Several start-ups are proposing to combine photography and "blockchain", a technology which, according to them, not only strengthens copyright protection, but also makes it easier to trade in images.
The "blockchain" at the service of photography? The idea may seem incongruous. Yet this is the bet made by several companies, including Kodak, which has taken advantage of this technology, particularly known for making digital currencies work, such as bitcoin. On January 9, the former American specialist in photography announced the launch of a virtual currency backed by a platform for photographers, KodakCoin, in conjunction with the start-up Wenn Digital. By the way, the announcement boosted Kodak's share by nearly 75%.
"With the use of blockchain technology, the KodakOne platform will create a digital and encrypted property rights registry allowing photographers to register their new and old production, which they will then be able to offer under license" the company said in a press release.
Blockchain as a certificate of authenticity
The principle of blockchain is to secure a transaction by having it validated by a multitude of computers, in an encrypted way. Applied to the bitcoin, the main circulating cryptocurrency, the blockchain is in fact a big register that records every transaction carried out on a multitude of computers.
During a transaction, the authenticity of the exchange requires to request this registry, which requires a great deal of computing capacity, spread over thousands of computers around the world:"miners". In order to falsify a transaction, most of the computers on which the registry is recorded would have to be tampered with, which is impossible.
This is how blockchain guarantees the exchange of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin or ether. It is easy to understand the interest of the blockchain in financial exchanges. But this technology makes it possible to secure any type of interaction. The Reconnect association proposes, for example, to secure the administrative documents of homeless people by using the blockchain.
Applied to photography, the system therefore makes it possible to list all the images placed on the system, and to associate them with their authors, without any falsification possible, in the manner of a certificate of authenticity.
"Based on this new means of payment, Kodak plans to create a platform for the sale of images, also allowing authors to monitor possible infringements of copyright." For many in the technology sector,"block chain" and "cryptocurrencies" are fashionable words, but for photographers who have long had difficulty maintaining control over their work and how it is used, these buzzwords can be the solution to what seems like a insoluble problem" said Jeff Clarke, CEO of the group, quoted in the release.
Blockchain and copyright
But Kodak is not the first actor of photography that want to use blockchain. Launched in June 2016, the start-up Binded offers photographers and artists the opportunity to associate each of their works with a certificate of authenticity, the uniqueness and security of which would be guaranteed by blockchain technology.
Since June 2017, the company has also offered to register each work with the Copyright Office Registration, the US government agency responsible for ensuring that authors' rights are protected.
In France, the Lamark start-up also provides authentication and image usage tracking tools. The system, called Imatag, allows authors to "mark" their images with an invisible watermark, which, when combined with the image, makes it possible to track its presence online and guarantee its authenticity. A system also used by Pixtrakk, a service for professional photographers and agencies. But in both cases, the technology is not based on blockchain but on image recognition, like Google Images or TineEye.
Will the law recognize blockchain as a means of certifying authenticity when the first judicial proceedings are launched? If this is the case, it can become a means of proving to a photographer that he or she is the author of an image, just as the negative was a means of proving that he or she is the author of an image.