Digital images are being sold for thousands of dollars, but critics point to the harm it does to the environment

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Grimes, Beeple, Logan Paul, the creator of Nyan Cat, and many other artists and celebrities are making huge amounts of money selling the ownership of digital images.

Chris Torres, the artist who first created Nyan Cat, recently ‘minted’ a new GIF of the famous internet meme which sold for over $470,000 worth of the Ethereum cryptocurrency in February 2020.

Grimes sold 10 images of digital artwork, the most expensive for nearly $400,000, to someone who wanted ownership of the online goods.

These artworks are called NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens”, and they exist on a similar blockchain technology to bitcoin as a way to prove “ownership” of them.

On an internet built on spreading images for free over social media platforms, the idea of tying ownership to a specific, single image that one did not create is peculiar- but it is not new.

The idea has exploded into popularity recently based on the rise of cryptocurrency technologies, and the desire for digital artists to have greater ownership – and monetisation options – over their craft.

What is an “non-fungible token”?

A non-fungible token (NFT) means a digital item that belongs to the person that purchased it. In economics, fungibility is the property of a good being interchangeable, or replicable. For example, if you shared a photo from your phone to another person over a text message, the data and image would be replicated.

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