NFTs 1, Blain Zero

NFTs are in the press for all the right reasons – insider trading, zero value and scams, but as digital assets in a digital world have enormous potential – for making your wallet lighter….

Blain’s Morning Porridge, 13th May 2022: NFTs 1, Blain Zero

“It doesn’t matter how rich you are – you know when you are being ripped off…”

This Morning – NFTs are in the press for all the right reasons – insider trading, zero value and scams, but as digital assets in a digital world have enormous potential – for making your wallet lighter….

Friday 13th… Damn and tarnation… I have just been caught and ripped-off by a Non Fungible Token – NFT. They do have some utility after all…

This morning, I was going to write a blistering piece about CryptoWinter, the scams behind tethercoins, the absolute pointlessness of bitcon, write up the insider trading stories that drove NFT prices, and take apart the technobabble bullsh*t crypto and NFT shysters use to their useless products.

Instead, I find myself preparing to face the courts against Reuters, the venerable news agency I hold in high regard.

Instead of a top-down perspective of the dangers to humanity posed by libertarian proto-fascists and their Bitcoin and Crypto Mythos… let’s look bottom-up at how NFT’s will eventually ruin your weekend…

I have no beef with Reuters – it is one of the great organisations on which modern society is founded on: an independent international press agency. Unfortunately, they have outsourced their photo-library to a bunch of rapacious money-grabbers – and they are determined to rip their pound of flesh from the Morning Porridge after I made an innocent mistake.

Reuter’s photo-library must be a wonderous thing – images of all the pivotal characters and moments across history and society since the mid 19th century. As such it is a thing of enormous value. It is a practical illustration of the potential of digital wealth. Effectively, any photo-library, or even art catalogue is now a repository of NFTs.

Reuters owns their photo-library mages and is surely entitled to reap returns from them. In the past you could view these photos for free in history books, maybe cut them out and put them in a frame. Which is great in theory, until you discover you can’t use a picture of your grandfather’s regiment (The Cameronians, since you ask) on the Somme in 1916 in an email because it’s owned by Reuters… and the digital universe means they will know… they will know and charge you if you use it..

NFTs and the Reuters photo library are not dis-similar. An NFT infers ownership just like a picture in a photo library. If I use the five-words Jack Dorsey used in the first ever tweet: “just setting up my twttr”, should I then pay Iranian Crypto entrepreneur Sina Estavi, who bought the NFT of that first tweet, for using them? After all its now his property. He might have paid $2.9 milion for the NFT of the Tweet (for which he was recently offered $10k at auction, which he turned down), but does he now own these words? I will let the courts opine on that.

Earlier this year I wrote an article about Persimmon, the UK home builder that’s been accused of all kinds of scams ripping off customers, riding rough-shod over communities to build horrible urban sprawl estates, contributes little in terms of critical infrastructure and amenities, but gets away with it, allegedly, because of the amount of money they denote to a particular political party… The article attracted some attention and much favourable comment from readers, and was quoted in the press.

This week arrived an email from a Picture Rights Agency threatening me with action for unlicenced use of a Reuter’s photo in that article.

Let me explain from the outset. I made a mistake. I now acknowledge I used a Reuter’s photo, and even though it was an innocent mistake, I should pay for it. The question is how much? I don’t write the Porridge to make money – although it would be nice if more of you subscribed. After paying for the website and mailchimp it’s enough for some beers. 80% of my day is spent doing my day-job.

I illustrated the article with a photo I found on Google of a Persimmon building site which focused on a board bearing the company’s name. It is an entirely undistinguished photo in all respects. I did a cursory check to see if it was copyrighted and reckoned it was not. Apparently it was. I had made the mistake of using someone else’s copy of the Reuters photo.

I emailed the agency, explained it was an innocent mistake, apologised and immediately took down the photo from the Morning Porridge Website. I offered to make a donation to charity.

The agency called me. Not good enough. I was informed: “Copyright infringement does not require your knowledge or intent. We understand that your unauthorised use may have been unintentional but being unaware of licensing requirements or copyright ownership does not change your liability for the infringing use.” Fair enough. My bad.

Then they told me I owed them £350 (!!) for the unlicenced use of the photo – equivalent to a year’s use of the Reuter’s photo library. I offered to pay the whole £350, on the condition Reuters then gave me a one-year licence. No. They demanded the £350.  They told me: “Settlement of the unauthorised use claim does not constitute permission for future use of the imagery.”

Being a Scotsman, I told them the suggested £350 was outrageous for a stock photo. I offered to negotiate. They hummed and hawed, but agreed and offered me a small discount on condition I paid immediately. I offered them 50%. They refused.. They have warned me action will follow if I do not pay. They also told me: “The terms of this settlement offer shall be kept confidential, except as may be required by law”, effectively gagging me from writing about it.. Oh dear….

The picture agency have advised me to consult “IP” and “digital rights” lawyers. That’s standard practice – making me weigh up the costs of paying up, rather than paying legal bills – which experience has taught me will escalate out of all proportion to the original bill.

The immediate result is .. there will be fewer photos with the Morning Porridge, unless they are my own…

More widely.. how long before we discover we don’t own our past or future because someone else claims they own it in NFT format…? Sadly, this is what the future looks like. In a few years time you are going to receive multiple bills from NFT owners for looking at images on the net or other places of images they own. Meanwhile, I am checking the many times I have been quoted on Reuters and am thinking of sending them a bill for £350 for each time they used something from the Porridge… I will negotiate…

I will pay my bill to Reuters – I sincerely think they are a great company.

The agency chasing me for payment are just doing their job, but not nicely. I am concerned about the rapaciousness of the modern world, and am trying to look two steps forward. It worries me what the shysters who aim to run the world in the name of libertarian crypto and NFT rights are capable of..

Five Reasons to Hate Crypto

BBerg – Crypto-Market Panic Subsides With Prices, Tether Stablizing (really?)

FT – Crypto industry shaken as Tether’s dollar peg snaps

Thunderer – Rowan Atkinson set to profit from Mr Bean NFTs

NFT – Azuki Insider Trading: Did Azuki NFT fix the Beanz Mint? (WTF?)

WSJ – Warnings From the Crypto Crash

Have a great weekend… out of time, and back to the day job..

Bill Blain

Strategist – Shard Capital

4 Comments

  1. There is always an appropriate song lyric (just as there is always an appropriate quote to start the Morning Porridge)

    I’m the Slime

    Frank Zappa

    I am gross and perverted
    I’m obsessed and deranged
    I have existed for years
    But very little has changed
    I’m the tool of the Government
    And industry too
    For I am destined to rule
    And regulate you

    I may be vile and pernicious
    But you can’t look away
    I make you think I’m delicious
    With the stuff that I say
    I’m the best you can get
    Have you guessed me yet?
    I’m the slime oozin’ out
    From your TV set

    You will obey me while I lead you
    And eat the garbage that I feed you
    Until the day that we don’t need you
    Don’t go for help, no one will heed you
    Your mind is totally controlled
    It has been stuffed into my mold
    And you will do as you are told
    Until the rights to you are sold

    That’s right, folks
    Don’t touch that dial

    Well, I am the slime from your video
    Oozin’ along on your livin’ room floor
    I am the slime from your video
    Can’t stop the slime, people, look at me go
    I am the slime from your video
    Oozin’ along on your livin’ room floor
    I am the slime from your video
    Can’t stop the slime, people, look at me go

    Written by: Frank Zappa

    Album: Zappa In New York

    Released: 1978

    Lyrics provided by Musixmatch

  2. I blog on my martial arts endeavours here in Canada. Sometime in 2012, I got a notice from Getty Images for unauthorized use of a photograph that I got off Google. I used a photograph of a bunny on a track to illustrate the virtues of the “slow and steady” improvement of the tortoise as opposed to the hare/rabbit. I did not know that this was frowned upon. Getty Images demanded the deletion of the photograph and a payment of $250USD to “settle all claims.” Further, they informed me that if I did not cough up the $, they would ask the web hosting service to suspend my website. They had me by the balls. So I paid up. Lesson learned. Since then, I have used my photographs or looked for suitable photos on Canva (to which I subscribe). So, I entirely empathize with your experience.

    Keep up the great writing on the markets! I read every post you publish.

  3. Re your FRTHC:
    NFTs are tulip bulbs for sure, but with much longer legs. I was fascinated that the writer of the article is Malaysian. So much of this is driven by global demand. I recall growing up a craze about “Garbage Can Kids” cards where one “rare” card, Run Tony, was highly sought after. Now Forgotten…The entire construct is based on what humans value at any one particular time, SQUIRREL! I think you and others have noted these things are valuable until they’re not. Fascinating to watch, and try figure out a risk-less way to take advantage, ha.

    I admire your “skin in the game” regarding cryptos, for me watching bitcon is my way of gauging market emotion. The Bloomberg article noted how $BTCUSD has recently decoupled from mirroring the $SPX downturn, but really? It bounces between about 40% to 90% correlation if I recall correctly, certainly isn’t a hedge. My view is that as the price gets closer and closer to $20K more and more HODLers will be thinking twice about their diamond hands. Also wonder how much of that will be governed by possible margin calls.
    Thanks for your thoughts and the links!

  4. Reuters should allow a retroactive subscription to their photo library. It is the decent policy towards those who don’t have a malevolent intent. Also it might be a good time to subscribe to a photo catalog such as Getty.

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