In our glorious, swift-paced times, we photographers have pretty much two choices when it comes to a final destination for our images. We can publish them online on social networks to serious photography-oriented platforms and expose them to the whole world, or we keep them to ourselves on our hard drives.
The first one provides public exposure (from vanity metrics to genuinely valuable exposure) and the second one, well, keeps your images from being used without your consent.
The most recent and curious case of mal-intentioned image usage was perpetrated by Canon Italy, and their very unprofessional maneuver put them in the middle of quite the controversy. They used an image from Elia Locardi on their fan page and forgot to credit the photographer. If that wasn't enough, the image wasn't even made with Canon-engineered hardware.
Similar scenarios happen to many photographers, but it’s impossible to keep an eye out everywhere to validate that our images are safe, or at least shared in the proper way. This problem might be heading towards its final days, thanks to a recent announcement by Kodak on January 9.
Kodak is going to release not just a cryptocurrency, but also a platform that promises to help photographers keep track of their online images. This involves a number of topics that relate more to the business side of photography than the craftsmanship behind making images, and we still don’t have a clue whether this will actually work out for us photographers or not.
Let's Start With Intellectual Property
Intellectual property refers to an economic good that is usually intangible, even when it can be linked to physical goods. Huh? All right, Intellectual Property is the asset behind any creation that validates the rights that creators have to their work.
Here we can find some interesting topics like patents, copyrights, design rights, trademarks and many other assets linked to creations. Assets can increase in value through the years, depending on the demand for the object linked to the intellectual property.
Next…What About Copyright?
Copyright refers to the specific set of legal norms that assure both the moral and the patrimonial rights of an author of a work. Copyright usually applies to literature, art, music, scientific or didactic work and many other creations, whether they are published or not.
Usually, the author can transfer a portion (via specific contracts) or complete patrimonial rights to a work, and this is the baseline for how “licensing” becomes a profitable business for photographers. Moral rights include two specific things: the right to recognition of authorship, and the right of an author to refuse modifications or works derived from it.
Despite the desperate cry of their website for a new design, these two guys are definitely worth reading if you want to get some valuable opinion and insights about copyright.
From stock photography and complex commercial photography to even fine-art photography, the adequate scope of copyright usage is an important part of the business for any serious photographer involved in any of these three fields.
What Is Licensing?
Now that we’ve defined intellectual property and copyright, we need to discuss an intriguing business model: licensing.
Licensing is the grant a person receives from a copyright owner (which can be the creator or a third party, after rights have ceased) to use an asset (usually for commercial purposes) that has been previously categorized as intellectual property. These licenses can be very explicit about the usage of such assets. It’s exactly how photographers should build their businesses.
Many photographers don't know about this business model and think that a proper model release will protect them absolutely. That might be true, but they might make more money from a single image if they built a licensing-based business model.
Unfortunately, many photographers will not dive into that complex world, but luckily, this is what KodakOne is promising – an easy way to make images easy to distribute in a profitable way by licensing and tracking them.
What Is Cryptocurrency?
Before jumping into what KodakOne and KodakCoin are promising to photographers, it’s important to briefly clarify what cryptocurrencies are. Obviously, we aren’t experts in how cryptocurrencies work, so this is not intended to be a crash course about them. Some people firmly believe that cryptocurrencies are the future, and others are freaking out about them (pretty similar to what happened when mirrorless cameras appeared on the market).
In simple words, a cryptocurrency is a monetary currency, usually measured in “coins”. They are similar to our traditional monetary system, except these coins aren't made of metal or paper, but from data; therefore, they only exist in electronic form. Perhaps the most popular cryptocurrency out there is BitCoin. And after watching a ton of videos, we can say that this one explains simply how this cryptocurrency works (and if all cryptocurrencies work under the same principle, KodakCoin may well work in the same way).
So The Big Question: How Will KodakCoin and KodakOne Work For Photographers?
KodakOne is going to be what could be defined as a “copyright management platform”, which will allow photographers to register their images in a standardized form that will empower us to license our work through the platform. Revenues resulting from this licensing will come to us in the form of cryptocurrency, a brand-new one created by Kodak called KodakCoin. Using blockchain technology is a fantastic way to ensure transparency, So, in essence, Kodak is looking to create a public ledger for image rights to ensure that we get paid for our work.
Will It Actually Work?
The short answer…who knows, but it is a great solution to an ongoing problem. Creating such a digital market-place is a very interesting concept. Kodak says they are empowering photographers not just by allowing them to securely manage their image-assets, but also by helping us create a new economy, a photography-based one. This doesn't sound so crazy, considering all the images that flood social networks streams every day. We crave images. We consume them like crazy on social media. As Jim Casper from LensCulture says, “photography (is) the most universal medium of communication worldwide”.
More information about KodakCoin and KodakOne can we found at the KodakCoin website
Let us know in the comments whether KodakCoin and KodakOne will become the panacea for image distribution, licensing, and payment in the digital world.
Given Kodak’s (hmmmmm) bad business decisions for the last three decades. I’m predicting this will sink faster and with more casualties than the Titanic.