This is the pinnacle of self-investment. A young woman whose childhood photograph went viral earned nearly $650,000 by selling the meme’s original copy as a non-fungible token (NFT).
Zoe Roth, the now-21-year-old subject of the disaster girl meme, received $US500,000 immediately and will retain copyright, ensuring an additional 10% share of any future sales of the NFT.
Ms Roth stated that she intended to use the funds to help pay for her college education and to donate to charity.
The NFT was acquired by 3F Music, a music studio based in Dubai.
3F Music explained in a March statement that the acquisition was necessary to keep up with technological advancements.
“Our management team works closely with some extremely knowledgeable and experienced art advisers who believe that we must evolve with technological advancements that enable us to not only promote our business but also support artists and the art market,” the company said in a statement.
Ms Roth’s image has enjoyed an unusual level of sustained internet success spanning more than a decade.
Ms Roth’s father took the photograph of her at the age of five smirking at the camera while a house fire burns in the background.
The meme evolved into a foundation for expressing gain from another’s misfortune.
The story behind the image is significantly less sinister.
According to the New York Times, the house fire was started deliberately by firefighters who allowed neighbourhood children to take turns holding the hose.
Ms Roth stated that before deciding to sell the image, she consulted the subjects of two other memes that achieved rare internet fame.
Kyle Craven, a.k.a. Bad Luck Brian, and Laney Griner, Success Kid’s mother, have both sold their memes as non-financial transactions.
“It is the only way for memes to seize control,” Ms Roth reported Mr Craven telling her.
Chris Torres, the creator of Nyan Cat, is another member of the elite group of internet celebrities who earn a living from NFTs, having earned $750,000 from his artwork.
NFTs are a new form of digital art in which digital media ownership is verified using blockchain technology.
Due to their design, they are inextricably linked to the media, which means that a buyer can “own” original digital art or even memes.
Ms Roth described her meme’s success as “crazy.”
“It’s one thing for people to be in memes and go viral, but the way the internet has clung to my image and kept it viral, kept it relevant, is mind-boggling to me,” Ms Roth explained.
“I’m extremely appreciative of the entire experience.”