Opinions mine. This post draws from several historical accounts and my observations as a technologist. Sorry for trivializing many milestones & accomplishments to keep the story moving

Little Ape NFT collection
Collectible NFTs ethereum_0x659982ba58e0b57f43046d9f3cd91c18bed6db05_2239

Back in the days of Web 1.0 and the .CGI internet, the web was easy to code for. Files were legitimate end points on public servers. FTP was a popular file transfer mechanism, and so were random public folders on the web, where you could download music, movies, books, and other questionable things from the largely dial-up/cable powered web. Discovery sucked because it was usually via directory services - e.g. Yahoo’s OG homepage, or worse, forums.

FTP sites of early 2000s - courtesy uglyduckblog
Example of FTP sites where files were legitimate end points


Some smart folks saw an opportunity, built a peer-2-peer sharing platform which merged discovery, community, and content - called it Napster, and transformed an industry. I was an early adopter of Napster, because it was my only form of access to the latest rock and metal music that had no distribution in India (my home country and location then). Napster’s the reason many 90s and 2000’s era bands have a fan following in Asia & EU. That and MTV for about 2.5 years.

Then Lars did this.

And RIAA sued every major platform for copyright protection. Then, they started suing other smaller platforms instead of individuals, cause why not.

Tech platforms followed suit with NIMBY policies esp as they concerned distribution of “original content”. Save for a few early Web 2 sites that offer MP3’s on the site (e.g., Ranjan Parikkar’s Audio vault which has several MP3 files you can find and play inline). It’s not very common to be able to upload Audio files on publishing platforms. Think about it, when’s the last time you saw a .MP3 file on the internet? The only way to host music which is not yours today, is to self-host it and pray you go unnoticed. By controlling the platforms, RIAA ensured music became a scare resource again whose distribution could be tightly controlled. That’s the music marketplace.

Platforms had to comply or face copyright infringement lawsuits with ridiculous numbers. The RIAA now acts as the de-facto industry body for music artists in the US. They also publish annual stats about the recorded music industry, which they claim is now a $15bn industry in 2021.

As a creator & consumer, it became harder to publish & consume MP3s on the web. From Web hosting solutions, to Browsers, to publishing platforms. Unless, you owned the rights to the audio, you could not publish any audio online. Platforms chose to not allow you to upload anything in the first place because it was better than reactive enforcement.

Large media publishing platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok have been using media fingerprinting technology to identify duplicates, illegal streams, fakes etc and quickly take down violations in an automated way. For content creators, it’s probably better if YouTube shared a cut of revenues from all their fake-streams, dupes, and illegal uploads. Someone is doing the job of marketing the creator’s content and might get more hits / engagement compared to the creator’s own channels.

Digital Art NFTs

Well, it should be fairly obvious now. However, I will illustrate with a “screenshot” of a meme. A clever one, that you can find on many NFT threads on Twitter. Not only can I save this this meme, but I can get a screengrab while clicking “Save as” on the meme (image). You cannot do anything remotely like that with music.

Screengrab of Stealing a NFT
* Screengrab of saving a meme to my local device*

Personally, I’ve been a wildlife and documentary photographer for about 15 years now. Photography has taken off digitally but good photographers have had to struggle be noticed. In the last 15 years alone, there have been 4bn new portable cameras added to the market, taking several hundreds of billions of photos daily. There’s immediately a value & discovery problem, which has been sliced and diced into Instagram, Flickr, Deviantart, 500px and more. Images are still very ubiquitous on the web, and on social networks until video broke through (Youtube & then Tiktok).

How NFTsAGMI

  • Digital art is offered the same copyright protection audio is. It’s a rights and distribution issue after all.
  • Platforms will come around. Next generation of machines will exist virtually - e.g. Chromebook / Tesla)
  • The NFT industry as a whole pushes for open standards, zk proofs around ownership & provenance using watermarks.

If a digital MET or MOMA has to exist on and be sustainable in any metaverse or network state :) Lessig’s four forces will have to apply. Code and market exists, thanks to cryptographic innovation & over trillion dollars of value created in the last decade. Norms already exist despite being financially speculative. Laws, it seems, is where it needs to come together, hopefully soon.

Go ahead, save this NFT that I own, while you still can.

ethereum_0xc1bbd910685aa6a298606ee96053936bc5b1716f_5105
Download this while you still can!

A world without creatives

I’ll end this post with a short film that explores a fictional world without creatives.


### References FTP server images from - https://uglyduckblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/how-to-find-ftp-sites-or-web-directories/