Kodak joins the cryptocraze, says it's key to solving 'an unsolvable problem'

Image and technology company Kodak has struck a licensing partnership with blockchain developer WENN Digital, marking its entry into the blockchain space. This will result in the launch of its image rights management platform KODAKOne and its own cryptocurrency, KODAKCoin. Targeted at both professional and amateur photographers, the initiative aims to “empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management”, said a press statement.

Since its announcement, the move has resulted in a 92% shoot in its share price in the midafternoon trading on the New York stock exchange at US$5.95, according to Reuters. Following the move, Kodak will also launch an initial coin offering on 31 January 2018, open to accredited investors from the US, UK, Canada and other select countries.

Through blockchain technology, the brand looks to use its KODAKOne platform to create an encrypted, digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers. This is to allow photographers to license their work for both new and archive work, and receive payment for licensing their work immediately upon sale.

The technology will also allow KODAKOne to continually web crawl in order to monitor and protect the IP of the images registered in its system.

When unlicensed usage of images is detected, the KODAKOne platform will help manage the post-licensing process to reward photographers. Speaking about the move, Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke said that the company has always “sought to democratise photography and make licensing fair to artists”.

“For many in the tech industry, ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ are hot buzzwords, but for photographers who’ve long struggled to assert control over their work and how it’s used, these buzzwords are the keys to solving what felt like an unsolvable problem,” Clarke explained.

In a conversation with Marketing, Ranga Somanathan, CEO of Omnicom Media Group of Singapore and Malaysia, said that Kodak’s move into blockchain is not a surprising one due to the potential for big payouts. Not only will blockchain provide transparency, it will also provide consumer information about when and who the interaction with images takes place. He explained this can allow the company to keep track of how internet users are reacting and engaging with images online.

“Managing supply chain today is critical for businesses to survive, as such it is not surprising to see how blockchain technology is important in this process,” Somanathan explained.

Agreeing with Somanathan was Prashant Kumar, senior partner at Entropia, who too sees it as a positive move and a strategic one. Whether this makes for a coherent and cohesive strategy is secondary, Kodak has little choice but to get involved with “blue ocean areas” to at least try and learn by failing fast. Kumar said:

Well, it is good to know that Kodak - the poster boy of how not to handle the future - is attempting to speculate on a piece of future.

For companies mulling whether or not blockchain and cryptocurrencies are relevant to their business, Kumar said that one important criterion they should be considering is whether or not their industry ecosystem is “mired by huge transactional inefficiency and opacity”.

“Having said that, the demand-supply mechanics of cryptocurrencies leave a lot to be desired against natural behavioural finance,” Kumar explained.

The topic of blockchain as a measure to boost transparency in various industries has been an ongoing topic over the past year. In the marketing industry, several players have discussed the impact of how the technology can weed out the problem ad fraud. This comes as marketers such as P&G's chief brand officer Marc Pritchard calling the state of the media supply chain “murky at best” and “fraudulent at worst”.

This is not the first time a brand saw a surge in share price after revealing an entry into blockchain and cryptocurrency. In October last year, the shares of British company On-Line Plc jumped up by 394% in a single day after it changed it name to ‘On-Line Blockchain Plc’, Bloomberg reported.