The blockchain is a fitting recourse for artists and creators who, for decades, have felt shortchanged. With the rise of NFTs and tokenization, technology rewards those who truly deserve recognition and prevents abuse of intellectual property rights. There could be no better demonstration of how blockchain and NFTs are coming to the rescue than in memes and the rise of NFT Memes.
What is a Meme?
A meme is a creative idea represented as an image, video, GIF, and other sharable files. Memes can be used to show humor and sarcasm and explain something the society relates to funnily. Since memes are a social phenomenon and a part of a subculture, they quickly go viral, used as a communication tool to boost engagement.
Over the years, thousands of viral images and videos have been shared by millions of viewers across various social media channels. For example, the viral meme video on YouTube, "Charlie Bit my Finger," racked up hundreds of millions of views. On the other hand, "Disaster Girl" and "Nyan Cat" were internet sensations, at one time used by global publications and political figures to advance a message.
Leveling the Field
Although viral and used prominently, the digital nature of the internet and the ability to copy and reuse content without attribution has been seen as a lost opportunity for original meme creators. Meme creators cried foul, claiming that their creations, sometimes created painstakingly, go viral and are illegally reused by corporations and global media outlets without their permission.
However, things are beginning to brighten up for digital artists and meme creators as the meme gold rush and well-developed NFT markets take shape. NFTs are tokens that allow creators to store digital files like images, videos, and audio. While they are transferable, NFTs are usually of limited edition and unique. An NFT token is unique, even if it may appear as duplicates on the eye. NFTs introduce a new way for clients to have total ownership of their creators since minted images or videos, including viral memes, can be traced as it changes hands between owners.
NFTs in Promoting the Meme Culture
This digital blockchain provenance is why many meme creators, including the original owner of "Disaster Girl" and "Charlie bit my Finger," are minting their assets as NFTs and selling them for hundreds of thousands of dollars on public NFT marketplaces. For example, "Charlie bit my Finger" was sold for $760,999 in May 2021 before being pulled down by YouTube. Even though copies of the videos may exist, the original owner of the video is the new buyer, 3fmusic, but that won't prevent the spread of the NFT on other social media channels.
NFT memes will change ownership. However, since NFTs are not copyrights but akin to signed autographs, memes will be dissipated across social channels in a way that benefits and recognizes meme creators, creating space for proper attribution in recognition of talent.
While critics of the increasing wave of viral meme monetization and conversion into NFTs claim that the internet will be limited when memes are permanently deleted on social media channels, more memes will likely be converted to NFTs without muzzling communication or slowing down dependent cultures.
Blockchain and NFTs are welcomed technologies that reward deserving users for their creativity and level the field, building an environment that sparks creativity. Once a meme creator is deservingly compensated--by selling their assets as NFTs--, they will be back to the drawing board to tap on their creativity in a virtuous circle, promoting the meme culture with more gusto.
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