Ascribe raises $2 million in seed capital; Onename announces API enabling developers to build apps with blockchain identities; Ripple discontinues Smart Contract platform Codius and more top stories for June 25.

Ascribe Raises $2 million

Ascribe, a startup helping artists and writers secure their intellectual property rights through blockchain technology, has raised US$2 million in seed capital. The backers involved include Earlybird Venture Capital, Freelands Ventures, Digital Currency Group, among other angels.

The startup was founded by Bruce Pon, Trent McConaghy, and Masha McConaghy, who have vast experience in banking, hardware, and curation.

Bruce Pon:

"We are working on securing copyright, giving creators a means to license easily and transfer their work and we're swallowing the Internet to give creators visibility on what happens to their work. The idea to use blockchain to allow artists to create digital scarcity germinated in mid-2013 when Trent and Masha asked ‘Can you own digital art like you own bitcoin?' Trent built a prototype in fall-2013. In mid-2014, we decided to leave our companies to start Ascribe full-time. Since then, we've been refining the technology and working with early users."

Onename announces API for developers to build apps with blockchain identity

Onename, an open-source identity protocol provider, has announced that it is opening up its API to the outside world. This enables developers to register, update, and search blockchain-based user identities. According to Onename, the new API is important mainly because it supports decentralization and greatly simplifies things for developers.

“The Onename API provides a common interface to a couple of separate sub-systems that we've built over the past year. Our current production system is built on Namecoin and we've solved several scalability challenges of Namecoin along with extending the basic functionality provided by the underlying blockchain.”

Overstock Reports Over $100k in Bitcoin Losses for Q1 2015

Overstock has reported losses of over US$100,000 in bitcoin in the first quarter of 2015. Its cryptocurrency value holdings have also gone down to US$233,000 from US$340,000 at the end of the previous quarter.

Group general manager Judd Bagley explained:

"The swing in the value of our cryptocurrency holdings is attributable to the sale of some of our non-bitcoin cryptocurrencies, the use of some of our bitcoin to pay for services including our membership in the Chamber of Digital Commerce, and changes in the market."

Group general manager Judd Bagley

FBI: Criminals are increasingly using CryptoWall Ransomware schemes

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released a Public Service Announcement informing that public that criminals are increasingly extorting and demanding ransoms in digital currencies.

According to the US agency, Bitcoin, and other digital currencies are payment methods of choice to criminals because of the levels of anonymity they offer.

FBI Public Service Announcement:

“Data from the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) shows ransomware continues to spread and is infecting devices around the globe. Recent IC3 reporting identifies CryptoWall as the most current and significant ransomware threat targeting U.S. individuals and businesses.1CryptoWall and its variants have been used actively to target U.S. victims since April 2014. The financial impact to victims goes beyond the ransom fee itself, which is typically between $200 and $10,000. Many victims incur additional costs associated with network mitigation."

Chinese Mining Pools Call for Consensus on Bitcoin XT

Three of China’s biggest mining pools have called for more of a consensus before switching to Bitcoin XT.  F2Pool, BTCChina and Huobi Pool have stated they will not support the Core developer Gavin Andresen’s proposed changes to allow for bigger blocks, as they stand now.

Wang Chun, F2Pool admin:

“We will wait and see what other core developers think of Gavin's proposal. But we will certainly not switch to the altcoin called 'Bitcoin' XT. It could set a very bad precedent if we do that. No matter who you are, you cannot make a new coin and declare it is 'Bitcoin' simply because you do not agree with other core developers.”

Chinese Mining Pools Call for Consensus on Bitcoin XT

Deal brings BTC option to over 20,000 Japanese retailers

The Bitcoin exchange Quoine has signed a deal with the payments network Econtext that will allow more than 20,000 Japanese merchants to accept bitcoins. The deal will benefit first online businesses before it is rolled out to include brick and mortar stores.

Econtext, which was recently acquired by Digital Garage Inc, a Japan-based technology investment company, provides settlement services to enterprises that accept credit cards, electronic money and loyalty points.

Quoine CEO, Mario Gomez Lozada:

"Our growth has been quite significant in terms of volume, it's been quite amazing and we continue to see volumes going up."

Ripple discontinues Smart Contract platform Codius

Ripple has discontinued its Smart Contract platform Codius, which was to allow people to build distributed applications. The company, behind the Ripple currency, has cited insufficient demand as the reason for the decision.

Instead, the Ripple Labs CTO Stefan Thomas has indicated that the company will build its own decentralized apps “manually.”

Stefan Thomas:

“We've realized that Codius is an optimization and - right now, with a small and nascent decentralization market - a premature one. We have no plans to work on a Codius 2.0, instead we are building our own decentralized applications ‘manually.’"

HSBC tight-lipped on blockchain project

Patrick Mang, innovation strategy lead at HSBC, has said that the bank’s strategy team is doing internal consultations to identify and measure the risk and strategic threats to the bank and how it should respond.

He, however, did not give any concrete information on the steps HSBC was taking in regards to Bitcoin and blockchain technology.

Patrick Mang:

"It's a very early stage conversation. It's clearly a thing that people are talking about so we are observing that discussion but at the moment we don't have any concrete thing to say on that."

Nasdaq selects Chain for its blockchain pilot project

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. has selected Chain, a San Francisco-based Bitcoin startup, as its partner in testing Bitcoin technology for the trading of shares in private companies. Chain provides the platform on which financial institutions interested in the blockchain can build related solutions.

Bob Greifeld, CEO of Nasdaq:

”We are excited about the potential impact of this new endeavor with Chain on the transaction process. As blockchain technology continues to redefine not only how the exchange sector operates, but the global financial economy as a whole, Nasdaq aims to be at the center of this watershed development.”

EU Banks Enforce Directive to Report Bitcoin-Linked Accounts Transacting Over €1,000

An anonymous Dutch bank employee has revealed a policy by major banks in the EU of monitoring and investigating any accounts that receives or sends over €1,000 connected to bitcoin. The banks appear to be enforcing a recent EU directive aimed at preventing financial systems from being used for “money laundering and terrorist financing.”

EU Banks Enforce Directive to Report Bitcoin-Linked Accounts Transacting Over €1,000