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by David Hollerith, Jun 13, 2017

What Could Blockchain Technology Mean For Photography?


Photography

Thus far, media industry professionals who understand how the blockchain works have become increasingly certain that the technology is the great new hope for their sector.

Bruce Pon, CEO of ascribe.io, a blockchain-based platform for creators to claim attribution and transfer rights, said that blockchain technology will hit the media industry as hard as the internet did. The media industry, he wrote, has the most to gain by adopting blockchain technologies.

“If the media industries were to embrace blockchain technologies, they could reduce costs for distribution, royalty and licensing collection and allow consumers to obtain the content  they want and are willing to pay for,” Pon wrote.

The root of the problem in media that blockchain will solve: how to adjust the method for tracking and transacting media or content to keep pace with digital content’s lightning fast distribution speed over the internet. Blockchain technology is thought to allow for a better distribution and payment system for creators, one that is without centralized intermediaries.

Think of centralized intermediaries in the media industry as any organization which handles distribution and payment for creators, including performing rights organizations, publishing companies like Lonely Planet and Amazon and stock photography companies such as Adobe. While the blockchain offers a much cheaper and more efficient infrastructural alternative to the current delivery model, this fact does not automatically mean the technology will disrupt these companies’ position within media. If intermediaries are swift to adopt blockchain technology, their technological hurdle becomes opportunity.

Active Snapshots

The media industry covers swaths of culture and content, yet one key to understanding how a blockchain could improve function comes down to understanding how it can be used to register and protect intellectual property from copyright infringement. Determining how to regulate copyright infringement using a blockchain has still not been completely fleshed out.

As our Jill Richmond reported, “the underlying and real problem is having any ability to remove or act on offending content or intellectual property and that will still require legal intervention.”

However, Spotify’s acquisition of Mediachain, a media blockchain startup, indicates significant funds and work are being allocated to this space. The acquisition also shows how some centralized intermediaries need blockchain technology for licensing attribution. Within the larger sphere of media, photography in particular stands to undergo significant disruption if these capabilities become widespread. Photos could be recorded on the ledger immutably, with their copyrights protected and their creators confirmed.

To understand more about what these blockchain startups could mean for photography, let’s consider their value propositions:

Mediachain is said to work like the iPhone app Shazam. The application processes a piece of media by either its sound of appearance. The application immediately uploads a piece of media’s relevant information upon processing. Mediachain then uses machine learning to detect duplication or copies. The idea portrayed by Mediachain’s founder, Jesse Walden, in an interview with Forbes is that using the blockchain would allow for a decentralized system of tracking. While the idea could allow for photography tracking, now that the company is owned by Spotify, it seems likely that Mediachain will narrow its focus to music.

Binded is focusing on using a blockchain to protect intellectual property. Originally known as Blockai, the company recently changed tactics from marketing as a blockchain technology company to something that would be more tangible to a broader audience, emphasizing that it is a company that would make legally binded records for digital content. In a TechCrunch article, CEO Nathan Lands stated, “we want to democratize copyright.”

While Binded appears to be the media blockchain concept that would best fit photography, it’s difficult to predict how a future media blockchain would work.

Paths Forward

A few trends seen in the media blockchain space.

  • Not all blockchain media applications will be open source.
  • Though holistic thinking has been the genesis of blockchain technology, Mediachain’s acquisition and Binded’s rebranding both prove that success lies in getting more specific and realistic.
  • Copyright protection is hot right now.
  • No matter how good an application is, nothing will happen to it unless it can be marketed. That means the concept must be precisely explained and articulated to customers and users.
  • Will there be one media blockchain to rule them all?
  • It’s clear that until blockchain technology starts working in the media industry, it will be difficult to understand its full utility.

Picture a blockchain for photography. Photographers could control rights and monetize all of their photographs. With this monetization, photographers could make a better living. There could even be an Uber-like, buy-and-sell marketplace where anyone could buy and sell photographs if demand held out. Before such a world can emerge, there will need to be practical applications developed by well-funded teams made of intelligent, hard working people. That is the only way blockchain technology can become the new standard in media’s data infrastructure.

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