Kodak’s dubious attempt at blockchain

Here’s Kevin Roose in the New York Times on Kodak’s ‘dubious’ attempt at blockchain and their KodakCoin.

In theory, photographers will be able to upload their images to a platform called KodakOne, create a blockchain-based license for each image, and use web-crawling software to scour the internet looking for copyright violations. Instead of using dollars, photographers can have clients pay them in KodakCoins.

KodakCoin’s initial offering, scheduled for Wednesday, is expected to raise as much as $20 million. But there are few details about what that money will be used for, or why a similar system could not be built without the blockchain. There is also a more obvious question: Why would photographers want to be paid in digital tokens, rather than cash?

In several calls with KodakCoin leaders, I couldn’t get straight answers to these questions. And KodakCoin’s white paper, a technical document that details the plans for the currency, is a 40-page mishmash of marketing buzzwords and vague diagrams…

When we first heard about this project, we questioned Kodak’s ability to make this happen and don’t think any better of their chances now:

First, despite the name, KodakCoin is not actually a Kodak project. The company behind the offering, WENN Digital, is a California-based affiliate of a British photo agency that specializes in paparazzi photo licensing. Under their licensing agreement, Kodak will not receive any direct revenue from the public offering. It will receive a minority stake in WENN Digital, 3 percent of all KodakCoins issued and a royalty on future revenue.

Cameron Chell, a lead adviser to the KodakCoin project, told me that the initial offering represented a “seminal moment” for Kodak, and that the company’s interest in blockchain technology was a savvy long-term investment

Now, about those coins. You might think that a digital currency that is trying to “democratize photography and make licensing fair to artists,” in Mr. Clarke’s words, would be easily accessible. But because of regulatory requirements, KodakCoins will be available only to so-called accredited investors in the United States. An accredited investor is defined as a person with a net worth of $1 million or more, or an annual income above $200,000.

How many cryptocurrency-obsessed millionaire photographers do you know?

 

via Kodak’s Dubious Blockchain Gamble at The New York Times

Amazon enters healthcare

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced on Tuesday that they would form an independent health care company to serve their employees in the United States.The three companies provided few details about the new entity, other than saying it would initially focus on technology to provide simplified, high-quality health care for their employees and their families, and at a reasonable cost. They said the initiative, which is in the early planning stages, would be a long-term effort “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

via Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Team Up to Disrupt Health Care at The New York Times

Looking beyond Bitcoin riches

From the New York Times recent article on looking beyond Bitcoin (and the crypto mania), which has seen too much of a focus on money. There are true technology changes and there will be some big winners. Well worth a read. Here’s a few more excerpts:

The true believers behind blockchain platforms like Ethereum argue that a network of distributed trust is one of those advances in software architecture that will prove, in the long run, to have historic significance. That promise has helped fuel the huge jump in cryptocurrency valuations. But in a way, the Bitcoin bubble may ultimately turn out to be a distraction from the true significance of the blockchain. The real promise of these new technologies, many of their evangelists believe, lies not in displacing our currencies but in replacing much of what we now think of as the internet, while at the same time returning the online world to a more decentralized and egalitarian system. If you believe the evangelists, the blockchain is the future. But it is also a way of getting back to the internet’s roots

The article cites the move from open protocols to the current state of internet we have now.

For all their brilliance, the inventors of the open protocols that shaped the internet failed to include some key elements that would later prove critical to the future of online culture. Perhaps most important, they did not create a secure open standard that established human identity on the network. Units of information could be defined — pages, links, messages — but people did not have their own protocol: no way to define and share your real name, your location, your interests or (perhaps most crucial) your relationships to other people online.

Facebook is the ultimate embodiment of the chasm that divides InternetOne and InternetTwo economies. No private company owned the protocols that defined email or GPS or the open web. But one single corporation owns the data that define social identity for two billion people today — and one single person, Mark Zuckerberg, holds the majority of the voting power in that corporation.

And there’s a good summation of the ultimate potential of blockchain to fix some of the problems that have arisen.

The blockchain evangelists think this entire approach is backward. You should own your digital identity — which could include everything from your date of birth to your friend networks to your purchasing history — and you should be free to lend parts of that identity out to services as you see fit. Given that identity was not baked into the original internet protocols, and given the difficulty of managing a distributed database in the days before Bitcoin, this form of “self-sovereign” identity — as the parlance has it — was a practical impossibility. Now it is an attainable goal. A number of blockchain-based services are trying to tackle this problem, including a new identity system called uPort that has been spun out of ConsenSys and another one called Blockstack that is currently based on the Bitcoin platform. (Tim Berners-Lee is leading the development of a comparable system, called Solid, that would also give users control over their own data.) These rival protocols all have slightly different frameworks, but they all share a general vision of how identity should work on a truly decentralized internet.

 

Full article at Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble at The New York Times

Crypto & Taxes, in the NYTimes

“Every time you transfer a cryptocurrency, you might trigger a gain and pay a tax,” said Selva Ozelli, a tax lawyer and accountant who has recently written about the tax implications of virtual currencies.In late 2016, the I.R.S. made it clear that it was searching for cryptocurrency tax evaders: The agency sent a broad request to Coinbase, the largest Bitcoin exchange in the United States, requesting records for all customers who bought digital currency from the company from 2013 to 2015.Coinbase balked, but a court ruled that it must provide the records of roughly 14,000 customers, fewer than 1 percent of its patrons, who made transactions involving more than $20,000 of virtual currencies.

via When Trading in Bitcoin, Keep the Tax Man in Mind at www.nytimes.com

The IRS problem with Crypto

Cryptocurrencies could pose a huge threat to governments should they be unable to collect taxes.

But the bigger concern about cryptocurrencies may be the damage they could do, in the long run, to government finances through lost tax revenue.

The core technology underlying cryptocurrencies, known as blockchain, is premised on anonymity: Transactions are public but linked only to an electronic address. This is a big part of what makes blockchain attractive.

But anonymity is also the main fuel for the underground economy, which is now conducted largely via cash. The underground economy is a significant source of lost tax revenue. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that it loses around $500 billion annually because of unreported wages alone. And the underground economy in the United States — estimated at 8.4 percent of output — is relatively small compared with those of other countries.

If cryptocurrencies were to replace cash as the preferred anonymous medium of exchange, they could significantly expand the underground economy because they are so much more convenient than cash.

via Opinion | Why the I.R.S. Fears Bitcoin at The New York Times