Photography on Blockchain


Fine Arts & the Art of Technology

In 2009, the effects of the global financial market spawned the fourth industrial revolution: the digital era. Bitcoin, and subsequently blockchain, were born. Bitcoin is the network, while bitcoin (with a lower-case “b”) is the cryptocurrency itself. In today’s world some professional photo agencies have started accepting bitcoin as payment for licenses. However, few realize blockchain technology could one day  literally change the entire face of photography.

Blockchain is platform designed to work with a decentralized network. Put simply, blockchain works like a digital, distributed ledger. When a transaction occurs on the blockchain, the information is added to a “block”, or data file. Once a transition is solidified, the block closes and a new one is created, which includes all the data from the previous block, thus creating a permanent chain of data. The blockchain is distributed across the network, as opposed to going through a single point. Their function is to make sure that each transaction is valid after solving complex algorithms, ultimately securing the block. Decentralization makes it nearly impossible to hack a block before it is finalized.

Applications for Photography on Blockchains

This technology is garnering awareness in professional industries interested in securing and decentralizing information. Photography is one of them. Modern photography uses gigabytes of data, so the ability to secure copyright information on the blockchain is ideal. Once the information is registered, it cannot be altered. Therefore, a creator always receives credit without any possibility of dispute. A German company, Ascribe, is currently offering this service, which mainly targets the fine art market. Once created, each digital file holds a cryptographic ID with the origin. From there, file replication may occur, and transfer of ownership approved by its creator. Artists can track the activity of their work, who’s seen it, bought it, sold it, and everything in-between.

Proof of Existence, based in Argentina, offers a similar service, albeit much more rudimentary. Another application is building a core image registry that includes copyright information, in addition to information on every photo ever taken by the owner. The core value is to provide undisputed proof-of-ownership of copyright. A more advanced model could also carry every associated transaction, offering the seeker an unaltered history.

Blockai co-ops help register and protect your copyright for free. Obviously, it’s not meant to be a replacement for registering your work with the Copyright Office, but Blockai might be the next best thing. Blockai looks kind of like an online photo sharing site; it lets you create a profile by claiming your work online. But that’s where the similarities end. When you register a photograph on Blockai, the company automatically writes a permanent, unalterable timestamp on the blockchain and provides you with a “proof-of-publishing” certificate. You can then use this certificate as proof-of-publication when you find one of your registered photos is used without permission.

To Sum It Up

Moving forward, as blockchain technology grows and evolves, demand will also increase. Photographers need the ability to have full copyrights to the digital data to their photo work. Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter technically own their users’ photos uploaded to their site when agree to the sites terms and conditions. With the development of this new technology, blockchain is here to put the power back in the hands of the artists.

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