Business

Oh Snap! KodakCoin is here

By Oliver Smith 10 January 2018
Image: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images.
Summary

Talk about riding the bandwagon.

Forget Bitcoin and Ethereum, soon you’ll be able to buy a cryptocurrency from camera company Kodak.

In a move that reeks of a publicity stunt, the embattled camera company, which only emerged from bankruptcy in late 2013, is now looking for photographic investors to back its latest bizarre project.

KodakCoin is a token which the company says will power a blockchain-powered “image rights management platform”, basically a rival to Getty or Shutterstock for photographers to license out their work and get paid.

Further details are, maybe unsurprisingly, light on the ground.

But that didn’t stop the company’s share price from soaring over 120% on the stock market yesterday after the announcement was made at CES in Las Vegas.

“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,” explained Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke.

Now that may be very true, but we can’t help but be sceptical.

The KodakCoin announcement immediately sent Kodak shares soaring.

Flash in the pan

“This is definitely not a genuine innovation,” Wong Joon Ian, who covers technology, cryptocurrencies and blockchains at Quartz and previously at Coindesk, told The Memo

“Companies like Mediachain and Ascribe already do very similar things with the provenance of digital goods.”

So, if it’s not a new idea, why is Kodak doing it?

Turns out Kodak is the latest in a long line of ‘traditional’ companies who are either adding “blockchain” or “Bitcoin” to their names, or launching their own tokens.

Take “The Crypto Co” which sounds very tech-savvy, but previously sold sports bras as “Croe Inc” – or messaging apps Line and Telegram which both working on initial coin offerings.

Why go to the effort? Because, right now, it makes money, sending share prices soaring and interest through the roof.

Investors are desperate not to miss out on the ‘next big thing’ and, given Bitcoin’s success, many will pour cash into anything with a ‘-coin’ or ‘-chain’.

It’s also likely that algorithms used by hedge funds to buy and sell stocks are being trained to buy any company that makes a ‘-coin’ or ‘-chain’ announcement.

Back down to earth

So what does this all mean for photographers, or you and I?

Kodak’s plan to create “a new economy for photography” is entirely unproven and interest among photographers appears only middling.

 

What KodakCoin does prove is that struggling companies hoping to revitalise their brands (and share prices) can rely on crypto marketing stunts for a boost.

We expect Polaroid-coin and Nikon-chain are right around the corner – and you’d be wise not to invest.