Photo firm Kodak has announced plans to develop its own cryptocurrency, KodakCoin, which it says will help photographers to control their image rights via a distributed ledger.
The announcement, which was made at the CES Tech Show in Las Vegas, precipitated a 120% increase in the firm's share price but has also led to accusations of bandwagon jumping and concerns of a stockmarket bubble around anything blockchain-related.
Kodak also shared plans to develop Bitcoin mining rigs at its New York headquarters. The scheme, called Kodak KashMiner, will require customers to make upfront payments to rent mining capacity.
But it is the reaction to Kodak's announcements that have garnered more comment. The photo firm was notoriously slow to react to ther first digital wave in the late 90's when its film-based heritage was swiftly overtaken by the rise of digital cameras and smartphones. So it is little surprise that the company has looked to jump on the current blockchain wave.
Kodak has essentially repositioned itself over the last six years, licensing its brand to a range of manufacturers, from drones to tablets to printers to digital cameras, and the blockchain plans appear to be its latest brand strategy.
Ironically, the phrase 'Kodak moment', the firm's former advertising tagline, has been mostly used to refer to firms missing out on technology revolutions and has recently been applied to banks at risk of being made obsolete from a blockchain revolution.
However despite the positive reaction from Kodak shareholders, there are questions over both initiatives. Firstly the requirement of the Kodak KashMiner service for miners to pay upfront would leave them liable for any loss should there be a crash in the bitcoin market.
Meanwhile Kodak says that its KodakCoin service will form part of a wider effort to develop a global ledger for picture image rights and use its own software to trawl the web for any unlicensed use of images.
“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."
But the idea that it KodakCoin is uniquely designed to protect photographers' image rights has been questioned by those that say the blockchain provides no more copyright protection than existing copyright law or exisitng services such as Getty Images or Shuttershock.
The share price in the firm's holding company Eastman Kodak rose dramatically upon the announcement, rising to 130% immediately after the announcement before closing at 119.4% above its opening price.
Kodak will work with UK firm Wenn Media Group on the Initial Coin Offering for KodakCoin which is set to take place on January 31st.