You Can Now Buy Iconic Memes As NFTs, But There’s A Hidden Cost

You Can Now Buy Iconic Memes As NFTs, But There’s A Hidden Cost
Image: Blake Boston

Original memes like Bad Luck Brian and Scumbag Steve are getting a fresh crack at the spotlight as NFTs bring digital art ownership back to the forefront of online conversations. In celebration of the newfound success of NFTs, the original creators of these memes are banding together to launch ‘Memeconomy’, an online auction event where the hero memes of yesteryear will be sold off to the highest bidder.

It comes after the iconic Nyan Cat was sold by creator Chris Torres for a whopping 300 Ether, worth $746,605. No doubt the other creators involved in the new auction are looking for a similar payout.

The 2010-era memes planned to be sold on Foundation over the next week include:

  • Coughing Cat
  • Kitty Cat Dance
  • Grumpy Cat – Keyboard Cat
  • Nyan Cat x Twerky Pepe Collab
  • Scumbag Steve

As of writing, the first auction is already over, with the iconic Bad Luck Brian selling for the equivalent of $48,000. This money will go to Ian Davies and Kyle Craven, the originators of the meme. ‘Bad Luck Brian’ is an unfortunate photograph of Kyle from high school.

After years of seeing the meme disseminated across the internet without credit, this auction means the pair will finally be able to cash in on the use of the image.

Due to the new nature of NFTs, the legal status of these memes is currently undefined. It’s unclear whether the new owners of the images will have the ability to control ownership going forward.

While they will own the ‘original’ non-fungible version of the art purchased, it’s likely that fair use will prohibit them from controlling the future use of the image.

NFTs have become wildly popular over the last few months as the increasingly ‘online’ nature of the world has people questioning the value of digital objects. It’s led to all kinds of strange art making real life money, including this mash-up of Pepe the Frog and Homer Simpson. But NFTs are having a deeper impact on the environment that’s less talked about.

While NFTs give creators the chance to get “recognition”, as Torres told The Verge, the process is also inadvertently contributing to increasing global carbon pollution and climate change.

As Gizmodo writer Brian Kahn puts it, “Crypto-art buying is built on the same blockchain technology currently frying the climate. As the potential bubble of crypto art inflates ever higher, so too do the risks it poses to the planet.”

So while it’s great to see creators finally being paid for their art, the popularisation of NFTs for sale also means this art is contributing to global warming on a mass scale.

If you have a spare few thousand dollars burning a hole in your wallet, it’s important to consider these factors before you dive in to purchase these NFTs. Sure, you’ll own a slice of juicy meme history — but there’s a cost far beyond the cash you spend.