Who Created That Image? Solving the online content identity problem leveraging the blockchain.

Love The Living of Life: Bumbershoot Festival Seattle, WA 9/4/95 ©Evan Nisselson  

Love The Living of Life: Bumbershoot Festival Seattle, WA 9/4/95 ©Evan Nisselson
 

Every day, billions of images, songs, videos, and written works are created and shared online to communicate to loved ones, to friends, and to the masses. The most interesting content is then shared exponentially across multiple social networks. Each time this content is shared, it loses important metadata, such as the attribution for who created it and important associated caption information.

I have been a photographer since I was 13 years old. I have worked as a photo agent and a photo editor, and many of my friends create original visual content.  The holy grail for all creators and content owners, including myself, is the ability to track our creativity so we can better understand how and where it is being enjoyed and create future monetization opportunities—or at least have our names associated with our content wherever it is viewed.

As the commercial web has grown over the last 20 years, many different companies and solutions have tried to deliver for digital rights management solutions, but none have succeeded yet.

Love The Living Of Life: Billiards, San Francisco, CA 4/26/96 ©Evan Nisselson

Love The Living Of Life: Billiards, San Francisco, CA 4/26/96 ©Evan Nisselson

For example, imagine that a photographer’s image is published on the National Geographic website, then shared to Facebook, then copied and posted to Reddit, then published on an individual’s blog, and then posted to Pinterest, Instagram, and back to Reddit. The creator’s attribution and valuable caption data would not continue to be associated with that image each time the photo is shared to a new website on the Internet.

Mediachain Labs is working to solve this content identity problem by building an open, universal media library leveraging the blockchain. Jesse, Denis, and their team are building Mediachain to automatically connect media to its creator and relevant metadata.

LDV Capital is excited to invest in the Mediachain Labs team and this ambitious goal along with Union Square Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, RRE Ventures, and other investors.

The Mediachain Labs team says, “What if the information about all media ever created was completely open, and you could instantly know everything about whatever you were viewing, watching, reading, or listening to — who made it, what it was, where it originated — regardless of how you came across it?”

Mediachain connects media to information through the content itself. It combines a decentralized media library with content identification technology to enable collaborative registration, identification, and tracking of creative works online. In turn, developers can automate attribution, preserve history, provide creators and organizations with rich analytics showing how their content is being used, and even create a channel for exchanging value directly through content no matter where it is.

Rick Smolan, photojournalist and creator of the “Day in the Life” series, said, “Mediachain Labs is tackling a serious problem that’s faced creators from day one: how can I make sure I am credited for the work I create? Mediachain’s Blockchain technology tethers ownership to content, ensuring to both creators and to publishers—in any medium—that proper attribution (and hopefully financial remuneration) is perpetually connected to each work of art. This has been a long time coming, and Mediachain Labs seems to have broken the code.”  

Rick elaborates on the story behind his Muhammad Ali photo, which could provide valuable additional metadata associated with the photo when it appears online. Rick said, “I ran into Muhammad Ali when I stepped into an elevator in Tokyo’s Keio Plaza Plaza hotel in 1976 with my friend David Burnett, an incredibly talented photojournalist who had invited me to become part of his fledgling photo agency [Contact Press Images, which he co-founded with photo impresario Robert Pledge].

Muhammad Ali, 1976 ©Rick Smolan

Muhammad Ali, 1976 ©Rick Smolan

In the elevator with Ali was Howard Bingham, Ali’s personal photographer. David and Howard were old friends and in the space of that 30 second elevator ride Howard told us that in a few hours he and Ali were headed to Korea to tour US Army bases for a week.

Howard told us they two extra seats on the plane and invited us to join them on the tour (that’s how things worked back then!). So off we went on a weeklong fascinating behind the scenes tour of Korea with the champ. At every base Ali would get in the ring to spar with a few soldiers.

It was surreal and I kept thinking if we had pushed the elevator button 30 seconds later none of this would happened. I always thought about these wonderful moments of serendipity as the “fate stream”.

Mediachain’s codebase is completely open-source leveraging the blockchain. This makes it an ideal environment for collaboration and innovation between media organizations, distribution platforms, and independent creators and developers who want to retain control over their data while broadening their reach.

Millions of images and related metadata records have been contributed to Mediachain by participating organizations including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Getty Images, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), and Europeana.

Dan Taylor, Founder and Principal Photographer at Heisenberg Media said “This sounds like a great solution to a time old problem. I can imagine this cutting hours off my standard routine of tracking and gaining proper credit for works I've produced. Probably one of the most innovative uses of the blockchain I've seen yet. Can't wait to give this a go myself!”  

Dan elaborates on how one of his photos is re-published exponentially online “I was on the job covering the Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland, and just happened to be walking through the audience when I spun around and saw this. Luckily, I had a fisheye in my pocket and quickly swapped over to capture the scale of what I was viewing.

As this image was selected by the Web Summit as one of their top marketing images (and one they’re still using in some collateral today), naturally, it became quite a popular one for bloggers, journalists, and general fans of the event. In most cases, I don’t blame the second, third, and fourth level individuals who use the image, because they have no way of tracking down who created the work.

Web Summit in Dublin. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Web Summit in Dublin. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

In fact, when doing a Google Images search, there’s no reference to me until the 19th page. And you know the best place to hide a body? Page 2 of Google search. Again, I don’t blame those that use it, just wish there was a way that they could know who the original photographer was/is. If the Mediachain solution can retain and provide that information, we really are looking at the holy grail.”

Developers who are interested in the project can find out more and get involved by joining the community on GitHub or through their public Slack.  

Other People’s Weddings: Emma & Josh’s Wedding, Brooklyn, NY 1/2/99 ©Evan Nisselson

Other People’s Weddings: Emma & Josh’s Wedding, Brooklyn, NY 1/2/99 ©Evan Nisselson

Love The Living Of Life: Jim and his son Matt, Glacier, WA 9/13/95 ©Evan Nisselson

Love The Living Of Life: Jim and his son Matt, Glacier, WA 9/13/95 ©Evan Nisselson

Content creators and owners should also get involved by reaching out to the team at Mediachain Labs.