A New And Free Service Looks To Tackle Copyright Infringement For Photographers

A New And Free Service Looks To Tackle Copyright Infringement For Photographers

Last year I reported on Pixsy​ a start-up which was aiming to tackle copyright infringement for photographers. It looked promising but after giving it a test run I was left a bit under whelmed. Copyright issues plague our industry and many folks are desperately seeking a solution. A new and totally free service, Blockai, might just be the closest thing we have right now. 

Blockai is looking to completely change and re-vamp the way we register and protect our work online. They have decided to do so via blockchain, a public ledger that is used to verify bitcoin transactions. Each transaction is time stamped and given a unique file code that is nearly impossible to replicate.

Blockai is applying this idea to art. Through a simple drag and drop process on their website you can time stamp and register each and every piece of work you create. This generates a unique certificate of registration for those pieces of work you have uploaded.

Every user has a profile on the site which allows them to file and organize all their certificates. Once uploaded, the service can track online usage of your work, and will alert you if there is any unauthorized usage. You of course have proof of a time stamped certificate to show during legal proceedings.

This is a very interesting new development in the fight against copyright because it adds another layer of protection for the creator on top of the usual reverse image search. Furthermore, by being completely free, it gives all creators equal access to a platform that protects them and their work.

If you have had a chance to check out Blockai please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

[via SLRLounge]

Peter House's picture

Peter House is a commercial fashion photographer from Toronto, Canada. He shoots over 10,000 pieces of clothing every year for a variety of lookbooks. Clients range from small local boutiques to international brands such as Target, Winners, and Sears. In addition to that Peter runs one of the most popular rental studio's in the Toronto area.

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This looks really promising. Checking it out now. Thanks for sharing!

Interesting, the screenwriters guild of america has a similar service where you can send in a script and they date stamp it for you and keep it on file so you could use it for claims in the future. I hope it takes off, Pixsy was very underwhelming indeed.

One point/question that is not addressed on Blockai's website is whether their service serves as a SUBSTITUTE for registering copyright with the US Copyright Office. I believe that it does not, and so the latter is still necessary to sue for both damages and legal fees in the case of a copyright infringement. Can anyone here clarify?

It won't! You still need to have your registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Without official registration with the Copyright Office, it's an uphill battle that will be too costly to pursue. So, let's not put every egg in 1 basket!

Yeah, Blockai's "claim your copyright" language is misleadingly similar to "register your copyright". Main reason to use this, then, is to track image use online. It'll be interesting to see how good it is at finding my images. Still waiting to hear whether they need RAW or JPEG, full- or reduced-rez.

Nice thought, though as Aaron pointed out, it still (at the moment) doesn't replace U.S. Copyright Office.

As someone said "first, there were bugs, then came the software". It is a new stuff, so it will take some time to settle. It doesn't pick up yet the title and description information from imported files, though I've got feedback that it is in the works (could be that it is on today).
There's no integration with Lightroom, which would be a good idea to have mapping between photos in catalog and their DIGITAL registration.
And there are definitely some other questions that will need to be answered before it will become solid, stable system.

For those with computer and programming background
There's nice web API that can be used without using web site, which means that creating plugins for other applications like Lightroom, etc. shouldn't be big deal.
I plumbed small app to update title and description information from exported files (essentially LR catalog) after I've uploaded few hundred photos.

Good part is that team behind the software is actively responding to questions and accepting any feedback. I presume that all the feedback and questions we will give them, will help them prioritize their HUGE (that's an assumption) TODO list.

the upside of pixsy is that it links with your flicker account and website to automatically find images. the matching is usually off but it's a nice feature.
those of us with thousands of images will find Blockai to be tedious at the least.

That's what I was going to say. Pixsy seems to be much more user friendly. + I had successful claims with them.

Seems like it might be similar to Digiprove? Anyone using that? They also time stamp and provide a "digital fingerprint" for each of your photos. Josh A Katz you might find it useful as there is a function where you can set it up to automatically protect new images in certain folders on your computer.

Thank you, Sally, I'll check that one out.

Service might be promising but customer service sucks big time ... I've sent an email then a reminder, 7 days passed and nothing :/

Peter House, the article's author, wrote, “You of course have proof of a time stamped certificate to show during legal proceedings.”

That’s not correct. To have legal standing (the right to sue) in the United States, you need your US Copyright Office-issued Certificate of Registration in-hand (in most US jurisdictions).

The Blockai certificate is like other time-stamping photo recording methods, including the poor-man’s copyright —it won’t work in the US!

By timely registering your photographs with the US Copyright Office before publication or within five-years of first-publication, you receive presumptive proof (prima facie evidence) that you have a valid copyright, and the facts stated in your copyright registration application are valid. Your Certificate of Registration proves to a federal court your photo authorship and its corresponding copyright (unless it’s otherwise refuted). See 17 USC § 410(c)).

Blockai might be a good free service to help monitor copyright infringements, but skip its copyright certification service and instead, timely register your photographs with the US Copyright Office. You’re copyright litigation attorney will thank you for timely registering your photographs. See 17 USC § 412.

Reading Peter House’s bio, he’s working out of Toronto. Canadians and all international professional photographers should timely register their freelance/stock photos with the US Copyright Office. International photographers who are part of the Berne Convention of countries, like Canada, do not have to register their photographs with the US Copyright Office to have standing to pursue American infringers. HOWEVER, they can only pursue actual damages and disgorgement of profits (if any!) vs. enhanced statutory money damages up to $150,000, plus the potential recoupment of attorney and legal fees. In the end, US, Canadian, and international photographers need to timely register their images to have leverage to pursue US-based infringers.