Stock photography is big business. Shutterstock reported its revenue increased by 12.7 percent to $557.1 million in 2017, and Getty Images’ income for the 12 months ending September 2017 was $836.8 million.
These organizations act as brokers between the purchaser and the photographer, which bothers those who believe photographers should have a direct connection to anyone who wants to use their content.
Today, Wemark — a company creating a blockchain-based distribution and exchange system for digital content — has announced its blockchain technology-powered marketplace, which allows creators to license their content directly to customers.
Through blockchain technology, Wemark is looking to replace existing agencies and stock photography marketplaces by supporting direct transactions between creators and customers. The autonomous blockchain-based protocol processes payments, issues and registers licenses, provides access to the content itself, and distributes the revenue based on pre-set rules that cannot be altered.
“Digital content is a particularly centralized industry with hundreds of millions of creators and customers, yet less than 100 companies control the majority of distribution,” Wemark CEO and cofounder Tai Kaish told me. “Blockchain technology can prevent the new generation of marketplaces from gaining too much power and control.”
So how do photographers control rights and access, and how much can a content provider expect to make by selling their photos through the platform?
“Unlike the major agencies today, photographers will get control over the price of their photos,” Kaish said. “When content is approved for the marketplace, it’s registered on the blockchain, along with the price, license type, and restrictions selected by the creator. Purchasers will send tokens directly to the smart contract, and the protocol will automatically register a license and grant immediate access to the content.”
The company hopes to slash transaction fees, which are typically high among the current crop of stock photo marketplaces.
“Prices of photos will range from $0.5 to $500 per license,” Kaish said. “By slashing transaction fees (from an average of 85 percent to 15 percent), photographers are expected to make 2-4 times more revenue per license than [through] any traditional distribution channel.”
Wemark is introducing a dedicated token to power its economy for digital content. Wemark Tokens (WMK) will serve as the native payment system for the network, and as a way to reward all relevant parties for creating, sharing, and promoting digital content.
Today’s launch is just the first step for the company.
“Wemark focuses on stock photography, as it’s expected to be one of the fastest industries to adopt blockchain technology at scale,” Kaish said. “Right after photos, Wemark intends to launch new verticals, such as illustrations, videos, 3D models, stock music, and graphic assets. Additionally, we’ll expand the economy and allow more participants to create, curate, and promote content on the network.”
That includes a new rewards system that further extends the economy created by the launch of the marketplace.
“Wemark will introduce new ways for creators to share their revenue with co-creators (like models, actors, or graphic designers), reward the community for adding keywords and reviewing content, or use Wemark tokens to buy equipment and gear,” Kaish said. “Our vision is a thriving economy of digital content, powered by a blockchain-based protocol that’s aligned with interests of the entire community.”
Wemark is a VC-backed startup, and its advisors include Lars Perkins, former CEO and founder of Picasa; Keren Sachs, former director of content development at Shutterstock; and Lee Torrens, marketplace director at Canva.