What is ascribe?

ascribe is a service that empowers creators to truly own, securely share and track the history of a digital work. We do this by giving creators the tools to lock in authorship, set the intent and gain visibility into where their work spreads. By doing this, creators can be recognized while giving buyers an easier way to discover and reward them.

Why should I use ascribe?

ascribe is for any creator who wants to protect and manage their creative work. ascribe lets you share your work knowing that your authorship claim is secured and enables buyers to collect and truly own your digital work. With ascribe, selling digital property is as easy as selling physical property. ascribe allows you to transfer intellectual property (IP) to someone, anywhere in the world, simply by email. We aim to democratize IP by making it easily accessible to the individual.

I've just ascribed my first work. What did I just do?

You’ve just claimed authorship for a work and declared that you are the creator or rights holder of the work. This claim is timestamped onto a public, secure database called the blockchain. To further secure your claim, make sure that your ascribe ID is shown with the work or in the caption. You can find the ascribe ID on the work detail page.

How can I share my work?

In the work detail page, click on the share button and then enter the email of the recipient. If you’re created editions, you can also copy the URL (i.e. https://www.ascribe.io/app/editions/1HUtF9uLjLdwGhos26nZKAFBn7vyBpLFuw) and then share it via email or social media. We’re in the process of integrating social media plug-ins to make it easier for you to share your work.

How can I verify the registration of an artwork?

To verify the registration of a work, go to www.blocktrail.com/BTC/address and enter the ascribe ID (i.e. 1HZNdQQUsroq1Z3dqRF6kq6wEdUFC9zovD). There you will see the date and timestamp of the registration. To view the artwork details, you need the unique URL of the work or edition from the creator.

What can I do on ascribe?

1. Claim Authorship – it’s simple for you to claim authorship of a work. Upload your file, enter some information and then confirm that the work is truly yours, then “ascribe” it. Our technology then creates an unbreakable bond between you and your work that can’t be taken away.

2. Transfer Rights – transfer your work along with license rights to someone else by simply sending an email or let a marketplace do it on your behalf.

3. Set Limited Editions – create limited editions that are authentic and unique. Limited Editions give people the chance to own your digital work just as with physical work.

4. Track the Chain of Ownership – by registering your work, a chain of ownership (provenance) will stay with the work as it is transferred from one owner to the next. Clean provenance gives collectors confidence they are buying authentic work that came directly from the artist or creator.

5. Generate a Certificate of Authenticity – each work comes with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) with a unique cryptographic ID and the complete ownership history that you can print out.

How does the technology work?

When a creator registers a work on ascribe, a unique, cryptographic ID is generated and then stored on the blockchain. The blockchain is a secure database where transactions can be recorded and never deleted. The cryptographic ID is a composite of the digital artwork and the artist’s identity, creating a permanent and unbreakable link between the artist and their work.

What is the file size limit that I can upload?

We handle files up to 25GB, but your internet connection might not. When uploading large files, bring a bit of patience and meditate as the ascribe swirl goes round and around as the bits and bytes are transferred to our server.


Protect Your Work

How does ascribe protect my work?

We create an unbreakable bond between a creator and their work. We use some really cool technology under the hood to make this happen. Because there’s an unbreakable bond, collectors and buyers know that they are getting authentic work, directly from the artist. ascribe keeps track of all the transactions related to your works – transfers, loans and consignments. We are building tools to scan the web looking for copies of your works and give you transparency.

What are authentic editions?

Artist define the number of authentic, limited editions of a digital work. The artist can prove to a collector that there are a limited number of editions. For example. If you’re promoting your project, you can set 100 editions and then distribute them. Collectors know that they are getting something authentic, directly from you. Each work or edition gets its own web page and URL that you can share with others.

How do you keep my work from being copied?

No one can protect digital from being copied. Rather, we ensure that no matter where your work spreads, it can always be attributed back to you and collectors can check whether the rights to the work are clear.

Why do I need a stamp of authorship on my work?

By registering your work on ascribe, you are claiming authorship for your work and lock it down on our safe, secure, 3rd party service. This gives collectors confidence that they are buying authentic work that comes from you. The chain of ownership (provenance) will stay with the work as it is transferred from one collector to the next.

Can I track if my work has been downloaded or shared?

With WhereOnTheNet, everyone has access to the ascribe analytics and can use the tool to find occurrences of their own work or trace how and where any image has spread on the internet by simply pasting the image’s URL into the site.  By using an image similarity match method, it means that even if the photo has been slightly altered – cropped, filtered, edited –WhereOnTheNet can still find it.

Will I still be protected if ascribe disappears? What if the blockchain disappears?

If ascribe were to disappear, an artist or collector can still find proof of their ownership directly on the blockchain. So long as the blockchain exists, the digital property is secured. Also, if the blockchain somehow disappears but ascribe is still active, we can port ownership records to another trusted technology to keep things going and ensure that your claims stay secure.

I have my website where I post my work; I can prove that the piece is mine from that website. Why should I use ascribe?

If you are the creator of a work of art, the law gives you copyright in that work. By registering your work on ascribe, you further protect your claim of ownership on an independent 3rd party registry.

Register Works

Who can register a work?

The rights holder. This may be the creator of the work or the collector who currently owns the work. If you own the copyright but did not originally create the work, use the artist’s name as the creator.

How many files can I upload?

You can upload as many files as you’d like via our website.

Do I need to specify a number of editions when I upload a work or can I leave that box unchecked and specify later?

You can specify the number of editions either upon registration or later, but if you want to transfer the rights to a work, you must have created at least one edition.

Can I have more than one edition for my work? Are those editions unique?

Yes. Each edition is unique. edition 3/10 is different than edition 7/10. Each edition can have a different owner, its own provenance, and so on. For each edition, you can transfer, consign, loan and share it.

What if I have one work that consists of many files?

We’re working on a simpler grouping mechanism, but currently you have a couple of options for handling this:
1) Put all the files into a zip archive, and upload that as the work, or
2) Register each file separately, and give them titles that relate them. For groups of audio files, like a music album, it’s probably best to register each file separately so that people can play your work directly from their browsers. It’s a little more work on your end, but your friends will appreciate you for it.

What are "Display Instructions" and "Technology Details”?

These are special fields for digital artists. Display Instructions is where an artist includes their own terms and conditions for how the work can be used (i.e. “display on a 40 inch screen”). Technology Details can be filled in with “ created with Photoshop.”

What happens when I “delete” a work?

Once you have registered a work, no one can delete the ownership history (provenance) from the blockchain. However, it is possible to delete the work from the ascribe database which erases all accompanying information that you stored with the work so we won’t be able to trace it or collect changes in provenance anymore.

Can I register physical works?

Yes. Upload a photo of the object and then track the ownership history using ascribe.

Manage Works

Who can a consignee be?

A consignee can be anyone that you trust to sell your work.

Can I loan or rent something that I own?

Yes. Loaning a work means granting someone a temporary license for specific range of dates. A typical example is a loan of an artwork to a museum for an exhibition. You can also rent your work: it’s just a loan, but you charge money. Since we don’t handle the money part, loans and rentals are treated identically.

What does it mean to “share” a work?

By sharing, you are exposing the work to the recipient but no rights are transferred. You’re simply letting someone else see it. Because they have the link, they can also re-share it. The recipient doesn’t have any rights to the work.

How do I edit the Title, Author or Year of Creation?

You can’t. The record on the blockchain is unchangeable. The best way to rectify this is to delete the work and re-upload it. This keeps the records on the blockchain straight and allows for a clean and verifiable chain of provenance.

How do I use ascribe in conjunction with social media and other sharing sites? (Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Deviantart, etc.)

First, register your claim to your work on ascribe. By putting the photos on a site, you grant that site limited rights within their platform to display them. You retain all other rights, so if you want to transfer rights (to display, to resell, or just to share), you can still do so via ascribe.

I deleted some editions, why does it show the original number still?

We decided to take a philosophical approach to this by looking to the way things work with physical art. Deleting editions is like burning them. They are gone but when the artist created them, they signed every other copy with “edition X of Y.” We can distinguish between “number of editions alive” and “number of initial editions.”

I've consigned work to someone else but want to delete it now. How?

The consignee needs to un-consign the edition. The owner can request an unconsign for each edition. Unfortunately unconsign cannot be done in bulk mode at the moment if you’ve consigned many editions.

How do I license a work? Do you have a standard licensing contract that I can send them via ascribe?

When you transfer the file, an email mask appears and you can specify the rights that you transfer. For instance, it can be as simple as “I transfer this file to you with the rights of use, modification and resale. You are explicitly prohibited from sharing this design in a public space.” This “contract” is then locked into the provenance of the work and will serve as sufficient evidence. Our Terms of Use also sufficiently cover standard licensing usage, so when your recipient opts in to use ascribe, they are also agreeing to standard terms.

How do I use the Certificate of Authenticity?

The Certificate of Authenticity (COA) is proof that you are allowed to sell a work or edition and that it’s authenticated content. A buyer will receive a COA, confirming that they are the rightful owner of the work or edition.

Does a Certificate of Authenticity require any normal signature when given to anyone?

The COA has a built-in cryptographic signature.

Digital Art

How does ascribe help the nascent digital art market?

Without ascribe, the digital art market struggles to gain credibility and the trust of collectors. Digital works can be copied and shared freely, without attribution to the artist and without a verifiable chain of ownership. Without the assurance of authenticity of digital editions, prices for digital works stay low and a resale market for digital is impossible because the chain of ownership and authenticity is unverifiable.

ascribe uses revolutionary blockchain technology to create digital uniqueness by allowing artists to define limited edition artwork that can be verified and proven, and can’t be faked. Limited edition artwork that has clear provenance retains its value. With residual value, digital art can be resold in secondary markets and attract more collectors.

How does ascribe help rights holders and collectors?

ascribe lets you share your digital creations but still have some control and visibility on where it spreads on the internet, because we are building technology to scan the internet and we keep track the chain of provenance from one person to the next. When collectors are buying works, they can check the ascribe Ownership Registry to verify the authenticity, giving them confidence and security.

Is ascribe intended for only digital art?

The inspiration for ascribe came from digital art, but our technology can be used for any type of digital creation. ascribe was originally meant to be used to facilitate authentic digital editions of video art, design and photography. Since rolling out, creators have found new uses for the service. Archives electronically stored photographic documentation of physical artworks, including paintings and sculptures, to enhance ownership claims for collectors and trace artworks in the future. Authors, musicians, crowdsourced campaigns and comic publishers created authentic works to give to their fans.


How does ascribe work with marketplaces?

ascribe encourages marketplaces to sell authentic digital work from artists and creators direct to consumers. Marketplaces can integrate into the ascribe API (http://docs.ascribe.apiary.io/) within hours to have all the ownership processing done automatically by ascribe. We enable registration, transfer, consignment and loans. ascribe allows marketplaces to sell authentic digital work and give consumers peace of mind that they are buying work that benefits creators directly.

What legal and licensing supports does ascribe provide to marketplaces?

ascribe has built-in legal and licensing contracts that define the clear commercial and usage intent of the artist or rights holder – drastically simplifying legal overhead to enable marketplaces to easily acquire and sell digital works. Marketplaces can also upload their own custom contracts for their specific needs.

Because the unique cryptographic ID and the legals are handled in an open and accessible registry using an open, transparent database where anyone can verify and prove ownership of the digital work – marketplaces and platforms can sell work with the assurance that ownership rights are locked-in.

What is a white label marketplace?

If you’re starting a new marketplace, you can use our white label marketplace-in-a-box set-up a new marketplace quickly. Alternatively, we encourage entrepreneurs to set up a shop using shopify.com and then integrate with ascribe via our API. For more information, write us at marketplace@ascribe.io.

Are you a marketplace?

No. We support creators and rights holders to claim authorship and then encourage marketplaces to sell the works to buyers. We act as a backbone for digital ownership and handle the ownership processing – which includes a registry of digital work, recording licensing and rights and giving rights holders tools to trace the spread of a work across the internet.


Which file formats can be registered on ascribe?

Any and all file formats are accepted. We use the browser to render images, movies, audio files and more. If the browser cannot render your file, you can still use the download button to access the file.

How is the file stored?

The files are stored in our secure and private cloud. This means that ascribe also functions as an archival tool for the artist / creator / collector.

File formats change, how does ascribe handle this?

Because ascribe is storing all files on our cloud, updating the formats is a very simple task. Formats will be updated with technological advancements. When you upload a file, we automatically convert it to a format that directly renders in HTML5 (the most recent browser language).

Is the original file changed somehow, like an invisible watermark or something?

The original file remains untouched. We take a set of signatures of the file to use for tracing the spread of the file through the Internet.

If my work is changed by just one pixel and ascribed by someone else, what happens?

A completely different cryptographic ID (hash) will be generated and stored on the blockchain. We have tools for recognizing similar files based on the content of the file, to provide solid evidence of an infringement. If the case ended up in arbitration or a court, you’d likely win.

What is the SPOOL?

SPOOL is ascribe’s ownership registry. It stands for the Secure Public Online Ownership Ledger. The ascribe SPOOL is designed to execute ownership processing such as registration, transfer and provenance verification. The SPOOL sits on top of the blockchain. If you want to see the technology behind the SPOOL, we open source our code on github: https://github.com/ascribe

Can I make transactions using the SPOOL protocol directly on the blockchain without using the ascribe web app or API?

Yes. You don’t need to rely on ascribe to maintain the link to your work. By using ascribe, you store metadata, archive your files on the cloud and easily share them.

Why use the blockchain? Why not simply a SQL database?

The blockchain allows us to store your authorship and ownership claims on an independent 3rd party registry. A SQL database is vulnerable to hacking and forces you to be reliant on ascribe to secure your ownership claim.

Can I go completely off-blockchain, for example when I sell the work directly to someone else?

Yes, if you like. However, we don’t recommend it because the chain of provenance will get broken, which can diminish the credibility and value of the work.

Who can verify my ownership of a piece of work?

Anyone. ascribe generates a cryptographic Certificate of Authenticity (COA) for you to demonstrate your ownership to others.

How can I integrate with the ascribe API?

Our API is documented at http://docs.ascribe.apiary.io/. For further support, write us at support@bigchaindb.com.

Privacy & Security

When I register a work, who can see that I've registered it?

Only you. But then you can share a unique link to the work to individuals privately or via your favorite social network – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Vimeo or MyCatSpace. Anyone with the link can view your work.

Will anyone be able to download my work from here?

The URL for each ascribed piece is public, but secret. If you share the URL others will be able to download the work. It’s important to note that downloading does not equate to ownership. You can use the transfer feature if you want to transfer ownership.

Is it possible to delete my ownership record?

Once you have registered a work, no one, can delete the ownership history (provenance) from the Bitcoin blockchain. However, it is possible to delete the work from the ascribe database. If you do this, it means all the metadata associated with your claim will be deleted from our databases.

Do you store my password?

No. We use a special feature called an HD wallet to securely generate your credentials when you sign-in. Nothing is stored on our servers, ever.

What happens if I forget my password?

We have an email-based password recovery process. To reduce the risk of fraud, we timestamp the password-recovery action into the Bitcoin blockchain. To recover your password, write us at password@ascribe.io.

I don't want people to know that I purchased a certain piece of work. Does ascribe make purchases public?

All purchases are by default private and discreet. If you don’t tell anyone, no one else will know.

Is the Bitcoin blockchain secure?

Despite many of the world’s best hackers trying to break it, the Bitcoin blockchain has never been compromised.


Why can't I transfer my work?

If you’ve just registered it, try giving it a moment to make sure it has had the chance to generate on the blockchain. Also make sure you’ve created at least one edition. Refresh your page, and it should give you the options to transfer, consign, loan and share when it’s ready.

I've tried to transfer the ownership, but it's still "pending transfer."

Ahh, the recipient needs to accept the file. Then the status will change. Give them a call to have them close the loop.

Why doesn’t my file upload?

There are a number of things you can try:

1. Mac users – Please click on your clock in the upper right hand corner of your screen, “Open Date and Time Preferences,” and make sure that you have “Set Date and Time Automatically” checked. If you are even one minute off from Amazon Web Services, this will cause glitches in your upload.

2. Try a different browser

3. We can handle gigantic files, so usually if you are having trouble uploading a large file, it could be your internet provider that is not cooperating with the upload. If you continue to have trouble, please give us a ping. We are always available to help, and always grateful to be alerted to frustrating bugs.

If your file is big and your bandwidth is limited, it might take a bit of while to complete an upload. Internet service providers sometimes become suspicious of large amounts of upload activity and will throttle your connection. A progress bar will tell you if your file is uploading. Once the file is completely uploaded, the black status bar remains and the ascribe logo disappears. You will know that an upload is finished once the Register button is enabled.


How does ascribe relate to copyright?

We think that most of the value creation in the world today comes from creative work that manifests itself in some sort of digital format. Whether it’s text, audio, video, photographic, virtual/3D or even code, it’s all stored digitally. But copyright law was never meant to be wielded by normal people. They were designed for big publishers. We are working to make copyright accessible for everyone.

If I register work with ascribe, have I done enough to register a copyright claim?

All works are protected by copyright as soon as you create them. By registering with ascribe, you have established a claim of authorship that is recorded and timestamped. No matter where you are, ascribe helps artists and creators to establish authorship and set licensing terms, so that people know if they can use your work and under which conditions.

What about the U.S. Copyright Office?

For works created in the U.S. by U.S. citizens, there are additional benefits to registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office in a timely manner. If you want to sue someone for copyright infringement, you can only claim “statutory damages” if you have registered your work. Statutory damages allow you to claim a set amount of money in damages even if you can’t prove you suffered monetary loss, which can be hard to do. This rule only applies to works created in the U.S. by U.S. citizens. For everyone else in the world registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not necessary. Registration with ascribe helps everyone to protect their rights by providing additional evidence in a dispute over authorship of a work, and our tracing tools can show you where your work has been used online.

How long does the protection last?

Once you ascribe something, attribution is forever. Copyright protection varies by country but generally it lasts for 50 to 70 years after the death of the creator, depending on the legal jurisdiction. You can find out more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries%27_copyright_lengths

Can ascribe help me to enforce my rights or deal with infringements?

Not directly. We try to give all creators the transparency on where their work is spreading on the internet. With this information, creators have more power to decide what to do. Our goal is to give everyone the chance to claim authorship, license your work how you choose and be able to trace how it spreads on the internet. By doing this, every work is attributed to its artist or creator.


How does registering on ascribe actually help "stamp" ownership?

For the creator, registering a work on ascribe gives evidence that you had a work at a particular point in time, which is especially useful if there is a dispute over authorship. It’s the same effect as putting your artwork onto a DVD and mailing it to yourself. But it’s more secure than that, not to mention more convenient. For a buyer or collector, it demonstrates a secure chain of ownership, showing provenance back to the original creator of the work.

Intellectual property law is too traditional and outmoded. It's evil.

The law is a tool. Until now, it’s been hard to use, and that’s given big corporations an advantage. But imagine if you could take what was traditionally a tool of the powerful and allow anyone to use it to their own benefit. Copyright is part of the law and ascribe lets individuals benefit from it. We hope that over time that copyright laws will be updated to make sense in the digital world. Until then, we’re leveraging the existing laws to help individuals use them.

I think information should always be free.

We want creators and rights holders to have the power to decide how they want their work to be used – whether for commercial or noncommercial purposes.

How can ascribe support enforcement and monitoring of copyright infringement?

We can’t change the laws of physics of bits. No matter what the law says, digital files are free to copy, distribute, and store.
ascribe helps creators to claim authorship and define the terms of usage. ascribe gives the buyer the security that they are buying authentic digital property, approved by the creator, that they can use and sell in the future as an asset. ascribe doesn’t control the number of copies that might get out into the wild – no one can. Ultimately it’s about access versus ownership. There might be millions of copies in the wild, but there’s only one owner of the title for each edition.

How do you handle conflicts in authorship and ownership claims?

We record all authorship and ownership claims without judging. If there is a dispute, traditional channels such as the courts can be used. Once a legal judgment is made, ascribe will update the authorship records.

In which countries is ascribe’s service valid?

Various international treaties provide baseline requirements for copyright law for signatory nations (i.e. Berne Convention). Each nation implements its own laws, and there is some variance among the laws. We’ve worked closely with our legal advisors to make sure your copyright protection is effective in (at least) Europe, the U.K., the U.S., and Canada. We have a lawyer and copyright expert on staff, looking out for the interests of creators and collectors.

Creative Commons

I use Creative Commons (CC) licenses on my work. Why bother with ascribe?

ascribe is complementary to Creative Commons. In fact, we’re experimenting with CC France.
CC licenses are an easy-to-use way to let people use your work for free, with some conditions on that use (e.g. requiring attribution). But CC licenses on their own don’t have a secure way to record attribution. ascribe allows attribution to be recorded and tracked. Think of us as the missing half of CC. Even if you want to let people use your work for free, you can use ascribe as a way to timestamp ownership using cc.ascribe.io.

What's a Creative Commons license?

Creative Commons licenses are an easy way for you to tell everyone the work can be used freely under certain conditions – for example, as long as the user attributes the work to you (BY) as long as the work is not modified (ND) or isn’t used commercially (NC).

Isn't licensing something under Creative Commons the same as putting it in the public domain?

No. If you put something in the public domain, you lose your rights in it. Anyone can use it for anything. Under the Creative Commons licenses, you retain copyright on the work. Creative Commons licenses allow others to use your work only and exclusively on the terms of the license you’ve chosen.

What Creative Commons license should I use?

Choosing a license means figuring out what you want people to be able to do with your work. The questions are:
– Do I want people to be able to modify my work? (No Derivatives)
– If modifications are allowed, do I want people to have to share any modifications they make to my work under the exact same conditions as the original work? (ShareAlike)
– Do I want people to be able to use my work commercially? (NonCommercial)

Creative Commons explains their licensing options better than we ever could. Read it at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/.

What does NonCommercial mean?

Creative Commons says NonCommercial means “not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.” As a general rule, not-for-profit and private individuals can use the work for non-commercial purposes, while businesses intending to use the work for commercial benefit are excluded. However, non-commercial is a controversial terms, which can mean different things in different places, depending on legal interpretations. For example, a German court has held that noncommercial means personal use only. If you’re not sure, ask your lawyer.

I licensed my work for NonCommercial use. Now a business wants to put it in an advertisement. Can I grant them a license?

Yes. You still hold the copyright to your work. Since Creative Commons licenses are not exclusive, you are free to grant more permissive licenses to anyone on whatever terms and conditions you choose.

Can I still sell editions to a collector if I license my work under Creative Commons licenses?

Yes, Creative Commons does not affect your usage of your own works. You can sell digital editions (with the help of ascribe, or other platforms) even if the work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Can I revoke a Creative Commons license?

No. Creative Commons licenses are non-revocable. You can stop distributing the work under that license but people who are using it already retain the rights to use the license, as long as they respect the terms and conditions of the license. You may still ask them stop.

Disclaimer: the statements in this document are written for understandability over legal exactness. Therefore, these statements are not to be taken as legally binding. For that, please refer to our Terms and Privacy & Cookie Policy.