How Blockchain is Changing the Art Industry
Artist Katie Woodger was devastated to discover her art had been used for a make-up bag by Disney. Normally, an independent artist would be overjoyed to have one of the largest corporations license their artwork for their merchandise. Why was she upset?
Because Disney hadn’t licensed it. They used it without permission.
Katie Woodger had created her neo-Victorian Alice In Wonderland painting in 2010 while in university. Woodger put it on her Tumblr page, as many artists were doing in 2010, to widespread acclaim and notoriety.
Woodger wasn’t only upset about the money. She was also upset that a company that she loved and whole-heartedly believed in would treat an independent artist like this.
If one of the largest corporations on Earth, with nearly bottomless coffers, won’t pay for artwork, what does that say about the state of today’s independent art market?
If only this were uncommon. You can find story after story of artists in every discipline having their work either directly copied without credit or being slightly modified to be sold on napkins, paper plates, shopping totes, enamel pins, and anything else you could think of.
This is not a new problem. The question of originality in art has been lingering since the invention of the printing press. Influential intellectual Walter Benjamin speaks of the conundrum around originality in his influential essay The Work Of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Benjamin argued that images lost their spirit, or “aura,” when circulated en masse, as in the case of photography, film, and, later, television.
If only Walter Benjamin or media theorists like Marshall McLuhan could have imagined life after the “Gutenberg Galaxy,” when basically anyone can produce an infinite array of copies instantaneously and broadcast them to every corner of the globe.
Questions of originality and ownership have been around as long as information technology. Thankfully, technology is starting to answer some of these conundrums as well.
Let’s take a look at some ways that blockchain technology for artists is helping to solve questions around intellectual property, copyright, and establishing ownership.
Blockchain Technology For Artists
There’s already digital protection in place for a number of artistic mediums. Google’s adept at detecting plagiarism, for instance. YouTube employs a number of innovative algorithms to ensure copyrighted music isn’t posted on their site.
What about visual artists, though? Blockchain technology is starting to offer solutions to this dilemma.
In case you’re not familiar with how blockchain technology works, the concept is simple.
Blockchain is a digitally distributed ledger technology that is best known for powering Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. A piece of data is uploaded to a block, which is timestamped. These blocks are then chained together. The blockchain is synchronized across the entire network, simultaneously, making it theoretically impossible to modify.
Although blockchain technology has been largely used for financial transactions until now, any piece of data can be uploaded and verified. It’s already starting to be used to verify copyright information for visual artists. Companies such as TinEye, Pixsy, and Mediachain are using blockchain technology to verify visual media’s ownership.
Blockchain technology isn’t just verifying the ownership of a piece of visual content. It can also verify how a piece of art is able to be used. Companies like Binded are taking advantage of blockchain’s ledger technology to form a “copyright platform.” Each block is embedded with a unique identifier, known as a cryptographic hash. The cryptographic hash also includes the owner’s name and email address.
These cryptographic hashes can be used to monitor online platforms like Twitter or Instagram, to make sure a piece of artwork isn’t being used or reproduced without authorization.
As you can see, blockchain technology is starting to be employed in a number of new and innovative ways to answer some of these age-old questions that have plagued us with the onset of decentralized information. It’s a step towards making sure artists are justly compensated for all of their hard work.
Looking For Blockchain Technology For Your Art Career?
At Unvetica, we delight in offering state-of-the-art technological solutions to all-too-human problems. It’s the heart of our human-centric design philosophy.
We are very enthusiastic about the opportunities for blockchain technology. If you’re wondering how blockchain technology for art can help your visual art career, contact us today to find out how we can help your business prosper.