blockchain technology is poised to change the art industry in a few important
ways. Blockchain-based solutions are enabling new methods for tracing the
origins of works, protecting art creators’ rights and more. This is true
especially for digital art, but blockchain-based innovations are also being
applied to the world of traditional offline art.
issue that can be addressed by distributed ledgers is that of scarcity. In many
cases, art that people are willing to pay for has value in large part because
it is scarce: There is only a limited number of copies of a work, and buyers
will spend money for the exclusive or near-exclusive right to own it.
start making copies of a work, the work becomes less scarce and therefore less
the production of unauthorized copies of a work of art is difficult. The
challenge is the greatest in the case of digital works, which can be copied ad
infinitum at virtually no cost. But it applies to offline works, too, which
could potentially be copied in ways that make it difficult to know which work
of art is the original and which is a fake or an unauthorized reproduction.
scarcity issue is a problem for artists, whose work becomes less valuable when
it is copied. It is also a challenge for collectors, since the value of the art
they own can decrease if it becomes less scarce. Other groups are impacted,
too; for example, a company that pays licensing fees to use an authorized copy
of a work is harmed when other people copy the same work without paying.
second major issue in the art industry that blockchain technology can help
address centers on the attribution rights of artists.
struggle to protect their attribution rights for works that they produce. This
is particularly true for the creators of digital art, which, as noted above,
can be easily copied or redistributed without the original artist’s permission.
If that happens, the artists who created valuable content may not receive the
credit or payment that they are due.
challenge of artwork attribution is especially complicated given that, unlike a
document that someone might redistribute on the internet without the author’s
permission, misappropriated artworks are not something you can typically
identify through a simple Google search. Plus, the fact that an artist’s work
might be modified by someone who reuses it without permission, or incorporated
into a larger work, makes it even harder to identify art theft.
and plausible deniability are problems, too. An artist might claim that someone
else misused his work by reproducing it in modified form without permission,
but the accused party could dispute the claim by arguing that the similarities
between two works are mere coincidences and that no misuse occurred.
Blockchain Platforms for Art
of startups are using blockchain technology to address the challenges described
above. Their primary focus is on controlling attribution and distribution
rights related to digital art, but some extend their reach to offline art, too.
York-based Monegraph uses the Bitcoin blockchain to store and redistribute
digital artwork. Artists can set terms of their choosing to govern how their
work can be shared or reused. In addition to allowing artists to create
immutable records for ownership of their artwork, Monegraph also provides a
public catalog where anyone can search for works. In this way, the platform
helps to address the marketing challenges faced by artists who lack access to
commercial marketing services for their work.
Ascribe works very similarly to Monegraph. It also leverages the
Bitcoin blockchain to allow artists to upload, store, license and share work.
There are no major differences between Ascribe and Monegraph, although their
focuses vary somewhat; Ascribe emphasizes its ability to allow artists to trace
where their works are being used on the internet, for example.
Codex is similar to Ascribe and
Monegraph, but with some important differences. Codex’s goal is not to create a
blockchain-based application for registering art, but rather to build a
protocol on which distributed applications can in turn be constructed. Codex
also uses the Ethereum blockchain and has its own token, called BidDex.
Monegraph and Ascribe, Verisart also uses the Bitcoin
blockchain to register artworks. However, Verisart hopes to create a catalog
not just of digital works but of offline art as well. It uses image-recognition
technology, and it generates certificates of authenticity that can
theoretically verify the originality of any work of art.
Maecenas aims to address a different problem in the art industry:
Helping people become art collectors. It uses blockchain technology to allow
anyone to purchase ownership shares in artworks. Because the platform allows
users to purchase only a small part of a work, it lowers the barrier to art
collecting. It enables people who would not be able to afford to purchase a
high-value work on their own to build their own art collections, with ownership
rights managed on the blockchain.
is a decentralized marketplace for art. The blockchain and smart contracts
enable safe purchasing transactions and ownership rights for art collectors,
while also protecting the attribution rights of artists.
ways, the impact of blockchain technology on the art industry is more limited
than it is in other markets. It would be an overstatement to say that
blockchains are revolutionizing art at the moment.
blockchain technology offers promising innovations for artists and art
collectors. The list of companies pursuing them remains relatively small, but
the potential is clear for further adoption of blockchain solutions in this