Industry News

Photographer Sells Her Most Stolen Image as NFT Art and Releases the Usage Rights

September 24, 2021

By Jacqueline Tobin

© Cath Simard

Most photographers are personally familiar, unfortunately, with image theft but one creative was so tired of chasing down copyright infringers of her most stolen image that she took matters into her own hands. She decided to sell the image as NFT art and then release the photo’s usage rights to “the world”.

Canadian photographer Cath Simard‘s story began back in 2017, when she photographed a road on the Hawaiian island of Ohau, then shared it to her Instagram account. It instantly went viral and was subsequently shared on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter—also reaching the front-page of websites such as Reddit, 9Gag and iFunny, among others—but without any photo credit or compensation for the image’s usage. The image even became a top search result on Google for the query, “hawaii road.”

[Read: What are NFTs Anyway? A Photographer’s Guide to the Digital Art Craze]

Four years later, Simard has taken back control of her work by selling the image as an NFT for $300,000 and releasing its rights. It is the first image of its kind to have its rights released after its 1/1 NFT is purchased on the blockchain. And as Simard’s Hawaii photo gets used more and more, the more famous and valuable the single authenticated NFT becomes.

Hawaii Road image sold as NFT art by Cath Simard.

As described on the #FreeHawaiiPhoto project website, which originated from all of this and the idea that “the virality and large use of an image in the physical and online world increases the importance of provenance, and therefore the value of the NFT, #FreeHawaiiPhoto is also a statement of gaining back control over use of our images and fair compensation.”

[Read: Lindsay Adler’s 10 Steps to Selling Photographs as NFTs]

The site adds that, “After four years of chasing down social media accounts and companies without credit or consent, [Simard] decided to choose another path and flip the script. While Intellectual Property is us battling to prove ownership of our creations, provenance is us having the ability to authenticate the original.”

Instead of battling endless copyright infringement cases for what would likely be a string of small payouts, according to My Modern Met, Simard opted for auctioning a single-edition NFT of the photo to a prominent collector, @gmoneyNFT. Said Simard: “NFTs are a new possibility when it comes to making a living off your art. I’ve made more in NFTs within the last 6 months than [I have] licensing images for my entire life.

“The NFT space is one in which if you’re the first to do something, it’s usually seen as very high value, and this [particular concept] has never been done before,” she continued. Simard’s hope is that her #FreeHawaiiPhoto project will “help pave the way to an alternative path for other photographers and creatives who have also struggled with copyright infringement.”

Read more about #FreeHawaiiPhoto here.