The emergence of a buzzing crypto tech startup scene around Zug’s Crypto Valley has given unusual blockchain projects the impetus to take big ideas to the market. As an example: the country’s biggest telecom provider, which is backed by the Swiss government, has announced Noow, a blockchain service that allows customers to access digital artworks.
The move means that millions of Swiss residents will have access to art on the blockchain via their TV.
For the artists themselves, the move offers far more than just exposure.
The blockchain “creates the technological prerequisite to treat virtual works as editions or even individual pieces and prevent their unwanted distribution,” artist Jonas Baumann told Crypto Briefing from his base in Basel, Switzerland.
The Challenge of Protecting Digital Assets
Digital art is often featured on screens in public places such as the lobbies of hotels or offices. However, before the age of blockchain technology, there was no universal way to protect the copyrights of digital artists. Once a piece is published on the web, anyone can download a copy to their own computer without the artist knowing.
By solving the double-spend problem, blockchain enables digital assets like artworks to take on the inimitable properties of their real-world counterparts. For this reason, protecting intellectual property has often been touted as one of the many ways that blockchain could shake up the legal sector.
Noow Is the Time for Digital Art on the Blockchain
Noow is an art-on-the-blockchain service launched by Swiss tech startup dloop. An artist uploads their work onto the platform, where it is stored in the cloud and the ownership and provenance details are logged on the blockchain.
Once the art is on the platform, business owners or art lovers can stream the artwork, either through a web app, or a viewer app on smartphone or tablet.
Anyone using Swisscom TV in Switzerland can use the Noow app to access a curated selection of 100 works of digital art from 30 creators, represented by non-fungible ERC-721 tokens. Viewers can select and purchase within the app, and receive a certificate of authenticity. The platform also handles payments to artists using smart contracts.
Although the initial selection offered through Swisscom is relatively small, future developments will include curated exhibitions and partnerships with galleries. Swisscom holds 35 percent of the market share for TV services in Switzerland, putting blockchain capability into the homes of more than 2.7 million residents.
The Noow website states that it expects the app to scale globally in the future.
What Blockchain Means for Digital Artists
Jonas Baumann, one of the artists featured on the Noow app, says that blockchain can have a “significant influence” on the art world, by preserving the scarcity and uniqueness of digital works.
“For me as an artist, this is an important step,” Baumann said. “[N]ot least because my rights as the creator can be better protected, but also for the artworks themselves because they gain credibility through their uniqueness.”
“As someone who already works at the interface between digital and analog art, the project is also interesting from a conceptual standpoint. By opening up a virtual gallery, the mechanisms of the analog art world are mirrored digitally, including exhibitions, distribution channels and resale of works. It remains to be seen if the established art business admits and welcomes a digital addition, or if the still-seemingly fleeting virtual works take time to gain their deserved acceptance. Like video art in the 60s and 70s, virtual art has to fight for its raison d’être, and I think that Noow is an important step in the right direction.”
Baumann’s statement encapsulates the pivotal role of blockchain in bringing unprecedented value to the industry of digital art. Furthermore, buy-in from prominent partners such as Swisscom (51 percent of which is owned by the Swiss government) helps to increase trust in the underlying technology.
It also offers a route into the adoption of blockchain without having to navigate a cryptocurrency exchange. This development could prove to be the ultimate tipping point for the convergence of blockchain and digital art.
Finally, something good on TV.