Digital art is increasingly gaining traction in the contemporary art world. Phillips’s last two “Paddles ON!” auctions, which showcased digital formats ranging from GIFs to video game screenshots, have been well received. Blue-chip galleries are on board too; Pace Art + Technology, a new 20,000-square-foot space in Silicon Valley, is dedicated solely to digital media. Digital art collectives—Japan’s teamLab being the most prominent—have also sprung up.
Most importantly, prices are rising. In 2003, Cory Arcangel’s Super Mario Clouds, a wall projection birthed from a hacked Nintendo chip, sold for $3,000. Last year, an edition of that same piece went for $630,000. Still, the question remains: How can a gallery sell digital content as investment-grade art when it already exists online and can be copied like a Google Doc? The answer is blockchain, the same computer technology that serves as the public ledger for bitcoin transactions around the globe.
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During the first generation of the internet, many creators of intellectual property were not properly compensated. Musicians, playwrights, journalists, photographers, artists, fashion designers, scientists, architects, and engineers were not only beholden to record labels, publishers, galleries, film studios, universities, and large corporations (vestiges of the pre-digital age) —these inventors now also had to deal with digital piracy that became possible on the web.
Blockchain technology provides a new platform for creators of intellectual property to get the value they create. Consider the digital registry of artwork, including the certificates of authenticity, condition, and ownership. A new startup, Ascribe, which runs on the blockchain, lets artists themselves upload digital art, watermark it as the definitive version, and transfer it, so similar to bitcoin, it moves from one person’s collection to another’s. The technology solves the intellectual property world’s equivalent of the double-spend problem better than existing digital rights management systems; and artists could decide whether, when, and where they wanted to deploy it.
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Only very recently has the digital medium caught up with more traditional approaches in its ability to be valued seriously by collectors. Up until now, a digital piece of artwork could easily be downloaded copied and shared inconsiderately, making ownership a bit of a sham. Creators of original digital artwork (myself included) have more often than not resorted to creating a physical signed version of the original file so as to achieve a more genuine salable item.In truth, a digital piece of art can still be copied and shared, however, emerging technology has changed all this radically.
A collector can now buy or inherit legal ownership of the original digital artwork and then choose to resell it as it goes up in value.
This is where the emergence of Blockchain technology, offered by businesses such as Ascribe, provide a truly innovative solution in securing the provence of a digital file.
Ascribe is a significant new online service that utilizes this new technology empowering “creators to truly own, secure and track the history of a digital work”. Being a digital artist, what I find so interesting with this service is that it enables the creator to register artwork using a unique cryptographic ID stored on the blockchain. Ownership of the digital artwork can be passed on through email directly to the buyer or alternatively the rights of transfer can be consigned to a gallery.
For decades, copyright infringement and illicit use of digital content has become major issue for digital content providers.
Regardless of the efforts of search engines and government-backed organizations to penalize illegitimate users of copyright-reserved content, blogs, corporate websites, e-commerce shops, and media outlets have continued the use of copyright-reserved content, due to the lack of infrastructure to detect such illicit activities.
Blockchain-based digital content record platform Ascribe has launched a service called WhereOnTheNet to enable artists who ascribe their work on the blockchain to trace the pathway of their content on the web. By utilizing an intelligent and intuitive blockchain-based software, Ascribe’s WhereOnTheNet allows users to search sites which used their images with or without permission from the content provider.