Kodak pivot to blockchain sends shares on a roll

Shares in Kodak, the photography company which has struggled to keep pace with changing technology, more than doubled on Tuesday after the 129-year-old group announced it was launching a blockchain business.

The New York state-based company announced that it was partnering with WENN Digital, part of the London-headquartered WENN media group, to create an encrypted digital ledger of ownership rights for photographers, using blockchain — the technology which underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

Kodak’s bet on blockchain technology is the latest in a long line of such moves to fire up investors. When Long Island Iced Tea Corp changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp in late December, its shares spiked some 289 per cent.

The internet has made it difficult for photographers to control their image rights, and many traditional sources of their income — such as payments for stock photography — have shrunk since the 1990s.

Kodak and WENN plan to use the technology to create stronger links between images and their creators. They will also create a cryptocurrency, called KODAKCoin, that can be used to pay photographers when an image they have created is used.

“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 Jeff Clarke, Kodak CEO.

Although Kodak was a US corporate giant in the era of celluloid film, it lost ground to Japanese film manufacturers and struggled to adapt to digital photography. Its market capitalisation has slipped to just $132m.

Kodak’s share price rocketed from $3 at the start of trading to close at $6.80, up 119 per cent.

Penny stock companies which have announced pivots towards the highly touted technology hoping to help solve problems from supply chain management to auditing have experienced similar bumps.

Large companies which have been indirectly linked to blockchain, even through rumours, are also receiving some indirect share price benefits. When a questionably sourced report appeared online linking Western Union, the money transfer company, to Ripple, the enterprise blockchain start-up, on Friday, Western Union shares climbed from $19.45 to highs of $22.21 on Monday.

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