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Who made this? Could digitally registered images be the future for creators?

It's a difficult time to be a photographer. With the ubiquity of high resolution camera phones and online sharing technologies, the work of a creator claiming appropriate credit for their work, let alone compensation has never been more difficult. Whilst the cost of media duplication has dropped to almost nothing, many fear the means to appropriately credit and compensate creators, especially individuals and small businesses have been destroyed by these modern technologies.

In April 2013 the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act was passed which allow use of 'orphaned works', which is to say if you can't find the owner of an image after a 'diligent search', then you may now use the work where as previously you typically could not legally do so. This marked a fundamental shift in the UK government's approach to content sharing from presumption of copyright, to proof of copyright being required. Whilst this move has opened a market more amenable to sharing in the internet age, serious concerns from photographer's groups have been raised  that this legalisation fundamentally undermines the rights to their works.

For those of you less familiar with cryptocurrencies, the underlying technology of most cryptocurrencies is a large 'blockchain' database file that is cryptographically updated by users around the world without requiring a central website or company. This blockchain technology in turn can be used a a currency (most popularly Bitcoin), but also for broadcasting digital information (from space) , an alternative to the DNS system (Namecoin) or for online tipping (Dogecoin). The new relationships opened up between individuals and fully decentralised technologies have been described as 'decentralised autonomous corporations'.

What if there were a way for amataur and professional creators to more easily licence and register their creations in decentralised provable, so that image metadata could be inherent to digitally created works? Artist Kevin McCoy and entrepreneur Anil Dash have touted the idea of digital artwork 'ownership' as proven by modern distributed ledger and cryptocurrency, Namecoin.

The first blockchain signed gif - but is it art?

Due to the ability to securely amend and store data and metadata, the first image has been placed into a Namecoin wallet where it's registration date and data can be inspected by any Namecoin client or web service.

Is it art? That's not really my speciality. But imagine the following, with a simple blockchain-compatible component for devices such as digital cameras and image editing software, at the time of or prior to upload an image could be attributed, licensed, cross referenced.

In turn, individuals and organisations in conjunction with reverse images searches could track down the creator for licensing without the need to pay large costs for access to licensing clearing houses.

Automatic signing of an image:

Licensing of an image:

Automating the process of registering and finding attribution information not only ensures the routes for professionals being compensated for their work are quick, cheap and transparent, but also that moral rights are protected.

I do not know who made this image, created ~October 2013, Author Unknown

Author - Chris Monteiro

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