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| 1 minute read

Bonfire of the vanities?

As some purchasers of NFTs have found out to their cost, all they were buying was a digital certificate of ownership in the underlining subject matter, be it a tweet, film clip or whatever, not the intellectual property rights in that subject matter. In the same way, if I buy a first edition "The Hobbit" at an an auction, I don't acquire the copyright in the actual story. This is one of the reasons why many sceptics view NFTs as the latest manifestation of "The Emperor's New Clothes".

The Bored Ape pictures are an exception to this rule: you can buy the copyright in them and now Damien Hirst is following suit and cranking up the drama to boot. You can buy his artwork in either hard copy or NFT form and, if you choose the latter, he torches the hard copy.

This publicity stunt may go some way to inviting NFTs in from the cold as a legitimate medium for dealing in artwork and other intellectual property rights but, if so, the smart contract wording will need tweaking to fit this new scenario. 

And let's hope this new application for NFTs doesn't go off the boil as quickly as some others have, with bidders paying millions for a snippet of code no one is interested in buying from them. If that happens, bank balances and egos will be going up in flames as quickly as Mr Hirst's artwork.

Asked how he felt to be burning the works, Hirst said: "It feels good, better than I expected."


blockchain, copyright, digital transformation, creative industries