For photographers protecting your rights over an image is practically as important as taking the image. Your image is your brand, your product, and in many cases, you feel an emotional connection to your creation as well. Having it stolen or ripped off is a nightmare many photographers have had to deal with in the past. Recently, the news has been filled with numerous cryptocurrencies popping up overnight, and Kodak has joined the bandwagon – but only for photographers. Unlike traditional cryptocurrencies, KODAKCoin is only for use with Kodak.
In its initial official announcement, Kodak described the currency as “an encrypted, digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers.” But, that doesn’t sound like a currency – an item exchanged for goods or services.
What Is KODAKCoin?
The idea behind this cryptocurrency is similar to buying credits on any website. You buy the currency with real money then spend the credits. I’m sure you can already see the issue in that it would simply be easier to buy the item itself rather than a two-step process. Users of KODAKCoin can trade in the currency – receiving it as payment or spending it on their platform. Kodak has been slowly tumbling into obscurity in the last few years, and this is potentially a last-ditch effort to bring it back into relevancy.
The coins can be spent on a digital platform (KODAKOne) the photographer can use the coins to register their images on Kodak’s site, much like a copyright registry. The platform then has options for licensing the image and a search feature to find copies of that image on the internet that have not been licensed. This makes things a lot easier for a photographer not to spend hours on Google trying to do an image search their images, or paying others to do that job themselves manually. It’s essentially combining a dedicated platform to manage cloud storage, rights management, and authentication into one, and simply jumping on the popularity of the cryptocurrency bandwagon to get the press necessary for photographers to look at what has become an outdated company.
Launch of KODAKCoin and KODAKOne
The company has an ICO planned for January 31st when it would release a limited amount of coins to buy. These will likely be snapped up quickly, either by the curious investor or photographers who see a value in Kodak’s idea. As far as the data shows, currently the coins are expected to launch well, and it’s certainly done a lot for Kodak’s shares which rose as high as $5.50 from $3.10 the day before the announcement. An ICO or Initial Coin Offering raises funds to start the new currency; it’s not a payment but similar to buying stocks in a company to fund its creation. The company sells a portion of their anticipated number of coins in exchange to fund research and development. The key thing right now is that because cryptocurrencies are still very new, they are mostly unregulated meaning this is either Kodak’s way of getting ahead of the competition or a great way to scam a lot of people for a venture that may end up in disaster.
What’s for Photographers?
Kodak is jumping on the bandwagon with buzzwords. In reality, they’re offering nothing more than a crawling web service with central database storage. There is some companies which already exist and do the same thing. While they’re also discussing a marketplace (hello, 500px?), again, that’s nothing new. You don’t need a dedicated cryptocurrency, and you could easily create a site based credits system instead. In fact, if they said they were launching a credit based WebCrawler to protect image licensing it’s likely they would have barely made the footnotes of most blogs.
The current system runs on dollars, on real money. Most markets do, and while the digital aspect of photography has taken away much of the tangibility of the art by having real dollars paid to you when you license that image you can pay your bills. With KODAKCoin you’re forced to send them back to the Kodak platform.
Thanks to the way the tax system works, not everyone can even invest in the concept. The company is using a 501(c) exemption as a way of getting around the fact that by law cryptocurrency launches are technically securities which have to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Because of this, you can only invest in KODAKCoin if you’re an accredited investor already – meaning your net worth is around $1 million or your income is over $200,000 annually. Something very few photographers can boast.
Unless you’re worth, a ton of money KODAKCoins is useless. If you manage to register as a photographer and get paid, you can’t even trade those coins as you’re not supposed to have because of the restrictions on securities trading. You’re expected, legally, to hold onto those investment securities aka KODAKCoins indefinitely.
The Death Knell
The interest in cryptocurrency is what has fueled this storm of interest in a company that has no business dealing with currency asides from a “payment for good or services” term. It’s quite likely that this is simply an attempt to try and prevent what once was a great photography company from sliding into obscurity and obsolescence for the last time. The last hurrah, if you will. When they declared bankruptcy in 2013 it had much to do with the refusal to embrace digital technology.
This is an attempt to embrace the digital age, but while they might be well-meaning in protecting photographers, it’s more likely that this is an attempt to garner enough interest and sales boost to keep rolling forward.