Blockchain and Photography

You’ve probably heard a lot about BitCoin and the Blockchain network. Besides the “digital currency”, it has also been phrased as “The Internet of Money” (Andreas Antonopoulos). This is a more apt description. It’s an open and decentralized network, that anyone can build upon. BitCoin is merely the first killer app, and the networks fuel.

Blockchain can also offer many other services, such as digital art verification. How is it different from the web you know?

Once verified on the blockchain, it’s verified as your creation forever. It’s safe, and hack proof. Attribution cannot be altered, unless you transfer full ownership of the copyright. And the blockchain would verify that transaction as authentic. This is the beauty of a distributed ledger.

While not an official registry with the U.S. Copyright Office, it will live forever, so long as there is a blockchain Internet. If a website goes down, it’s still verified as your art on the Blockchain.

By the way, if it’s a valuable piece, it’s still a good idea to register with the Copyright Office.

The amount that will come from blockchain tech in the coming years will be fantastic, and will do much to make the Internet a better place. So long as it’s a true distributed ledger (be aware of centralized apps slapping a Blockchain sticker on the box). Call it Internet 2.0, if you want.

With a service like ascribe.io, you can decide how many official digital editions there will be for your photograph or art. You can also decide how official owners of a digital edition may display it. Copyright will remain yours.

Yes, a wise guy could come along and screenshot the photo. But it would not be a verified digital edition. Tracking digital artwork and photography continues to improve. So, for example, if you find a wise guy while using Pixsy, you can quickly issue a take down request or submit a case (likely small claims) without prohibitive legal costs.

I expect more services for artists and photographers like ascribe.io to emerge, as blockchain grows in adoption. It gives artists control over their work and data, always a good thing. I think the U.S. Copyright Office and governments around the world can also learn a lot from this technology. It will greatly improve efficiency, and reduce costs to taxpayers.

Coin Telegraph has a good article about some of the blockchain services available to artists and photographers now.

My first blockchain verified photograph is on ascribe.io. Warning, maybe NSFW and not for those made squeamish by pistols.

 

 

 

 

 

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NOI, Copyright Office, and Photographer Culture

Recently ASMP delivered an NOI to the U.S. Copyright Office detailing how best the office can both modernize and help photographers going forward. Here is ASMP’s full response (I’m quoted on page 15) and here is the summary version.

In addition to the five questions ASMP asked its members as part of the NOI, I wrote a letter to the ASMP committee that focused more on culture and mindset.

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Hello,

In addition to the five question answers I recently submitted, I’d like to make an additional comment on ASMP and photography’s moral position.

I think it’s important that we not come off publicly as being copyright extremists. I think a sensible and moderate position is a good one to take, because we want a majority of the mainstream to be supportive of us.

In digital culture today, two polar opposite positions have risen. On one side is the Pirate Party types. The sort of people who say, “Down with copyright! Share! Mix! Copy! And do so without a care!”. They have their esoteric reasons for being this way, whether it is faux anarchist-libertarian or a bizarre sort of digital Maoism. Some are just cheap and like to get stuff without paying out-of-pocket. Offline, some might call them shoplifters or looters.

On the other side is RIAA and MPAA lawyers or patent trolls. The sorts who will sue a grandmother and her granddaughter for copying pop songs, or who will try to ram through something draconian like SOPA. All they do is alienate people and play into the hands of the Pirate Party crowd (and Big Tracking Data interests, e.g. Google, Facebook, et al… ).

What’s missing in the discussion is a sensible middle ground. One that represents not just the legal principle and rights of individual creators, but also the moral center. A holistic view that mirrors true community and middle class values, liberal-independent-conservative.

These extremes have made life difficult for the independent artist and photographer. However, with two clear extremes we now know where the middle is.

Are we for mindless “sharing economy”, which is just really grab and go devaluation of photography? No, we’re not. At least I hope the multitude of us are not.

On the other hand, are we out to ruin a person’s life, bankrupt people, or “kill the Internet”? I’d like to think that in most cases of infringement, unless it’s truly egregious, that we’re not looking to be regarded as blood thirsty litigants or “Luddites” out for deadly revenge.

Fair compensation so we can make an honest living, respect, and equal footing in the marketplace (this includes digital “sharing culture”) is what we’re working for. It’s important that we frame this part of the public dialogue.

Perhaps that seems old-fashioned. But I see no sustainable future for us if we adopt either of the extremes.

I hope my answers to the five questions in a previous email and this comment helps you. You’re doing publicly thankless but heroic work on this, and I humbly thank you.

Many Regards,

Paul Ottaviano

P.S. — I think it’s also important this not be seen as something that only benefits the “Professional Photographer” or commercial studio photographer. Anything that conjures up feelings and images of stuck up exclusivity is self-defeating.

In my opinion, in addition to ASMP member interests, we should also be advocates for fine art photographers, students, and serious amateurs regardless of their age, years in the business, popularity, or commercial success. At the end of the day, it’s about photography and its future.

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Thomas Kennedy, Executive Director of ASMP, wrote a thoughtful letter in reply agreeing with me on several points and thanking me graciously for my support.

It is people like him who deserve many thanks. I haven’t been in the photography business long, but I can tell that for people on the association boards it’s often a thankless job. Going to Washington D.C. takes guts and perseverance.

Regardless of how you feel about things personally and whether you agree with every sentiment or point made in the NOI, folks like Tom are trying to make a positive difference for photography.

If you ever happen to meet one of these people, by all means buy them a drink.