Kodak is poised to launch an ambitious new image licensing platform that uses blockchain to authenticate works and crypto currency to pay photographers and contributors.
Details are very vague at the moment, but the gist is this: Kodak is creating an image licensing platform called KodakOne that uses blockchain to verify image ownership. This is not dissimilar from services like ImageRights and Binded.
However, unlike those aforementioned services, Kodak has not indicated whether images inscribed into their blockchain are also registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Kodak also hasn’t disclosed what blockchain network they’re using, or whether they’ve built their own. Update: A spokesperson tells us that Kodak plans to offer U.S. Copyright Registration as an additional service and will inscribe that registration into the blockchain. It will use the Ethereum blockchain plus its own propriety technology, the spokesperson says.
According to Kodak, photographers who license work through KodakOne will receive payment in KodakCoin, a new crypto currency. It’s not yet clear how (or whether) photographers will be able to sell this currency on an exchange for U.S. dollars (or other crypto currencies like Bitcoin), but presumably that will be the case. Update: According to a Kodak spokesperson, KodakCoin can be exchanged for U.S. dollars. The exchange will be announced in the coming weeks.
Kodak will offer “continual web crawling” to help detect image theft of images registered on KodakOne. The company says that if an image theft is detected, the platform “can efficiently manage the post-licensing process in order to reward photographers.”
“For many in the tech industry, ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ are hot buzzwords, but for photographers who’ve long struggled to assert control over their work and how it’s used, these buzzwords are the keys to solving what felt like an unsolvable problem,” said Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke in a statement announcing the service. “Kodak has always sought to democratize photography and make licensing fair to artists. These technologies give the photography community an innovative and easy way to do just that.”
Not everyone in the tech industry was convinced that Kodak’s move wasn’t born of opportunism:
— Seth Fiegerman (@sfiegerman) January 9, 2018
That said, blockchain does offer promise for safeguarding creative works even if it cannot be used in lieu of U.S. Copyright registration (we have a story in our February issue that explores this issue). For one thing, blockchain enables the creation of a “smart contract” that can automatically execute and pay parties to the contract when the terms are fulfilled.
The Kodak cryptocurrency will be sold in an “initial coin offering” on January 31, 2018.
There are plenty of open questions about Kodak’s new service, which we’ve put to the company and outside analysts. We will update this story as we learn more.