teams to unlock their full potential, not just through advanced collaborative creation and management tools but by integrating IP protection as a pivotal part of the workflow,” said Oli Strong, COO of Magma, in a statement. “Our partnership with Story Protocol is a strategic move towards robustly securing assets as part of the creative process. This integration contributes to our goal to enable creators to publish, protect, and monetize their work seamlessly within the Magma platform. Aligned in our vision to empower creators, together with Story, we’re setting a new standard for creative collaboration, making IP protection an intrinsic, effortless part of the creative journey.”


Story Protocol was founded by Lee, Jason Zhao and Jason Levy — a team of serial entrepreneurs (who previously had a $400 million exit) and experienced operators with a diverse background in consumer tech (200 million-plus app downloads), generative AI (Deepmind), and Web3 infrastructure (Flow and Harmony).

They raised a whopping $54 million in September 2023.

That backing came from some of the top investors like a16z crypto, Endeavor, and Hashed. Other investors included Samsung Next, Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media, dao5, Insignia Venture Partners, David Bonderman (chairman of TPG Capital), Si-hyuk Bang (chairman of HYBE/BTS), CH Kim (CEO of Krafton/PUBG), Kyung In Jung (CEO of Black Label), Wattpad Co-founder Allen and Eva Lau’s Two Small Fish Ventures, Alliance DAO, Foresight Ventures, Mirana Ventures, Balaji Srinivasan, Nicolas Berggruen, Charlie Songhurst, David Lee (SLVC), Sanghun Kim (former CEO of Naver), Chang Kim (founder of Tapas) and Roham Gharegozlou (founder & CEO of Dapper Labs), among others.

The company has about 25 to 30 people working for it.

Magma is a browser-based art platform that optimizes the creative workflow. Trusted by more than 2.5 million users from over 100 countries, Magma empowers creators with advanced art, design and project management tools.

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