Abhimanyu GhoshalManaging Editor
Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and culture. Hit him up on Twitter, or write in: [email protected].
Over the past few years, it’s become easier than ever for artists to share their work online — but stealing credit is just as simple. A Berlin-based startup is looking to change that, using Bitcoin’s blockchain.
Ascribe wants to enable artists to own their intellectual property and transfer or sell it, without having to rely on a third party for help with the legalities.
The company is using Bitcoin’s distributed blockchain to allow artists to register their works. As the owners of their intellectual property, they can defend it from theft and misuse, transfer it to others or sell it securely.
Because all its records are stored in a publicly accessible database, artists can protect their claims of ownership on this independent registry.
More than just JPGs
Ascribe isn’t just for digital art, photography and design — it also works with physical art like sculpture and installations. All you need to do to register your creation is take a picture and upload it to Ascribe.
The company’s technology attributes scarcity of digital works, thereby giving them legitimate value, just like a one-of-a-kind painting or a limited edition photo print.
Using Ascribe’s service, artists can distribute their work on their terms. For example, a photographer can loan their latest series to a gallery online, and then sell a small number of each piece to interested buyers. Other copies of those photographs may exist online, but as they aren’t accounted for by the creator, they are simply counterfeits.
Similarly, an online marketplace can securely sell work that’s registered with Ascribe to collectors, who can rest assured that they are the sole owners of a piece of art they’ve purchased.
The end of piracy?
Ascribe’s blockchain-based technology can trace the journey of any registered file to track its distribution — giving rights holders a way to prove their ownership and a better chance of prosecuting anyone who may have stolen their work.
The company is also working on machine learning technology that can identify copied work on the Web, even if it’s had its watermarks digitally removed.
The way forward
Ascribe currently has more than 600 artists signed up for its service (which is free for creators), with 2,600 digital works and unique editions registered. A dozen marketplaces and platforms have also signed on to use its API.
The company has just secured $2 million in seed funding from numerous investors. CEO Bruce Pon says it will use its funds to improve its site for artists to register their work, bring aboard more developers to help marketplaces integrate Ascribe’s technology and continue its outreach programs to spread the word among artists across the globe.
Image credit: Fré Sonneveld
Read next: Bitcoin is the world’s most dangerous idea. Really?
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