Is This Why We Haven’t Seen Ektachrome Yet?

A year ago Kodak delighted the film photography community with the announcement that Ektachrome was coming back. It was the zombie we were happy to see lurching back from the dead; well okay actually that would have been Kodachrome but it’s close. So we waited….and waited…and well…waited. According to the press release it was expected in the ‘fourth quarter of 2017’.

So we come around to the annual tech industry bunfight in Las Vegas, marked this year by non helpful robots and high tech safes you can open with your fist, and there is an announcement from Kodak!

They’re moving into Cryptocoin mining.

Yes, that’s right, Kodak are going to into the crypto market. They’re going to release their own coin into a field already so chock full it’s like a platform on the central line after another technical failure. In what universe do we need another crypto currency? It looks as though it’s all part of a plan to create a blockchain based digital rights management system, in which somehow their software will continuously trawl the Internet looking for unlicensed rights managed images and then (presumably) charge people in Kodacoins to use them.

Kodak says in their release that “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.” – actually licensing is fair to artists now and doesn’t require any new technology. It just requires people to get their heads round the idea that copyright exists and to pay for it. The idea that this is all going to be solved by unleashing some kind of crypto magic bullet misses the point, once the software has found an unlicensed use of an image and notified the perpetrator whether or not the photographer gets paid for the image isn’t going to come down to the fact that it can be paid for in crypto currency. It’s going to come down to who has the deepest pockets in the game of ‘so sue me buddy’.

I’m also confused about how this blockchain is going to work. The idea of a blockchain is that it’s decentralised and untamperable with. That works quite well with a crypto currency transaction list, but how is it going to work in practice with lots of photographers licensing lots of images to lots of people? How many users will have to host the blockchain, how big will it get, how much bandwidth will it consume? I’m also, personally, not convinced that managing the finances in something as volatile as a crypto currency is going to be an option. With the current system of stock libraries at least you can licence your image and get paid in a known value of dollars which isn’t going to fluctuate wildly the way we’ve seen other crypto coins doing over the past few months.

I’m genuinely interested in both the answers which Kodak will give in due time to these questions, and I’m sure lots more people will be asking them. I’m looking forward to see how this idea develops once Kodak get it off the ground. Given the rise in their share price rocked by 120% after the announcement there are a lot of folks out there with their financial heads screwed on who reckon this has legs.

But I hope the development of this isn’t what’s been holding up Ektachrome, because however much the company seeks to diversify and to make up for both it’s failure to see a way to ride the digital advent wave, and then to misread the fact that there was still going to be a market for film and shut off production of two of their best lines, they are still a company with a heritage in film and should celebrate that. Especially when there is a known market for Ektrachrome in a way there isn’t for Kodacoins.

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