Exciting news shook the photo world ( and the stock market) as Kodak announced, along with Wenn digital, its cryptocurrency copyright infringement monitoring platform. Some called it a welcome revolution while other raised red flags. Let’s review and try to make sense of it all.
First, let’s see who is really behind this initiative. Kodak, as you might remember, declared bankruptcy in January 2012. Since then, it has restructured twice, the latest as a five business division structure; Print Systems, Enterprise Inkjet Systems, Micro 3D Printing and Packaging, Software and Solutions, and Consumer and Film under the leadership of CEO Jeff Clarke. They have also been hard at work licensing the Kodak name to third-party brands. Wenn Digital is a newly formed 6 employee company ( a few months old), that seems to be an evolution of RYDE Gmbh with a partnership with Wenn, a well known UK news/photo agency service. RYDE had a copyright infringement service called Reward Your Idea (rewardyourideas.com) based in Berlin which now seems defunct and points to a soon to be launched Wenn digital website.
Kodak, in other words, is no longer the Kodak we grew up with and Wenn Digital, well, we don’t really know.
The project they announced ( and yet to be launched) is called KodakOne. According to their press release, it seems to be offering a few things.
- Registering images into blockchain
- offering cryptocurrency payments ( called Kodakcoins) to photographers when illicit usage is found ( and paid for, it is assumed)
- Raising an ICO
Registering images in blockchain is nothing new (we wrote about here 3 years ago). Other companies in the past (since closed) and current ones already do so. The obvious advantage is that once the information is entered into the chain, it cannot be tampered with. Thus, in theory, linking the image with its owner forever. But it does nothing more. It cannot be used in a court of law as a proof of copyright ( only registration at the copyright office can do that) and it doesn’t actually guarantee that the information linked to the image is correct. With no safeguard and checking in place, nothing prevents anyone to let’s say register images of Cartier-Bresson as theirs. Forever. In other words, it has no authority.
Not sure why, besides tickling the stock market on its sensitive size, cryptocurrency is needed here. Furthermore, it is not Bitcoin, which is currently soaring in value and would be interesting, but a new one, called Kodakcoin, which no one is trading ( and has zero value). Does KodakOne intend to get real money from copyright infringers and in return, pay photographers with
chocolate crypto coins? If so, why? In order to bring value to those cryptocoins ? Does Kodak plan to sell its printers in Kodakcoin? What else will photographers be able to buy with those Kodakcoin, if anything? Or does Kodak hope that Kodakcoins will be one day be traded at the same value as Bitcoins and make everyone overnight billionaires?
An ICO is Initial Coin Offering. Companies seeking to raise money can ask anyone to donate cryptocurrencies (usually bitcoins) in exchange for shares of the company. Unlike an IPO or traditional investment, anyone with bitcoins can participate and not just accredited investors. It is a great way to bypass all the legal roadblocks that make traditional investment safer. While ICO usage is getting traction because anything with word bitcoin in it is just cool, it is not a sign that the company is a safe bet. In this case, the ICO is offered under SEC guidelines ( not supervision )1, meaning they will only accept professional investors. This offering also means that neither Kodak or Wenn Digital are investing any of their funds for this project and would rather take the money of unprofessional investors. It also means that the project is currently at an idea stage and that it will not see execution until the funds are raised and used. Could be a while, if ever.
Will stop here with our analysis because it seems to be clear that even if it is under the once respected name of Kodak, this project still has a lot to clear before becoming trustable. For one, and foremost, a working demo would go a long way to demonstrate exactly how this will work and if viable. As well, it would eliminate any doubts that this is not a get quick rich tech play that might leave a lot of photographers worst than where they are now.
PS: Here is another blockchain-powered infringement platform with an ICO offering: Copytrack