Copyright Concensum, a blockchain-based global copyright registration service that advertised itself almost exclusively to photographers, appears to be completely dead.
The platform was positioned similarly to how the Content Authenticity Initiative operates today but was instead based on cryptocurrency. The service was launched in the spring of 2016 as a way to provide photographers with a method of protecting their images through a blockchain-based registry.
“Photographers and other image rightsholders can securely register their images and applicable usage rights in this blockchain-based registry and, for the first time ever, monitor how their pictures are used across the world,” Copytrack wrote at the time.
“Images are continuously tracked online upon registration to ensure maximal transparency. The best part about the registry is that after registration, image rights are permanently and irreversibly embedded in the Blockchain.”
The company said that tracking unlicensed images before this offering was a laborious task, since metadata is often lost once a photo is posted online. Concensum promised to solve this by making it easier to show image ownership. Copyright holders would verify their identity at the time of upload and a has value for the image and information about the photographer would then be written in the blockchain.
“This image registration process permanently links images with their respective copyright holders and allows rightsholders to easily prove their ownership. When an image is registered with Concensum, a certificate that serves as proof of copyright ownership is granted to users for each registered image,” Copytrack promised.
Once an image is registered with Concensum, Copytrack would protect it by continually monitoring it and if the image was detected anywhere online, the photographer would be notified.
On paper, the promises don’t sound that farfetched, especially now that the Content Authenticity Initiative is trying a similar method — albeit without the overt cryptocurrency and blockchain angle.
Concensum now is completely dead. Its concensum.org URL expires in May, but it currently no longer links to an active site. Other than an old social media presence and what appears to be a forgotten YouTube channel, Concensum no longer exists.
What existed of the site before it was taken offline can be viewed at least in part thanks to the Wayback Machine.
According to journalist David Gerard, there was a lot about Concensum that was misleading from the very beginning. Concensum was actually a separate business located in Singapore — a long way from the Germany-based Copytrack. The whole business endeavor was based on a Copytrack white paper and was eventually established as a separate entity.
“The ICO (initial coin offering) was advertised by Copytrack GmbH, using Copytrack GmbH’s track record of achievements. But the ICO was run by, and the funds sent to, a company in Singapore of a similar name, Copytrack Pte. Ltd. — with no corporate links to the German company. Copytrack GmbH are now being sued over the ICO because of this,” Gerard writes in a blog post from 2018.
Gerard also takes issue with the idea of protection that Copytrack and Concensum were selling. The company said it would automatically “detect and connect all metadata with the registration data” as well as “create a unique fingerprint of the image and store the hash in the blockchain.”
He points out that this is not the same as ownership.
“Of course, that’s not the same as ownership — which is a function of (a) who’s performing the action of taking the image (b) the legal circumstances concerning the ownership of the copyright thus created — and nothing whatsoever to do with data such as the camera’s ownership, which Copytrack also wants to record,” Gerard says.
“The explicit intention (archive) is to have this function as a register with legal standing. It’s not clear how this will ever happen — private ‘copyright registers’ are a common scam, for example, and rarely provide anything that has ever had legal power.”
Now that Concensum no longer exists, it’s not clear what will happen to any “coins” or protection that a photographer might have purchased through it in the past. Very likely, it will cease to be of any value — if it ever held any to begin with.