Dream Cats NFT: don't buy them

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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.

NFT...(what?)

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


a screenshot of the Dream Cats catalog on OpenSea. (fair use)

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.


The DeepDream effect is just a filter, I'm able to do it too...

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.

Conclusion

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.

Appendix
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.

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License: CC BY
David Revoy, www.davidrevoy.com, .
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48 comments

link Mario Lurig   - Reply

This reminded me of the Jurassic Park quote, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”
Creative Commons implies INTENT of works created, but that's not enough for legal standing and that's the part that is violated here. Unfortunately, it can never do anything other than frustrate you. I hope writing this has helped you get this out of your mind; you must focus on what you CREATE in this world and not what others ABUSE. There is not much else to do, even though it is very frustrating.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Yes, I'll focus on the creation part for sure. But I'll always claim the "NOT IN MY NAME" part as loud as I can when I'll feel it crossed the boundaries. Thanks for the nice words.

link unfa   - Reply

I am sorry that this was done to your artwork. Thank you for bringing this up and sharing your story and mind with the world on this.

Now I am worried someone will grab my music albums and release them as NFTs against my will. I wonder if a CC-BY-NC license will prevent that?

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hes, the previous case I had was on a artwork in CC-By-Nc-Nd and OpenSea removed it immediately. The Non Commercial part of creative commons can start a legal case more easily. It's far more efficient than just a moral issue.

link Vincent   - Reply

The proverb you mention "Bien mal acquis ne profite jamais" is certainly one of the worst proverbs ever. It's wrong, absolutely wrong. Sadly. As a french, like me, you know I'm right. I wish you success in your future work and projects.

Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt. Non, j'déconne, il appartient à ceux qui ont du fric.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hehe, I admit this proverb require to get a certain level of humanity to feel a base of guilt about it. It has its limits and I met humans who could rationalize everything, even justify money from the worst source. So, true, you are right. Same for the one about the morning xD But it felt good to write it.

link CD   - Reply

Sorry to hear this. The whole idea of monetizing every pixel on the internet sickens me and I hope this whole thing blows up in their face. Keep up the good work regardless of these wankers.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

xD Thanks!

link Sven   - Reply

Get a witch doctor to put a curse on that particular NFT collection. Crypto is dependent on luck, and if people see this curse, then they will feel the collection unlucky, and avoid it.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

By pure statistic, any money like that will know big crashes; like a pile of sand growing and growing... then collapsing. That's how capitalism ever worked. So, I don't need to put a curse on them; they already have the worst one, imo xD

link Dan   - Reply

I'm sorry that this has happened to you David.

There exists a contact form on their website. I have sent them a polite message linking to this page, and I'd encourage others to similarly, politely voice what they think. Politely. Money speaks much louder than moral qualms, but hey, I'm not totally lost to cynicism yet - David's doing his thing!

https://roplak.com/contact/

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hey, thanks. No worry of cynicism. If you have an idea how emotional poeple like me are geared inside (to be enough dumb at making a life in art) you need to imagine I'm pretty fully emotionally loaded and nervous to get the energy to make something like that and get the inner resources to even start. And it cost me a lot.... I need to recover after that.
My art is mostly about wanting to bring humor, joy and color to the world; sometime a bit of dark mystery too; but I'm not a provocator (I think). Sadly, I know the fashion of the moment in politic are big 100% big cynic characters. Not a surprise to read a part of my audience suspecting that.
Know and be sure that I'm disgusted at even publishing a thumbnail like that on my social media and blog; it's ugly. But enough is enough with NFT. Sadly I also have anger like that growing against many other topic (eg. Tapas/Webtoons platform), so I know sooner or later, I'll have to make other blog post like that when I'll be fully loaded and feel the "enough is enough". 10 000 NFT with my name on them? Yeaaah... yesterday morning my eyes were like volcanos. Believe me; I do it by necessity to calm down, a bit like one need to go to quickly to the toilets... I would prefer to get followers/share/likes with my episodes and art by FAR.

link EF   - Reply

The lack of morality-related restrictions in Free Software/Art licenses is intentional. You may or may not agree with the explanation given here:

https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/programs-must-not-limit-freedom-to-run.html

If a court would uphold that moral rights can supersede the license itself, it would spell the utter destruction of both the Free Software and the Creative Commons movements - bad actors would have the better lawyers, and would impose their rotten version of "morality" to dispose of any and all competition, including from FS and CC.

But it is perfectly desirable to go for a boycott of anybody creating NFTs out of other people's work. Also, one could try to argue that such NFTs are the same as fake Rolex watches - in which case some trade laws completely unrelated to copyright may come into play.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

The lack of morality-related restrictions is a fiction, and you are wrong. You'll find it written on every Notices in the Creative Commons. But I know it is surprising for many countries and philosophical backgrounds. Moral rights, in France, are perpetual, inalienable, and imprescriptible by default. Even CC-0/Public Domain can't overwrite it. And it is for a philosophical reason: an art carreer is not just a set of material, goods, services and jpg/png files. That's why I think it is useless to put them in the same bag as Free Software. My art is my diary, my life, an intellectual construction that should be protected from what I perceive to be (one of the many) dirt of our time. If my art participate at 10 000 NFTs and a percent of the ETH Blockchain; I feel that my moral integrity is violated for associating my name with this deeply unethical unchained extreme capitalism.

Now at least, I know the author of this 10K NFTs doesn't respect my art or me as an artist. I claimed my disgust for NFTs loudly. This way, any client of NFT with my name on it will find quickly my opinion about it and how I think this art are fraudulent to my carreer. That's really what's matters to me on short term.

link EF   - Reply

Copyright laws are the same for software and art. It is easier and quicker to get evil with software, which is why the FS movement preceded CC. Heaven forbid that moral copyright is upheld for software - it will be the end of everything that is still good in our computing (which nowadays means our everything)!

Things can be done against the NFT fraudsters, see my last paragraph above. If there is enough consensus that an NFT is worth nothing, it will be worth nothing.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

> Copyright laws are the same for software and art.

If it was the case; Creative Commons licenses would be recommended for code and the GPL for art?
Afaik, it's not the case.

link EF   - Reply

The reason for different licenses is that humanity interacts differently with software and with art. It is a historical peculiarity that the art-related copyright laws are applied almost identically to software.

link JustSomeGuy   - Reply

Hey David, I'm a little confused what Moral Rights you have after any required that aren't rights waived for what's necessary to exercise the Licensed Rights for Section 2b in this circumstance?

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

In most country of Europe, and France is part of it, it is not possible for authors to assign or even waive their moral rights. Even with CC-0 and Public Domain. You'll find it −you are right − under the 2b(1) or as a Notice on every CC license, it appears even on the short version: " The license may not give you all of the permissions necessary for your intended use. For example, other rights such as publicity, privacy, or moral rights may limit how you use the material. "

The refering law code in France is Art. L121-1, Code de la propriété intellectuelle , https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/codes/article_lc/LEGIARTI000006278891/

link Soutien   - Reply

I read your story in full, and completely agree with you. Hence :
- I'll share your story for it to be known to the public ;
- As said by Dan in a previous comment, I'll fill the form, in a polite manner :
https://roplak.com/contact/
- And you gained a follower of your work

Not a bad day after all, hey ?

A bientôt !

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hey Soutien, thanks

link Châu   - Reply

Reverse, you should see if NFT want sponsor you and you can work with NFT. NFT make great discovery: many people like ugly/many color cat picture (I no like it but my opinion). Maybe you and P&C fans can create cat generator like it and earn some money for create more P&C art.

Freedom mean no CENSOR. I create art for project, some project need months, some need YEARS (animation and games). But all is CC0, because I hate evil corrupt copyright system. Other people can use any way they want, earn money, porn movie, propaganda, underwear design, toilet paper, AI research, etc. Freedom mean people can do stuff I no like. But not my action, not my responsibility.

Try think different way, every thing in life is privilege. You CAN work do art work, is big privilege. Many other people no have this privilege. Use several hour create cute cat picture is nicer than several hour clean trash, wash public toilet, wash plate/bowl in café, clean restaurant table, clean city sewer system in 30°-35°C high humidity weather, work in dangerous mine (very important jobs, more important than art, keep society clean and healthy, but no fun). Some people do this work for 10s years until retire or die. One company give you draw monitor tablet for few day work for review. If I try save money for that tablet, probably need work 1-2 years.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

> Freedom mean no CENSOR

Hey Châu, I disagree on this point. Would you allow your art to be printed on flags of a racist army who do a genocide? The army is on all TV channel, and each time they appear, they tell your name to be compliant CC-By? This example is a big caricature (sorry for that) but it reveals an extreme where everyone needs moral right, even Free/Libre art.
Here in France, Moral rights can't be waived by any license. Even CC-0 Public domain. I'm not sure how is the law in your country is about it ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_rights ) but if your art is used against your ideology or with an intent that is against your reputation and person; you should be protected by a law for that.

link Black_Fox   - Reply

I'm sorry that this stuff happens. I consider it unfair to the original author - you certainly didn't get to see €10k and yet you are the one who put all the work in. I was woundering these two things:

1) The wiki page on moral rights you linked in another comment says that "Independent of the author's economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to the said work, which would be prejudicial to the author's honor or reputation." and I'm afraid you are already exercising the full extent of such a right - objecting to an action in relation to your work that's against your beliefs. Not sure there's more you could legally do based solely on the moral right (as long as CC BY licence was used).

2) I'm sure there's a reason you use CC BY and not CC BY-NC which would have easily prevented this situation. What is the reason?

Either way, I hope something good will come out of this eventually, fingers crossed!

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hey, thanks. Yes, totally right about (1). About the reason of not using the CC By-Nc; it is almost impossible to share art with CC-By-Nc nowaday. Youtube video are monetised; many blog have advertissements, many support (article/tutorial) can be published on commercial magazine, etc... All this scenario are commercial ones. When I met Creative Commons France, I exposed my wish: a CC-By "Fair Trade"; allowing commercial usage but ensuring for example a percentage of the benefits to the author at root. Anyway, a CC-By "Fair trade" in the example of this NFT catalog would have been not a help for me. Moral Right/Integrity issue would still be here.

link JustSomeGuy   - Reply

Hey David, wanted to ask you to clarify if this you consider the moral rights regarding NFTs to only include art, or if the code for programmatically generating an image (for catvatars) based on a seed is included in that too?

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hi, no idea; the code belong to Andreas Gohr in my version, from https://www.splitbrain.org/blog/2007-01/20_monsterid_as_gravatar_fallback (it is in the credits of Catavatar here: https://www.peppercarrot.com/extras/html/2016_cat-generator/index.php ). Because Andreas is not mentioned on the NFTs; I guess it means the code was rewritten from scratch.

link EF   - Reply

As far as I know, the copyright on a piece of software does not automatically cover the output of the software. If the output itself contains a copied piece of something copyrighted (such as your cat elements) then that copyright applies. Also, for non-free software covered by a EULA things can get murky.

link EuphoricPenguin   - Reply

Once again, my NOT LEGAL ADVICE™ understanding is that the output would have to effectively change the content of the image. Since DeepDream is a form of style transfer, the underlying image remains mostly intact. The only true case where this would change is if the images of the cats were used as a "style" for the style transfer. I can make myself look like a painting in the style of Van Gogh. If Van Gogh still had copyright over Starry Night, it's fairly unlikely he could claim copyright over my image (since it's a copy of his "style", not content). This is pure intuition, not actual legal advice. I am not a lawyer. I am the last person you'd want to trust for legal advice.

link InfoLibre   - Reply

Moi je serais fier de voir des œuvres dérivées de mon travail. C'est un aboutissement et ça va faire de la publicité.
Avoir choisi des licences libres, c'est accepter et encourager les œuvres dérivées.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Désolé, je garderai une éthique même si ça va à contre sens de mon avantage personnel. Je ne vois aucun aboutissement là dedans. Cette publicité via les NFT, je n'en veux pas. D'ailleur, j'ai rarement entendu l'histoire d'un⋅e passioné⋅e d'Art qui après avoir spéculé sur une plateforme de NFT, c'est mis à aider et contribuer à la vie d'un⋅e artiste. Et que ça a fait la différence. Une audience qui cherche à speculer a rarement plus de sensibilité pour l'art et autrui qu'un bloc de béton. 240 ventes se sont fait sur les DreamCats; aucun⋅es de ces personnes ne c'est manifesté parmis ceux qui suivent mon travail...

link Artur   - Reply

Let's not be so politically correct - let's call a spade a spade. Stealing is stealing. Full drop.

link Nico Goeminne   - Reply

Hey David,

Sorry to here that story. For our art work we're using CC-BY-SA4. Is in that case a NFT not a derived work (as it digitally fingerprints the original art). And therefore, the NFT should be Share Alike as well?

Kind regards,
Nico

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hi Nico,
Unfortunately, CC-By-Sa won't prevent a legal action against a NFT-isation of an art. The condition would be: if the catalog propose a link to download the art (eg. right click, save image, as it is for the DreamCats on OpenSea so no problem) and the NFT author mention the CC-By-Sa license with the attribution (trivial to do in the description). As you can still access the medias to save the file and modify, and the license is correctly mentioned, it sounds compliant with CC-By-Sa. The distribution method (aka uniqueness of the NFT as a block in the blockchain) is imo not a part of the scope of the CC license; as any distribution (eg. distribution on a specific server −eg. wikimedia commons− can't be replicated at the same URL 1:1 in any cases). So it would be dishonnest to pretend the CC-By-Sa should grant the same URL/Blockchain-Hash/hosting-place.
The license that work against NFT is the CC-By-Nc ; the previous case I mention in the introduction was with one of my CC-By-Nc-Nd art, and the same catalog , OpenSea removed in less than 48h the art from the page. (the NFT ID remains, attached to just an empty description).
I hope it helps!

link EuphoricPenguin   - Reply

What are your thoughts on this?
"If you apply a 4.0 license to your material, you agree to waive or not assert any moral rights you have, to the limited extent necessary to allow the public to exercise the licensed rights. This is designed to minimize the effect of moral rights on licensees' ability to use the work, and ensure that the license works internationally as intended."
https://creativecommons.org/faq/#how-do-creative-commons-licenses-affect-my-moral-rights-if-at-all

I'm a bit confused as to how they're implementing moral rights in the CC-BY 4.0 International legal code. My DEFINITELY NOT LEGAL ADVICE™ understanding is that moral rights are protected to a certain degree, but they would only apply in France. Since I reside in the U.S., for example, my use of your work would fall under U.S. copyright law. Since the United States has weaker protection for moral rights, I *think* that could turn the tides to a certain extent. I think I'll need to stock up on Acetaminophen if I attempt this again. It sucks creatives need a legal degree to release their work these days.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

"you agree to waive or not assert any moral rights you have" is simply impossible in many countries. (ref. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_rights ). The French one is perpetual, inalienable, and imprescriptible... CC-BY 4.0 International legal code doesn't implement any moral right. So, the moral right of the authors (depending of their countries) are still attached to their work afaik.

link InfoLibre   - Reply

Je ne comprends pas cette réaction. Diffuser ses œuvres sous licence libre, c'est volontairement les partager et encourager les œuvres dérivées. Sinon, il fallait choisir une autre licence mieux adaptée, non libre.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Diffuser ses œuvres sous licence libre, c'est aussi garder un droit morale. C'est ça qui vous a échappé sans doute. Aussi, je suis loin d'approuver toutes les dérivations et partages; et quand c'est le cas, c'est aussi bon de le rapeller.

link Juju   - Reply

Bonjour M. Revoy,

Je suis très contente d'être tombée sur votre article, merci! Je connaissais vaguement les NFT, car je commençais à voir apparaître des annonces d'emplois qui leur étaient reliées. Cependant, je ne me doutais pas du tout de leurs implications (capitalistes, environnementales, etc.).

Je suis aspirante-apprentie artiste, et vous me donnez envie de publier sous license libre. Vous êtes le deuxième artiste blogueur que je croise à parler de cette avenue avec Gwenn Seemel. Et puis vos motivations, « My art is mostly about wanting to bring humor, joy and color to the world [...] », sont aussi belles que vos peintures.

Bonne continuation à vous :D

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Merci enormément Juju pour ce retour sympa!
Bon courage également et bon début de semaine ;)

link NC   - Reply

Hi David, sorry to hear that but I don't really agree on your belief that your Moral Right ("droit moral" in French) would give you any right on a derivative work that you have explicitly allowed. The French "droit moral" is mostly applied on paternity (respected here) and the original work integrity (that isn't really possible in the digital world, it's mostly used to prevent someone to buy your physical work to destroy it on purpose).

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

It's not a belief; it's on the law: https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/codes/section_lc/LEGITEXT000006069414/LEGISCTA000006161636/#LEGISCTA000006161636 , I have many right that goes beyond the paternity; if the derivation affect my reputation I can ask it down (sort of the case here, I don't want my art to be associated with that). I can also keep pushing modification (droit de repentir), etc...

link NC   - Reply

A derivative work isn't exactly your work anymore, the author is the one that created the derivative, and since you allowed this kind of usage, you're not really in a grey area anymore (that usually occur on derivative work).

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Please read more about derivation. Thanks for making me smile.

link NC   - Reply

Actually I got academic courses on this particular subject...
Smiling is good, nothing bad doing it.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

🙂

link Olivia Smith   - Reply

Zed Run Clone Script >> https://www.sellbitbuy.net/zed-run-clone-script

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hi Olivia, please elaborate a bit why you link this here. Right now, it sounds like an adv for a service.

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