Kodak announces blockchain platform: A picture is worth a thousand… coins

Kodak, the pioneering film company, has launched a new platform utilising blockchain technology. In short, photographers can register pictures – in order to secure licenses and to detect unauthorized use. 

An estimated 2 billion photos are uploaded to the internet daily, about 80 per cent without a license (according to Copytrack, see below). With current tools and technologies it is simply hard to impossible for photographers to claim ownership. Similarly, private or professional users would currently have to go through a multi-step process to purchase licenses – which is why blockchain technologies in general are viewed as a potential solution.

Enter KodakOne

Quote from website: “The KODAKOne image rights management platform will create an encrypted, digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers to register both new and archive work that they can then license within the platform. KODAKCoin allows participating photographers to take part in a new economy for photography, receive payment for licensing their work immediately upon sale, and sell their work confidently on a secure blockchain platform.”

The offering is aimed at photographers. The increasing use of digital photos has hit this profession in past years, as digital pictures can easily be used without permission. There are already a number of services which offer tracking – but few based on blockchain and even fewer with such a big name like Kodak.

Detection of unlicensed images and management of post-licensing

Quote: “Utilizing blockchain technology, the KODAKOne platform provides continual web crawling to monitor and protect the IP of the images registered in the KODAKOne system. Where unlicensed usage of images is detected, the KODAKOne platform can efficiently manage the post-licensing process to reward photographers”. Source Kodak.com (https://www.kodak.com/kodakone/default.htm)

In a press release Jeff Clarke, CEO of Kodak said: “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. 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.”

Kodak is launching the initiative with a technology partner, German company called WENN. According to the press release “WENN Digital… is the creator of the KODAKOne platform and the KODAKCoin cryptocurrency. WENN Digital is an experienced development and operations team with deep expertise in proprietary blockchain development, big data, copyright law, AI-enabled image recognition and post licensing monetization systems. WENN Digital has a strategic relationship with the Deloitte Analytics Institute in Berlin and the Deloitte Blockchain Institute in Munich. Further, WENN Digital leverages the market position of its 30-year old subsidiary WENN Media, which works with approximately 2,500 professional photographers. WENN Digital’s live operational copyright infringement management system is delivering revenues to photographers worldwide today and will form Phase 1 of the KODAKOne platform.”

A coin for photos

As a next step KodakOne aims to create a cryptocurrency (called KodakCoin) which presumably will be used for registered users.

As another move the company will issue an ICO (initial coin offering), which means that people will be able to buy into this new currency. According to TechCrunch the “ICO will take place on January 31, 2018 and is open to accredited investors from the U.S., Canada and other select countries.”

ICO are currently a way for start-ups or other companies operating  in this field to generate initial funding. ICOs have come under scrutiny in some cases, as they are – in a way – kind of an unregulated IPO (Initial Purchase Option, when companies go public). For more info see the Wikipedia entry.

Still, the news, announced on January 9, 2018, has generated wide interest. Part of this can be attributed to the surprise that a once dominating, now struggling company enters into the field of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Kodak is not the only company planning to enter the field of photo copyright protection in combination with blockchain technologies. Copytrack, another German company, is currently planning a similar service and is already in process to offer tokens.

Shares of Kodak move up

Shares of Kodak jumped after the announcement, as shown in a chart tweeted by the Financial Times on January 9, 2019.

It is a bit ironic. A once market highly innovative and market dominating company lost market share as a result of not adopting to digital workflows. Now, with the new initiative there might be a turnaround. The brand of Kodak might help, too. For photographers these promise new ways to get paid for their work.

Other Voices

Here is a collection of articles published about the Kodak One announcement (with quotes):

CNBC (US): 130-year-old Eastman Kodak joins cryptocurrency craze with ‘KodakCoin’; shares surge

Quote: “The site, called KodakOne is “a new economy” for photographers to license their work and receive payments, the company said.”


Techcrunch (US): Kodak announces ICO, stock jumps 44%

La Vanguardia (Spain): Kodak anuncia una nueva criptomoneda para fotógrafos

Quote: “El CEO de Kodak Jeff Clarke está convencido de la revolución que supondrán estas dos palabras de moda, el blockchain y la criptomoneda, para los fotógrafos que han “luchado por ejercer control sobre su trabajo y cómo se usa”: “resolverán un problema que parecía imposible de resolver”.”

Picture credit: Kodak