Kodak announces it will issue its own cryptocurrency, stock rises in response

Kodak announces a cryptocurrency called “KODAKcoin," suggesting it will help solve photographers' licensing issues

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published January 9, 2018 6:28PM (EST)

It seems like cryptocurrencies are gaining mainstream appeal beyond the computer engineer crowd. Kodak announced on Tuesday that it’s launching KODAKcoin, a new cryptocurrency that will “empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management.”

Since the announcement, Eastman Kodak Co. shares have reportedly increased 77 percent from $1.39 to $4.49, according to Bloomberg. The company previously filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and has struggled since emerging from it. 

“For many in the tech industry, ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ are hot buzzwords, but for photographers who’ve long struggled to assert control over their work and how it’s used, these buzzwords are the keys to solving what felt like an unsolvable problem,” said Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke in a statement. “Kodak has always sought to democratize photography and make licensing fair to artists. These technologies give the photography community an innovative and easy way to do just that.” 

The cryptocurrency, which will operate as tokens inside the KodakOne rights management platform, will be created in a partnership with WENN Digital, an operations team with “deep expertise in proprietary blockchain development,” they claim. The company’s initial offering of the KODAKcoins opens on January 31, according to the report.  

Kodak isn’t the first unconventional company to add a cryptocurrency to its business model though. In December, Long Island Iced Tea — a New York-based beverage maker — announced it was rebranding, changing its name to Long Blockchain Corp. In the announcement, the company said it believed that blockchain technologies are creating “a fundamental paradigm shift across the global marketplace.” Its stock price surged on the announcement. 

Bloomberg has a running list of strange companies — from sports bra developers to e-cigarette makers — that have tried to pivot to cryptocurrencies.  

Not all industry leaders are supportive of the cryptocurrency hype. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s chief executive officer, lashed out at Bitcoin in September when he told investors at a conference that Bitcoin was a “fraud” and “worse than tulips," according to Bloomberg. Later on, Dimon told Fox Business Network that he regretted making those comments. “The blockchain is real. You can have crypto yen and dollars and stuff like that,” Dimon said. Maybe JPMorgan wants in?  

That still doesn’t take away from the structural flaws innate to many cryptocurrencies, as devastating hacks of cryptocurrency banks have shown. Economist Joseph Stiglitz argued recently that bitcoin is "successful only because of its potential for circumvention, lack of oversight."  

Perhaps that’s the appeal for big companies, too. Indeed, CNBC called Kodak's cryptocurrency gamble "the last-gasp hope for Kodak." If the cryptocurrency is sufficiently unregulated, while also serving as their last chance to keep the company afloat, then it’s a smart final move—until the crash comes, of course.

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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