Last week, NFTs made it back into the mainstream in typically uninspiring fashion. (You know you’re in vogue when Rolling Stone is the outlet most often covering you.) Basically, alleged web3 music platform HitPiece stole a bunch of famous artists’ songs and minted them as NFTs. I say ‘alleged’ because it might’ve all just been a ploy by stilted ex indie label execs to convince industry stalwarts to go crypto native before they get screwed over by, well, crypto natives. I knew a guy in college who used the same strategy to get a job at Quicken Loans. He hacked their security to show them they weren’t secure. Days later, he was on payroll, funneling it offshore.
This weird ouroboros of criminals corrupting corporations to force them into more corruption is nothing new, but it does feel particularly well suited to web3. We’ve spilled plenty of ink on how vulnerable crypto technology is to scams and financial theft, but we haven’t delved as deep into the intellectual property theft fucking creators equally hard. Over the weekend, creators lashed back against Gumroad — a digital marketplace for musicians, writers, et al — when they teased NFT exploration. Reason being, for as many artists as the NFT boom has turned into millionaires, there’ve been many more who had their work taken without permission, minted, and sold as a successful collection, with no mechanism for them to cash the cheque.
Not ideal, especially for us, when our whole raison d’être is convincing creatives to adopt web3 technology. We still believe it has potential as a transparent way for creators to get paid. But the ‘secure’ and ‘permissionless’ buzzwords we’d usually include in that sales pitch have taken on different meaning as of late. When a lot of money starts flowing through anonymous platforms, it’s only natural the same old assholes will take advantage and give their cons a cool-kid-approved facelift. We’d be stupid to ignore them. Or would we?
Earlier today, I stumbled on a great conversation in the Crypto Writers Discord regarding how NFTs have changed the rules of publishing. One user was asking if there was a new standard for web3 publications. Can you reuse work across platforms? Republish a previously published piece? Mint the same thing twice? Answer is: all of the above are frowned upon, and easy, and legal to do. Just like stealing and selling someone else’s work. Permissionless means there are no rules.
As of yet, in the web3 wild west, there is no significant regulation to speak of. Only the ones we create. And while average Twitter users, Discord channel members, or cautiously curious newsletter readers may have no formal apparatus to take action if someone breaks one, we can always fall back on our chimpanzee ancestors’ tried and true method. Ignore them. Leave them to starve in the (meta) rainforest. Kick them out of the pack. Will it get back the fortune in fake Internet money they made on the JPG they scraped off your Instagram account? Maybe not. But, online, attention is the real currency. And next time you’re voluntarily giving yours to Rolling Stone, remember. The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference. Worked for Jesus.