Blockchains Without Cryptocurrency

Posted on 1/26/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Blockchain tracking of stock image licensing may be a way to improve the working environment for image creators without getting involved in cryptocurrencies.

One of the things that concerns image creators when they hear discussions about blockchains is that they always seem to be tied to collecting money in some type of “new economy” cryptocurrency like KodakCoin.

Most image creators I’ve talked to stop listening when cryptocurrency is mentioned, but the benefits of using blockchain technology and collecting money the old fashioned way with credit cards, dollars and monthly contracts with large users may be worth considering.

What Is A Blockchain

A blockchain is simply an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions. The information in a blockchain is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers – and continually reconciled. Since the information is not stored in any single location there is no centralized version for a hacker to corrupt.

The important thing for image creators to consider is that documents in a blockchain can be shared simultaneously by many persons even while new transactions are taking place. In theory, image creators could be given access to much more information than they currently receive from their stock agencies, and get the information, in real time, at their convenience, rather than waiting for monthly statements.

Given this idea of “shared documents” what are some of the types of information that could be shared in real time with creators. Much of this information it already being collected in licensing transactions,

Attached to each image uploaded would be: a unique agency ID, the creators image ID, ID identifying the creator and the date uploaded. Creators would be able to search the blockchain for anything in any of these categories.

Other information that could be collected and stored includes:
  • Total times an image is delivered in a search return
  • Total times viewed by customer (Often customers only review a small percentage of the images delivered before moving on to another search. What creators need to know is the number of times their image has actually been viewed by a customer.
  • This could be determined by the number of pages the customer viewed before leaving a given set of  search results, and if the image actually appeared on one of those pages.)
  • Total times viewed by unique customer (if the same customer, operating from the same computer did several searches and viewed the image multiple times it would only be counted once.)
  • Total times licensed.
  • Customer ID for each image licensed
  • Total gross revenue generated (Minus refunds)

  • For each image, all words used in a search that found the image, if it was viewed.
  • There should be a separate list attached to each word that tracks the number of times it was used in any search that eventually resulted in licensing.

What Creators Could Learn

1 – How often each individual image that is being delivered in a search return, appears so far down in the search return order that it is never viewed.
2 – Total times an image is licensed relative to being seen.
3 – Revenue generated by each image in the last (3 months, 6 months, year, ever)
    Is the image growing or declining in popularity?
4 – The creator would be able to search for all the images in his/her collection to determine gross revenue generated by the collection in the last 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, ever.
5 – The creator would be able to organize the point 4 search returns by: most downloads, most revenue generated (some images might have sold at higher prices and generated more revenue with fewer downloads) and image number.
6 – Creator would be able to search his/her collection for all keyword used and organize the return based on most popular. In this way the creator would be able to determine the subjects the creator shoots that are most in demand and the images in that category that are most in demand.
7 – The creator would be able to search his/her collection for a particular keyword and see all the images in that collection that have been viewed of licensed.
8 – The creator would be able to determine the keywords that are most important to add to new images and those that may be unnecessary because customers never seem to use those words.
9 – The creator would be able to search his collection by customer ID number to determine if a particular customer downloads more than one of his/her images.
10 – In the event an unauthorized use is discovered it would be possible to search a separate database for all the customers who have legitimately licensed the image and the dates those licenses occurred. (Stock agencies may not want to give creators full access to this database, but they could easily supply this information when needed.)


Payments could be handled in the same way as they are being handled now which would be much easier for customers than getting involved with cryptocurrencies. The agencies could attach the payment to the image record once that have it in hand and attach a payment date.
Then the creators would be able to easily determine when an image was actually in the hands of a customer and the amount of time it takes for the payment to be credited.

While the major agencies may resist the idea of cryptocurrencies there is no good reason not to supply individual creators with the above information concerning their own collections. This information would enable creators to determine just how frequently their images are being viewed by customers and customer reactions to those viewings. It would enable creators to make better decisions about what to shoot and how to keyword their images.

Armed with that information creators would be able plan future productions and produce more and better image of the type customers actually want to buy.

The current problem in the industry is not about getting paid for uses by legitimate customers, it is about having a better understanding of who is licensing images and how they go about finding them. It is about having easier access to better organized data and being able to follow up when unauthorized uses are discovered.  If sometime in the future making payments with cryptocurrencies does become more practical, then already having a blockchain in place to collect data will make cryptocurrency payments easier to implement.
I would hope that some of the major agencies would consider implementing some of these ideas.

Copyright © 2018 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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