Blockchain technology is on a path to revolutionize a long list of industries. From the finance sector to education, blockchain is changing everything. However, there’s been a lot of focus on the changes happening to the world of photography and fine art. Not only is blockchain technology reshaping how we buy, sell, and trade art, it’s also reducing copyright infringements and improving product traceability. But, is blockchain all positive? This article will look at the potential pros and cons of using blockchain and how it’s widening creative industries.
What is Blockchain?
The mechanics that form Blockchain technology are incredibly complex, but the concept is relatively easy to grasp. Blockchain is a decentralized data storage method. It prevents data from being owned, manipulated, or controlled by one central player. As blockchain is based on trust and transparency, all data stored on a blockchain is available to the general public. Therefore, the blockchain is verified by the collective who have access to it.
One of the most notable perks of blockchain is that as new information is saved to the database, it is immutable and added to the blockchain instead of updating existing entries.
For the art and photography industry, blockchain technology has the power to democratize the market and create opportunities for people who wouldn’t previously have had a foot in the game.
Blockchain for Art
Art is a 64 billion dollar industry globally and growing. Typically, auction houses and private dealers dominate the industry. What’s unique about the industry? Not only is the art market non-standardized and unregulated, but pricing is also opaque, which makes the sector vulnerable and open to manipulation.
Before blockchain, the super-rich were the art industry’s most prominent players. Today, mostly thanks to blockchain technology, the industry is open to non-high-net individuals, and small retail investors are free to invest in multi-million-dollar fine art. However, opening the market up to new clients who aren’t as educated on fine art as high-end buyers risks devaluing the market and disrupting the balance of fine art pricing. How do we avoid this pitfall? ArtWallet is a start-up aiming to reduce the risk of blockchain to the art market. Using ArtWallet, artists can tokenize their works, and users can buy, sell, and trade tokens that represent partial ownership of art.
One of the most significant benefits of blockchain for the art industry is improved provenance and a more reliable authentication program. By storing the history of each piece of art online, blockchain reduces fabricated chains of custody and helps maintain the market price.
Blockchain also makes it easier for collectors to buy shares in fine-art and trade them. Increasing the liquidity of markets opens up new opportunities for artists to create a more diverse work portfolio.
Blockchain for Photography
Blockchain for photography allows for better distribution of work for creators. It can provide a cheap and efficient infrastructure for artists to deliver their images. Photographers could use blockchain to monetize their work, distribute work to new channels efficiently, and sell directly to buyers securely.
Down the line, we could also use blockchain to register and protect intellectual property. The decentralized database could seriously reduce the amount of copyright infringement that occurs globally.
Decentralizing photography also provides the artist with flexibility and grows the number of licensed images available. This, in turn, should create a fairer, more accessible market.
So what’s the downside of blockchain for photography? Photo stock companies will suffer. The likes of Adobe, Shutterstock, and iStock already have a system for distributing and recognizing work, but their system can’t compete with blockchain.
So, what’s the problem?
Blockchain seems all well and good, but we need to look at the bigger picture. According to a study by Alex de Vries, blockchain isn’t sustainable. Currently, some of the largest blockchains are using incredible amounts of energy. Take Bitcoin, for example, who consumed more power than Ireland as a whole in 2018. Building a blockchain database for the ever-expanding world of art and photography is a huge task that’ll cost the planet significantly.
Whats more, blockchains are renowned for being slightly inefficient. Due to their complexity and encrypted nature, blockchain transactions can be tiresome and time consuming. In a modern world of fast-paced creatives, a slow process of transactions and payments just won’t suffice.
Blockchain technology has the potential to make the art and photography industry more efficient, more valuable, and more creative. Working conditions could improve and ownership battles could be fewer, and those that do exist will be fairer. That said, the blockchain community has a long way to go before providing such a high-end service on a mass scale. Particularly without damaging the esteem of the art industry, or destroying stock photo companies.