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Blockai Raises $547k for Blockchain Digital Rights Platform

(@pete_rizzo_) | Published on March 15, 2016 at 12:30 BST
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Blockai has announced it has raised $547,000 in seed funding to relaunch as a blockchain copyright service.

Originally envisioned as a ‘Netscape for Bitcoin’ in 2015, Blockai (pronounced 'block-i') attempted to turn the blockchain into a kind of social media stream that would allow users to send messages and authenticate items. Now, Blockai is bidding for a new life as a tool that allows artists to authenticate and claim copyright over images.

According to AngelList, Social Starts, Sterling VC and Vectr Ventures contributed funding alongside roughly 15 angel investors including Betfair founder Josh Hannah and Epsilon Records founder Nate Houk.

In interview, CEO Nathan Lands called the latest version of the Blockai product "dramatically different" from its initial release, indicating that now any use of bitcoin or the blockchain is largely hidden from users.

Lands told CoinDesk:

"Artists don’t want to send bitcoin. So we simplified [Blockai] down and found that was something people wanted, a simple way to get proof of ownership."

A similar idea is currently being approached by blockchain industry startups Ascribe and Mediachain, among others, though Lands sought to position Blockai as more user-friendly.

Further, investors sought to stress the size of Blockai's potential market as a reason for their support.

"By just looking at the size and value of stock photography libraries and the myriad of photo storage services professionals use like Flickr, Google Photos and Apple's iCloud you can start to understand the scale of how useful Blockai can be and that's just digital photos," investor Ron Williams told CoinDesk.

Pricing tiers

While other startups focused on this use case are hoping to attract customers with a freemium model, Blockai has a different approach.

The startup now changes a small cost to handle the insertion of records into the bitcoin blockchain, sending payments from its wallet through to the network.

To users, Blockai offers three packages for credits on its service, charging between $0.20 and $0.50 per registration through Stripe.

Lands positioned the price of the service as a benefit to users, as he said it reduces the likelihood that a user would fraudulently claim ownership of any works.

"In artist interviews, we've found that artists wanted us to charge so they know how we make money, there isn't some kind of thing where 'we'll figure it out later', which for them could mean that we'll force advertising on them," he said.

Using the service

At sign up, Blockai offers users one free credit to trial the service.

Users are first prompted to drag and drop a file for which they wish to claim ownership.

Blockai then creates a record of the file in the bitcoin blockchain, producing a certificate that artists can maintain for recordkeeping.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 5.42.38 PM

Lands contends that the certificate could be valuable should the artist ever seek to bring a lawsuit against someone for infringement, even if the legal validity of this claim hasn't be tested.

"The certificate includes metadata that is uniquely links back to their name and email address and includes data such as the hash, date registered, file size and file type," he said.

Still, Lands acknowledged that the service can help provide an extra layer or protection for this class of professionals.

Lands went on to state that he believes his work is step one of a larger opportunity that could be seized by the startup, concluding:

"There is a still a tremendous amount of work to be done related to digital media assets and putting individuals in control of their creations on the Internet. We strongly believe that all starts with the registration process."

Images via Blockai

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