When it comes to registering art on a blockchain, one of the biggest issues is ensuring works of art are correctly and truthfully attributed to the artist who created them.
When my team at the Blockchain Art Collective (BAC) was looking into which type of blockchain to use, we had to make a decision between a public blockchain and a permissioned blockchain.
The key difference between the two is access.
A public blockchain has no barriers to entry — anyone can join and do what they like on it. Whereas a permissioned blockchain requires the identity of the users to be verified before they can join.
Ultimately, the decision to use a permissioned blockchain came down to one factor: security.
Here’s why it’s so important for registering art and what that decision really means for the artists:
Companies using permissioned blockchains don’t own the network data.
No business can afford to take security lightly in the blockchain art space. There’s simply too much on the line when it comes to the potential value of what’s being registered.
Even though a permissioned blockchain isn’t a free-for-all like a public blockchain, it can still maintain a decentralized ethos.
For example, the data on our permissioned blockchain isn’t going to be owned by the BAC. It will stored on the blockchain, which will be upheld by the ecosystem of people and institutions that participate in it.
The ecosystem will choose how it’s used, which rules govern it, and which features it has.
No blockchain company should want to dictate or prescribe terms to others and force people to hand over data in order to participate. The company is not the administrator, the ecosystem is the administrator. But someone needs to build and maintain the rails for the ecosystems to run on, which is why we are spearheading the building of infrastructure alongside key stakeholders in the art world ecosystem — from artists and authenticators, to galleries and beyond.
Ideally, the job of the blockchain company revolves around verifying the identities of the people joining the permissioned ecosystem in order to ensure the legitimacy of the network.
The only barrier to entry is simply providing your identity.
The idea behind a permissioned blockchain is that it’s not open-sourced. It doesn’t allow everyone to do whatever they please with it.
Companies need to be gathering credentials, passwords, assets. And once participants identify who they are, they’ll be able to register their own artworks to the blockchain.
For now, this system still needs humans holding other humans accountable. As time goes on, companies will be able to automate the verification process with self-sovereign identities.
These identities are important because they allow people to use someone’s digital footprint to prove their identity, ideally making it easier for people to participate without compromising security.
I’m sure there will be some who say this isn’t in the spirit of decentralization, because people can’t anonymously do whatever they want. But if we’re creating a shared source of truth, we need to know that a legitimate identity is tied to claims of authorhood and ownership.
We take this seriously because these are rare pieces of artwork that artists have worked hard to create. Whether you view it this way or not, art is an investment — no matter if a piece is worth $5 today or $5 million tomorrow.
So the identity checks allow the good actors in the system to control the gates. It’s not meant as a way to keep people out, but rather a way to uphold the truth.
Having even a single layer of security ensures people will get credit for their work.
There are already a handful of blockchain platforms that allow absolutely anyone to create and register artwork.
When the stakes are low, that’s great. It’s a fun way for people to get involved and start exploring the technology.
But for some networks, it’s a good idea to thoroughly vet anyone who’s joining. You want to ensure that a piece of art is truly the work of this artist, that it’s registered, and that it stays connected to the artist over the years.
Each asset or artwork registered to the blockchain has to be intentional.
I’d compare it to the little box you click on a website that says, “I’m not a robot.” It’s a small extra step, but it provides a level of security.
Some people may not like taking that step, but it provides the very real benefit that someone can’t rip off a piece of art.
The security isn’t about creating a “who’s who” network or keeping it exclusive by any means. It’s simply about ensuring users can trust the system and trust their artwork is safely registered and tied back to them.
It’s why we chose to use a permissioned blockchain, and it’s why we’re so excited to help build out this ecosystem for the art world.
Thanks for reading!
Thoughts on using permissioned blockchains? Comment to share!
Our team at the Blockchain Art Collective wants to make sure art world changemakers and innovators — whether individuals or institutions — are having an impact on this growing ecosystem.
Sound like you? Fill out the form to apply to the Blockchain Art Collective Working Group.