Kodak, the photography giant who has struggled to adapt in recent years to the demise of film photography, has an unlikely new reason for optimism: cryptocurrency. The company announced that it had licensed its name and branding to WENN Digital for the development of a unique digital media rights platform using blockchain, backed by their unique cryptocurrency called “KODAKCoin”.
The official announcement details "an encrypted, digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers," – essentially, photographers will use blockchain to register works. Users will be able to pay, and be paid, for rights to these works using KODAKCoin. This is a potentially exciting development for photographers, who have long struggled to control the use of their work in the wild-west world of digital.
Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke described the goals behind the technology in a statement: “‘Blockchain' and 'cryptocurrency' are hot buzzwords…[that] are the keys [for photographers] to solving what felt like an unsolvable problem. Kodak has always sought to democratize photography and make licensing fair to artists. These technologies give the photography community an innovative and easy way to do just that."
WENN Digital will also manage sales of the tokens – Pre ICO Stage I is complete, with all 8 million coins being accounted for, and a second stage opened on January 10. The full ICO, open to investors from multiple countries including the U.S. and Canada, is set for January 31. Global Blockchain Technologies Corp., an investment company focusing on blockchain technology, has announced a $2 million investment in KODAKCoin.
Kodak also announced their foray into bitcoin mining at the recent CES tech trade show in Las Vegas. Kodak KashMiner, a partnership with bitcoin-mining-computer manufacturer Spotlite, is a bitcoin mining machine for rent that requires a two-year, $3,400 contractual commitment. Miners and Spotlite split any proceeds evenly, and the company estimates miners will make $375 per month, or $9,000 over the lifetime of the lease.
The moves have been met with some disapproval – detractors see Kodak’s dabbling in cryptocurrency as nothing more than evidence of the perceived bubble around blockchain. Criticism has been especially pointed for the KashMiner, as pundits note that bitcoin mining gets increasingly difficult over time, which will likely manifest itself as decreased returns for KashMiner lessees. But any negative effects seem to be minimal thus far – KashMiner’s initial 80-unit allotment is spoken for, with an additional 300 expected soon to relieve pent-up demand. Kodak’s stock has also seen a strong uptick, currently trading at around $11 a share (from $3 a share before the announcements).
Whether Kodak’s dabbling in cryptocurrency is effective long-term remains to be seen, but there is no denying the excitement surrounding the initial news – the potential to revolutionize rights-ownership for photographers is real, and just may be the key to prolonged success that Kodak was searching for after years of hard times.