You Can See the Blockchain in the Starry Skies of Art

Blockchain is proving to be a versatile technology with a wide variety of applications. The obvious application is cryptocurrency, but blockchain tech is also being used to build smart contracts, give land titles greater integrity, and secure government records. While these applications are still in their infancy, there is one application that has the potential to save an entire industry: preventing art theft.

How Bad Is Online Art Theft?

Would it shock you to learn that 64% of professional photographers have had their work stolen over 200 times online? It’s not surprising that 49% of the culprits were bloggers and social media users, but it might surprise you to find out that 28% of the offenders were businesses, and 72% of those businesses altered stolen work to avoid detection. In 2017 alone, piracy websites were visited over 300 billion times worldwide. Stolen music costs the music industry $12.5 billion a year. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding that the internet is to blame in many of these cases – just because you can take something online doesn’t mean that you should. It’s free to look at or to listen to, not to take.

Art Theft In The Non-Digital World Is A Centuries-Old Problem

Two men carry the Mona Lisa back to the Louvre in January 1914

Currently, Interpol has over 51,000 pieces of stolen artwork registered – even the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 and wasn’t recovered until the thief tried to sell it in 1913. Since 2004, the FBI has recovered $160 million in stolen artwork, a fraction of what is missing worldwide. Provenance is a major issue in the art trade, whether you are a buyer, seller, museum, or broker. Proving that you have the right to a particular work of art is a serious issue, and there may be an opportunity for blockchain to help provide that information.

What Is Blockchain, And How Can It Prove That You Own A Work Of Art?

Blockchain is a set of technologies that form a public ledger in a chain formation, each link of which contains data about the previous link. This makes any tampering attempt immediately evident, since the ledger should be exactly the same across the whole network. Comparing timestamps and hash values can indicate that a record is valid. This is key in proving provenance, which up until now has often been susceptible to forgery.

Currently, there are a few different options in the world of blockchain technology that can help prevent theft and forgery. The first is Verisart, a free blockchain-based service that uses image recognition software to verify works of art and issue certificates of authenticity. That registry stays on the blockchain until the verification is needed again. The second is Ascribe, which allows creators of digital works of art to create timestamped proof of ownership and transfer, and alerts creators when their works of art are used.

Blockchain Is Also Used To Make Art

Protecting art isn’t blockchain’s only function – it is actually being used to create digital art collectables. CryptoPunks, CryptoKitties, and AnimeCoin are all blockchain-based digital collectibles in which value comes from owning original one-of-a-kind artwork.

Blockchain technology is already changing the world. How will it change art? Learn more about blockchain’s impact in art from this infographic:

Credit: The Crypto-Collectors