Blockchain, Image Licensing & Watermarks

The recent announcement by Eastman Kodak that their new KODAKOne platform will utilize blockchain technology is potentially a significant new way for photographers to sell image licenses and be paid nearly instantly—using a “KodakCoin” cryptocurrency.

KodakOne_Lockup-RED_jpg__1200×800_Their press release stated:

Utilizing blockchain technology, the KODAKOne 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. With KODAKCoin, participating photographers are invited to take part in a new economy for photography, receive payment for licensing their work immediately upon sale, and for both professional and amateur photographers, sell their work confidently on a secure blockchain platform. KODAKOne platform provides continual web crawling in order 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 in order to reward photographers.

I’m no blockchain expert, but leveraging that with a service such as KODAKOne or other service offerings could go a long way towards solving the problem of asserting rights ownership of a digital image.

KodakOne__KODAKCoin__-_All_information_about_KodakOne_ICO__Token_Sale__-_ICO_Drops
Source:  https://kodakcoin.com/

Kodak says their web crawlers will detect unauthorized usage and they will have a process set up to handle such issues on behalf of the photographer. How that actually plays out in real life in terms of actual copyright/IP enforcement against an alleged infringer is another story. Kodak is not the only company working on using the blockchain for digital rights management.

Some say it could remove the need for watermarks. I’m not convinced. Watermarks also serve as an important marketing and branding tool.

Virtually all of my posted images, especially in the last year since I launched pinkybrand.photography,  contain my proprietary logo as a watermark.

cropped-logo_transparent_background4.png

There are all kinds of opinions on using watermarks. Some say they spoil a photograph and should never be used.  I certainly agree they can spoil a photograph, but I disagree with those who think they should never be used.

For example, I can see why a wedding/event photographer might plaster her/his watermark all over their images, as otherwise customers and guests might just take screenshots of the images instead of actually paying for hi-res downloads and/or extra physical prints/enlargements.

At first I went nuts using my watermark. It was too prominent and overbearing. I realized it made quite a few of my photos look terrible.  So I went back and started altering them to blend more with the image. I try to place the watermark where the eye is not naturally attracted in terms of overall composition.

In the absence of possibly using a future blockchain service like KODAKOne, I’ve also embedded micro-watermarks that only I know where they exist on a photograph. Admittedly these watermarks do not offer me any real protection against unauthorized distribution or use.  They don’t actually protect against piracy.  They only serve to assert that I am the original creator of the art and perhaps make me feel a bit more protected in the event I discover an infringement.

However I’m no fool and I’m sure there are folks who could care less if a watermark exists or not on the image they intend to use for whatever purpose without paying me. Some will even go through the trouble of using Photoshop etc. in an attempt to remove a watermark.

Unless I’m willing to pay for current web crawling services to detect such unauthorized use, or use reverse image search engines like TinEye, Google Images , and Wolfram’s Image Identification Project, it seems at least using basic watermarking technology is a wise first step in asserting your ownership rights if one is publishing their images online.

Another less attractive option is simply not to publish any images online at all. That might actually work for some photographers depending upon their target audience and other factors.

I look forward to testing the KODAKOne service and possibly other competitors that I’m sure will pop up in the marketplace. It’s early days, but combining such a service with use of a watermark could be a great recipe for pro and serious amateur photogs to sell image licenses, reinforce one’s brand, protect against infringers, and be paid nearly instantly for legit use, and possibly by infringers themselves.

As they say, the devil is in the details!

I’m rooting for Kodak as an old film and darkroom chemicals guy. It was sad to see them file for bankruptcy a few years ago. I hope they can leverage the blockchain and the KODAKOne service to work for them, photographers, and end user customers.

 

 

 

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