Monday, May 29, 2017

Binded - Unwanted S&M For Artists & Creatives

There are plenty of ways to gag and bind your time, creativity, and intellectual property. The latest one, Binded (a rebranding of a company called Blockai) is a startup offering up worthless "certificates" - selling snake oil to the creative masses.

On their website they proffer "we give you a copyright certificate as proof which can help protect you against copyright infringement." Unfortunately, they should be saying "might" or "may", and even then, that's not true. In a March 14, 2016 TechCrunch interview (here), when the CEO is asked if there is any legal benefit to their "Blockai Certificate", the CEO responds “we believe that a record created on the blockchain using Blockai would serve as sufficient evidence in a court of law.”


U.S. Copyright is governed by federal law, and the only "copyright certificate" that has any standing in a U.S. court is one from the United States Copyright Office.  These "Blockai certificate" offerings are as worthless as the myth of the "poor mans copyright", whereby you mail yourself a copy of your work, trying to use the postal cancellation date as proof of the date created and that you own it - the theory being that you open the envelope in court for the first time. This myth has been busted by so many reputable publications and entities, that the copyright office even addresses it here, writing "There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration."

During their launch last year, Fstoppers ran an article (here), where the author offered false hope,  writing "it adds another layer of protection for the creator". Let's be crystal clear here, Blockai offers no additional protections for the creator. A creator would have more protection wearing a torn prophylactic.

The snake oil being sold on their website is described as "copyright made simple" then "the easy way to protect your images, free forever."  

While this video, a pitch to TechCrunch from a year ago,  reveals something very different. They are charging between $0.25 and $0.50 per image you want to register.  And, you can't make this stuff up - their still frame for the video pitch is rainbows and a unicorn - as mythical as the protections they are saying they give you. Consider that a $65 official registration with the U.S. Copyright Office allows you to register an unlimited number of images in one single registration, whereas $65 will get you just 260 images registered with Blockai.

Their Terms of Service state they are "A web application that allows a user to claim copyright ownership of an image they created."  What they are doing does not protect your images, let alone, forever. In fact, what it does, is create a false sense of hope that the creator is doing something that does protect them.  The Vimeo co-founder  Zach Klein is quoted on their website as saying "finally, copyrighting is simple and fair." A photographer is quoted as saying "Binded makes it simple to manage my copyrights." These are quoted, obviously, as the opinions of these people, so they can say whatever they want, even when it's blatantly inaccurate. The Vimeo co-founder suggests Binded is "copyrighting", which it is not.

Further, it should be noted that this isn't the first time Klein has been criticized for being a part of a "scam", Gawker wrote here in 2013 about him pitching, in Tom Sawyer-esque fashion, for people to pay to help make him a bathhouse in the woods of upstate New York. With Klein having been named to the advisors board for one of the founder's other ventures, Quickcoin, I'm not sure I'd consider his endorsement exactly unbiased. It certainly is not accurate.

This isn't the first foray into delusion for the mouthpiece of Blockai. The founder of Blockai and Binded, Nathan Lands co-founded a service in 2014 when he was 29 called Quickcoin, billed in this article as "Bitcoin so simple, even Mom can use it", and was conceived "over noodles at Ramen Underground". In this Recode article about it, he throws a Bitcoin fair wearing "a lush gray velvet smoking jacket" with Lands quoted as saying "we’re trying to make bitcoin available to the average consumer" and then "Listen, I’m a capitalist. I like money a lot. And bitcoin means different things to everyone, but you can still derive a lot of value from bitcoin, a lot of value." Yet, some two years later, they've not raised more than their original $50k, and their website is down. To use industry-speak, it seems they burned through their funding and ran out of runway.

So, what do you do when you've burned through your funding? Move on to another ill-conceived idea, this time, trying to dupe artists and creators.  After getting just over $500k a year ago, 5 days ago on May 24th they received just under $1M, for a total of $1.5M in funding, according to Crunchbase here.

The most telling and accurate statement on the entire Binded website is in their TOS, where they write "3.2. Website Accuracy. Although we intend to provide accurate and timely information on the Binded Site, the Binded Site (including, without limitation, the Content) may not always be entirely accurate, complete or current...Accordingly, you should verify all information before relying on it, and all decisions based on information contained on the Binded Site are your sole responsibility and we shall have no liability for such decisions."

And there you have it. They can sell whatever scam they want dressed up with rainbows and unicorns, but you're on your own when that scam screws you over and you're left gagged and "binded" to your bedposts by their false promises.  What they should be collecting when you register for their services is your safeword.

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