Rarely does a new idea come along that’s nearly as revolutionary as it claims to be. This is largely due to the planet having been around for an extremely notable amount of time, and for the human race existing for a long time in their own right. Things have mostly been worked out, and our duties as the inheritors is to quibble over details and methods. This isn’t very exciting, of course. So, people hoping to become the next Galileo or Da Vinci continually search for a knob left unturned, something they can tweak to alter an existing idea enough that they can be seen as a visionary. When the word of the decade is disruption, all the dials are being tested for give.

One of the latest concepts to be disrupted? The idea of ownership of a digital work. In pursuit of, I suppose, the digital equivalent of a mantle to hang a jpeg on, and the needless incorporation of the blockchain for added mystique, we find ourselves stuck with, and stuck reading and writing about, the non-fungible token. However, as we find with many of the standards and businesses that are being “revolutionized” by entrepreneurs huffing nebulous visions of the future, every step forward comes with a step back. The devotion of tech to being “nimble” and “light on their feet” tends to leave people in the lurch as they fall helplessly through the loopholes the new standards create.

Uber did not invent the car service, it just made it more convenient. Non-fungible tokens didn’t invent the idea of rights to creative works. Now, we’ve watched as Uber has started to discover the limitations of labor laws, and remains profitable only in theory as they struggle to vertically integrate without admitting they are exactly what they thought they were better than: a car service with good UI. As theft of non-fungible tokens is on the rise, owners are discovering that the decentralization and lack of oversight that allows for easy creation and exchange of apes and punks and doodles et cetera is a double-edged sword, leaving them in the lurch. As they cry foul, asking for regulations to give them recourse in this situation, what they don’t seem to understand is that those protections have existed for decades, but unfortunately, were too boring for these forward-thinkers.

Pixabay

The SEC listening to you explain that you were scammed by a decentralized and unregulated market.

One such unfortunate soul, finding themselves at the epicenter of the NFT news cycle, and unwittingly becoming a demonstration of just how unrevolutionary it is, is actor Seth Green. Green was recently the victim of a NFT heist, which, despite the smoke and mirrors, is remarkably simple in nature. People may imagine that stealing an NFT requires diving into the guts of the internet nether, rotating 3D cubes and invading root directories. Most of the time, it’s nothing more complicated than simple phishing, which is what Seth Green fell victim to. As the tech-literate know, perhaps the most vulnerable point of ingress in any level of cybersecurity exists between the chair and keyboard. The security of the blockchain can’t stop someone from putting their credentials into a fake site.

So, as many others have, Seth Green was duped into logging into 0pensea.com, or whatever the fake site may have been, and quickly found the online wallet where he stored his NFTs burgled, absent of a couple apes there only moments before. Now, this is nimrod behavior, but in a pedestrian way. Phishing has existed forever because it’s simple and effective, regardless of the celebrity or fame of the bamboozled. It’s not his smartest moment, to be sure, but we’re not talking about buying magic beans here. It’s forgivable. The inclusion of NFTs adds a certain schmendrick factor, in that you should inherently know how risky they are. Is spending 6 figures on an NFT as an asset cooler than spending the same amount on, say, a similarly valued original work by artist Alexander Calder? Debatably. However, the Calder work has one massive boon: it can be insured.

But the true extent of the nimroddery here made itself known shortly after the news broke of the theft, and Green’s subsequent unheard pleas for the return of Bored Ape #8398. The largest pants-wetting here occurred when it was revealed that Green had developed and created a animated television show, the star of whom was none other than Bored Ape #8398. A character, which, thanks to one recent inadvisable wallet login, Green no longer owns any of the rights to. NFTs carry an immense amount of risk, as a highly speculative illiquid asset that exists in the shadow of the volatile cryptocurrency market. Owners and investors (hopefully) know that. To take that, and to then balance massively MORE layers of risk on this fragile asset, is a decision that borders on self-destructive. Now, he’s not only out the initial investment of the NFT costs, but he’s left with a television show that’s dead in the water because the main character is now owned by someone named DarkWing84 on Twitter.

I think there’s a lot to be learned on the exact purpose, or lack thereof, of NFTs from this whole debacle. I think Green represents perfectly a starry-eyed NFT adopter that’s so drunk on the new that he never questioned why the old works the way it does. It all comes back full circle to the base promise of NFTs, and the lipstick that particular pig is wearing. Wow! Finally! A way to verifiably own a piece of art or idea that doesn’t physically exist! Except… that’s not new. It’s existed for a very long time, in the form of something that, in terms of sexiness, is the complete opposite of the non-fungible token: copyright law. 

a butt farting

Pixabay

For example, I had to check the intellectual rights of this drawing of a butt farting in order to legally use it.

Trust me, as an internet writer, I can very much assure you that ownership of digital images IS a thing. Every time I include a stock photo of two businessmen shaking hands, it’s something I have to take into account. It’s boring, and obnoxious, and I bet browsing OpenSea is a lot more fun than researching fair use and Creative Commons licenses. That trudge, however, exists for something that Seth Green would sure love some of right now: legal protection. If you’re going to build an entire television show around an artistic property, make sure you have it in f**king writing. I’m sure it feels a lot cooler to exchange NFTs between digital wallets than to send someone a pdf on DocuSign. If you want to buy an unregistered Corvette with the VIN scratched off, that’s your prerogative. I’ll be over here with the Volvo that there’s a record of when somebody boosts it from a parking lot.

Top Image: Keith Hinkle/Pixabay

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