Could a new cryptocurrency protect intellectual property and “democratise” photography in the world of piracy?

130-year-old American camera company, Kodak, seems to believe it can, after it announced its new KODAKOne blockchain image rights management platform and KODAKCoin cryptocurrency at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The KODAKOne platform will utilise distributed ledger technology to create an encrypted platform for photographers to register and license their work -- potentially revolutionising copyright infringement management.

KODAKCoin will operate similarly to other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, to ensure photographers receive their payments securely and immediately.

“KODAKOne platform provides continual web crawling in order to monitor and protect the IP of the images registered in the KODAKOne system,” a statement from Kodak said.

“Where unlicensed usage of images is detected, the KODAKOne platform can efficiently manage the post-licensing process in order to reward photographers.

“With KODAKCoin, participating photographers are invited to take part in a new economy for photography, receive payment for licensing their work immediately upon sale, and for both professional and amateur photographers, sell their work confidently on a secure blockchain platform.”

The announcement saw shares in the photography company spike, with valuation of the company reaching $565m (USD) on Wednesday – a gain of $431m since the announcement.

After inventing the world’s first hand-held camera in 1888, Kodak has since struggled with digitisation as cameras migrated to mobile phones, and in 2012 the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

Since 2012, it has stayed afloat largely through selling off various assets and continuing film partnerships with major Hollywood movie studios.

The move to blockchain

However, the new blockchain solution marks a significant step in the company’s revival and overall digital transformation.

“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,” said Kodak CEO, Jeff Clarke.

“Kodak has always sought to democratise photography and make licensing fair to artists. These technologies give the photography community an innovative and easy way to do just that.”

The former camera pioneer is not the first struggling company to use blockchain as part of a rebrand -- beverage business Long Island Iced Tea rebranded to Long Blockchain Corp and has seen its stock prices climb by 400% since December.

Kodak has partnered with development and operations team, WENN Digital for the project.

“Engaging with a new platform, it is critical photographers know their work and their income is handled securely and with trust, which is exactly what we did with KODAKCoin,” said WENN Digital CEO, Jan Denecke.

“Subject to the highest standards of compliance, KODAKCoin is all about paying photographers fairly and giving them an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new economy tailored for them, with secure asset rights management built right in.”

Continuing the revolution away from their analogue heritage, Kodak also used CES to announce the release of a 3D full body scanner and a 3D portrait printer.

Initial offerings for KODAKCoin will open on 31 January.