Discover Online Classes in NFTs

Create, buy and sell your own NFTs, and more.

Back in the day, the coolest collectible a kid could own was a professional athlete’s rookie card or a celebrity autograph. And while rookie cards are still pretty cool, there’s a new kid on the collectible block: the meme NFT.

Meme NFTs are kind of like owning the “rookie card,” except instead of Michael Jordan, the superstar is Bad Luck Brian or the kid from the “ERMAHGERD BERKS” meme. But how does it work, and what kind of copyright powers does owning a meme NFT grant you? Here’s what you’ll need to know.

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What Is a Meme NFT?

To define a meme NFT, we first have to define an NFT. An NFT is a “non-fungible token,” or a cryptographic asset using blockchain technology as a receipt of ownership. (Note: to better understand cryptography and blockchain technology, check out our guide to cryptocurrency.)

Essentially, an NFT is a stamp of ownership of a digital asset, which can include artwork, memorabilia, or even a digital copy of the first-ever tweet. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before someone took this concept and turned memes into NFTs.

A meme, of course, has its own definition. Memes started out as a reference to an idea or behavior that gained popularity or was shared across a community organically. With the rise of the internet and our ability to share information at lightning speed, memes are now better known as funny or interesting images, videos, or pieces of text.

Ownership and Copyright Issues With Meme NFTs

It’s hard to own a meme. But that’s the beauty of tokenizing digital assets: It’s now possible to own, well, just about anything. For example, the famous meme “Bad Luck Brian,” inspired by a slightly dorky yearbook photo, became an NFT and sold for $36,000.

For most NFTs, ownership and copyright aren’t major issues. Buying original digital artwork, for example, means buying the NFT as a “receipt” of ownership. 

But what about memes that have already entered the public lexicon? This is where it gets a little tricky. As copyright expert Rebecca Tushnet told Harvard Law:

From an IP perspective, NFTs don’t change anything. If you didn’t have the rights to distribute a work before, you don’t have them now. If the sale or memorialization of an NFT involve reproducing and distributing a work that is under copyright—which they might not, at least for nonvisual works—then copyright will cover those reproductions unless a limitation or exception like fair use applies. Adding an NFT won’t increase anyone’s rights, whether over the Mona Lisa or the Brooklyn Bridge (which has already been made subject to an NFT or two).

Tushnet went on: “[the buyer] definitely [does] not own the copyright to the underlying work unless it is explicitly transferred.”

In other words, buying a meme NFT only gives you the rights to that one NFT. Buying the original “Bad Luck Brian” doesn’t give you the rights to all “Bad Luck Brians” ever made.

How to Make a Meme NFT

The process of making a meme NFT is the same as making any type of NFT

  • Select your item. In this case, you’ll select the meme you want to make, or the artwork you want to make that is inspired by a popular internet meme. Be careful here—your meme NFT has to be an original work. Otherwise, there’s no real value for anyone to bid on. It’s at this stage you’ll have to consider using a digital artwork program like Procreate or Photoshop to make sure you’re selling something original.
  • Set up a digital wallet. If you’re going to sell a meme NFT, you can’t accept payment in a standard wallet. You’ll need a digital cryptocurrency wallet, like MetaMask, to ensure you have the capacity to accept currencies like Ethereum.
  • Choose an NFT marketplace. Assuming you understand blockchain and how to use cryptocurrency, you can upload your NFT to the appropriate NFT marketplace to create an immediate listing. Below, we’ll look at some popular NFT marketplaces where you can buy and sell meme NFTs.

Where to Get a Meme NFT

Want to skip straight to the meme NFTs? You can view what’s out there right now by browsing some of the most popular meme NFT marketplaces in existence:

Don’t Let Your Memes Stay Dreams

Today’s NFT marketplace—in which original artwork led to the launch of memes shared ’round the world—is a testament to the power of the internet. We’ve turned obscure references into major money-making machines.

While you don’t have to dive in and buy the original “Bad Luck Brian” for tens of thousands of dollars, you might be surprised at the level of originality and creativity growing around popular internet memes. You may even be tempted to join the fun yourself. 

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