Here is another NFT story (and not a sequel to the last one was in March after someone uploaded my "Yin and Yang of world hunger" on OpenSea...) Today, it is about the official release of the "Dream Cats" catalog on OpenSea by ROPLAK, a derivative of my 2016 Creative Commons Attribution Catavatar generator. It was announced yesterday in this post on Twitter [edit: they deleted their post, and made a new one], and the OpenSea catalog page linked counts already over 10K items and already sold 4.2 ETH, so, around 10 000 Euros in two days...
Disclaimer: I'm French, and a "bit" nervous when I wrote that. Sorry for my clumsy way to phrase English in this article, I did my best.
If you are not familiar with NFT, think about it as a unique token (eg. an ID number) written in the decentralized database of a crypto currency, like Ethereum here. It can represent anything (main usage here: art, but it could be a service, a file, a weapon in a video-game, etc...); and you can sell this unique ID on a NFT market place, like OpenSea here. So, this ID can have an owner, this ID can take value in time, like being more and more expensive. A bit like trading rare Magic/Pokemon/Baseball cards if you prefer, all of that paid with crypto money. Investor can buy new ones, predict the one who will be famous, take values and then transform their money... into more money with them. We have here the purest product of capitalism and speculation, mixed to a technology to produce "uniqueness" and not known to be ecology-friendly.
In short, a mix of concept I hate.
C'mon, why the hate?
I was born in the 80's and grew in a world where having access to the information was limited (bookstore, library, Tv). Then, when Internet appeared in my life, I thought it would start a golden age because information could be replicated on millions of device for very cheap. I made a portfolio, met other artist, did open movies, worked for big companies and I still − right now − run a webcomic series, Pepper&Carrot, shared by millions. I embraced the Creative Commons license so other could reuse my artworks without asking for license and without having to pay.
The CatAvatar was born out of a personal effort on my free time to remove every CDN of my website as explained on a blog post in 2016, I wanted to get rid of Gravatar service on my comment and this single move cost me days of production. It was inspired by an act of freedom, and an act of bringing a cute and beautiful alternative to Internet. I decided to share the sources and art of Catavatar, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution, so a very permissive license and for free.
On the other side, a system like NFT is an attempt to put an ID on each file, each art, to create an artificial uniqueness so everything can be bought. It's a capitalist dream: making everything a unique property, so everything can be sold. Now you can understand why I hate to see the Catavatar being used as NFT? It contradicts the essence of why my art is here in the first place.
Personal statement about NFT:
It infringes my moral right to see my art used as NFT. So, I'll be clear:
== Do not buy NFT made with my art. ==
== Do not make NFT with my Creative-Commons artworks. ==
== If you respect my art, remember and apply this. ==
Now, let's move back to the news: the Dream Cats catalog of NFT.
The Dream Cats NFT case
First, I'm not getting any margin/profit from this DreamCats catalog on OpenSea. I know my name is on every items, I know my name is on the title of the catalog, etc... I already get email about it. And to be clear, it is not a money problem: I'm not interested to touch any percent of NFT money. The author here, ROPLAK, is the only one who benefits and already sold 4.2 ETH, so, around 10 000 Euros in two days. It's not just a few buck, it's a very profitable market where my name is written on every item...
The Catavatars are not used as they were designed: the author added a distortion on the top, a filter, the DeepDream algorythm over my original art to deform the cat and mostly to be sure all the pixels of the pictures are affected so the author ROPLAK can relicense fully this derivation.
But I'll let you judge here the artistic quality "enhancement" of this derivation. DeepDream is not hard to install, if you know how to execute a Python script; you can play with it on a Ubuntu based system in less than 15min. I played with it in 2015.
So, that's all. We have here the added value of a computer filter, over a work I carefully spent hours to do, to design and to balance for offering it to the web. ROPLAK probably made a script and automated the generation of 10K of their cats this way. By owning a DreamCat, you own that: just a random cat avatar plus a filter on the top.
The Dream Cats and copyright law
On a legal point of view: the Dream Cats are legally ok: I distribute the Catavatar library of sprites as Creative Commons Attribution only.
- Commercial usage is OK (so no problem selling them)
- Derivations is OK (so no problem adding a filter)
- Attribution is OK (correctly mentioned).
Only one thing is not OK: it infringes my moral right.
For me, NFT represents the pinnacle of capitalism and speculation. And this ideology is not fine with me. I would probably emit the same "moral right" concerns if my work was used for racism propaganda, or as a communication device to hurt any human.
"Moral rights" are not transfered with Creative Commons Attribution license.
So, I ask here ROPLAK and OpenSea −in virtue of my moral rights− to take down the Dream Cats today.. Keep the money generated with it, I don't give a duck about it. I just don't want my name to be associated with a fraction of the NFT empire.
Moral right infringement! Yay! Law! Court!
Hmm... No... Nothing.
I'll not throw useless words here, or attempt vein threats: I'll not attack in court ROPLAK or OpenSea.
Even if I can proove the DreamCats or any NFT infringes my Moral Right. Even if in theory laws is "with me". I don't have the budget (time/money) to get justice.
An appointment with a lawyer here would cost hundreds of Euros per visit and takes a lot of time to study the case. I just can't afford that and to be honest, I don't want to live that. Life is short, sooner or later I'll be dead and I don't want to use my precious remaining time on that. I have artworks to share, I have story to write, I have to be here for family, friends and project I love.
In France, we have the proverb "Bien mal acquis ne profite jamais", probably similar to the "ill gotten, ill spent". That's what I wish to all the participants of this NFT. I also wish them to read the article I wrote here.
And that's all, I wanted to make a Creative Commons video tutorial this morning, to share tips and help other artist with line-art and drawing. And now, I'll have to do a meditation to calm down, because each time I have that on my way, it affect me and makes harder for me to create tutorials, happy stories and colorful universe... Some morning, it's really hard to be a Free/Libre artist.
A short update: 1 week after publishing this article, yet another Catavatar NFTs appeared on the web... This time on Binance, named "Nice Kittens" , 1000 items, not derivated (1:1 to the one I created), no mention of the Creative Commons license and no attribution. This one still infringe my moral right, but because it doesn't credit or mention the license, it is also illegal.
- Twitter post by ROPLAK (previous post was removed from Twitter by author, and replaced with a new one).
- DreamCats catalog on OpenSea
- My blog post when I created Catavatar
- My original Catavatar
- DeepDream algorythm wikipedia page