Picture yourself at the Super Bowl, a sold-out concert, or a high-octane NBA game. History is unfolding, right before your eyes. But are you even watching? Probably not. Most likely, you’re taking a photo on your phone.
Photography and videography have never been more central to sports, music, and entertainment. But according to two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis, they’ve also never been less respected as mediums.
“There was a time in America, during our renaissance, when photographers were just as famous as celebrities, when they were treated as artists,” Davis told Decrypt in an interview this week. “I think they're more treated as a commodity today.”
Davis is hoping to change that. And he thinks he can do it using blockchain.
On Friday at NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, Davis will announce the creation of SLiC Images, a rights management platform for photography and video backed by NFT technology. SLiC Images is a subsidiary of Sports Lifestyle in Culture, a platform created by Davis to facilitate the distribution and monetization of independent cultural content.
As Davis sees it, photographers—despite their centrality to capturing culture—are currently getting a raw deal from the corporations benefiting from their labor. A few professional photographers sell photos of sports games and live events through pre-existing deals with image libraries and media outlets, often forfeiting rights to future profits generated by those works in the process. Independent photographers, meanwhile, often have few opportunities to profit from their works while maintaining ownership.
The star athlete and entrepreneur has experimented with blockchain technology for the better part of a decade, and he’s confident he can change that paradigm with a blockchain-backed media platform. SLiC Images will allow creators to tag their works with unique digital signatures and license them for commercial use for clearly delineated timeframes via a transparent bidding process.
“Now photographers as a collective can have ownership in the channels, relationships and partnerships that are created from their work,” Davis said. “They get to benefit from it.”
The project is being built with a $250,000 grant (a third of which has been disbursed so far) from NFT platform Mintbase, which operates on the NEAR blockchain. SLiC Images was chosen as one of 16 projects funded through the Mintbase Grant program, which aims to support technically sophisticated NFT projects that might otherwise go overlooked by more mainstream funding sources.
“We looked for folks that want to go a little bit deeper, instead of the surface level world of the current NFT market—a lot of candy machines, and a lot of PFP hype,” Mintbase co-founder Nate Geier told Decrypt.
Geier thinks that NFT technology could have an immediate and far-reaching impact on the heavily centralized world of image licensing.
“Someone takes a visual shot of an historic event. All sorts of folks all around the world want access to that immediately. Imagine being able to take that photo, add a permanent license to it, upload it to a market, start a bidding war, auction it off and stick it on a blog within five minutes,” Geier said. “It's just simple. It's so simple.”
Smart contracts underlying SLiC-backed photos and videos will also be customizable to allow for split ownership; every party associated with a work will continue to receive royalties generated by it upon every resale.
Despite the centrality of NFTs to SLiC Images’ core function, though, Davis is hesitant to associate the contentious technology with his burgeoning platform.
“For a while, we definitely don't want to call them NFTs,” Davis said, with a laugh.
He may be on to something there. In the last year, amid the current bear market and numerous high-profile company collapses, crypto and NFTs have both taken a beating in public perception. Even if blockchain is the answer to photographers’ woes, Davis thinks it might be wiser to sell people a useful product than to focus on that product’s technical composition.
“I mean, it’s a photo. It's a collectible photo... That is definitely where we want to start, is just by explaining what it is, and the utility behind it, instead of trying to explain the technology,” he said. “People tried explaining things from a technology standpoint, and culture hasn’t adopted it.”
SLiC Images is still in development, with no exact launch date. However, Geier and Davis are hopeful to have a prototype of the platform ready to show at ETH Denver at the end of this month.