I’m ambivalent about the recent poker-world furore around a NFT/Digital artist robbing off real life poker photographers. I’m opinionated, and unused to being undecided

I’m more concerned about sorting out the moral aspect in my mind, because although I am fascinated by the laws in this area, and how they interact with contract law to create a boiling vat of legal bullshit that no normal human has the time or money for, the amount of research required to approach this competently is beyond what I have capacity or interest for.
The only truth I know about “the law” in every country is that it can be a lot like poker in that if you are not rolled for the game at which you sit, you are starting from a losing position, however correctly you play.

I also want to highlight my own bias when I think about this, because my only creativity is writing and absolutely no-one gives a shit about us. Oh, is that your name under the photo? Hello, my name is Staff Writer.

My moral exercise today is to work out if @PokerPaint is a thief, or whether the photographers are unjustified. I’m not gonna bring you up to speed on it, just Twitter search the above @handle, you’ll get the gist.

Enjoy quite a bit of pearl-clutching in some of the comments; lots of people seem shocked. Did anyone believe the guy was signing contracts with individual photographers before whacking those pictures into paint making them look all weird and pixelly? You people are pure as fuck.

Everybody rips pics off the internet all the time and we don’t protest. We all know we shouldn’t, and it’s becoming harder to get a pic without watermarks other stuff. That’s a good thing for digital image creators, but it hasn’t made people pay for images, it’s caused a lowering in standard of the production quality audiences are willing to accept.

There seems to be a moral breakpoint when someone stands to profit. If a guy is just “borrowing” pics from google, putting colours on them and showing them to people like a toddler in kindergarten, covered in paint and eating his crayons, then it’s adorable and we all clap.

The second that bitch is making money from it, it’s not so cute anymore.

In the current environment of everyone being a bit tilted they weren’t an NFT early adopter, the fear that these overcoloured, eye watering images could be ripped off google (specifically from photographers we like) and magically transformed into thousands of $£€s has got everyone squeaking at the anus.

I don’t think every photo ever taken of a poker player is necessarily art. Some shots are iconic, but equally, it’s not possible to be fully objective when talking about art.
Whether the original photo is art is not the problem, in the case that the original photographer owns that image (assuming they haven’t signed a terrible contract with the event promotor who paid them) using it without their agreement is theft.
Call it “plagiarism”, “copyright infringement” or “Shirley”, I identify that action as theft.

When @PokerPaint takes the image that wouldn’t exist if a photographer hadn’t already been paid for that work by a company promoting a brand or event, he is taking something somebody else thought of/imagined/made happen.

It’s not for anyone else to judge the exact way that thing came into being, or the tiny strings of events that had to happen for a piece of art to exist, once it exists, however boring, ugly or poorly lit it is, it exists in the space for people to judge it as “art”, and it has a maker (morally) and an owner (legally).

In this case, @PokerPaint was a “level 2” creator. His shit (subjective) digital art doesn’t exist if there wasn’t someone else’s amazing (subjective) digital art to work off.

If current laws do not protect creators from this pure rip-off, and technology is not being built with future-proof protection of this kind of “level 2” use of people’s original digital work, then instead of attacking one guy who is clearly doing what lots of people are doing, perhaps attention is better focused on the wider problem.

One poker photographer can be found lamenting how a newspaper ripped off his work. If I’m truly looking for the moral answer to this question, then I must find it before I realise how capable the photographer is of beating the thief in the game of law.

What is the blocker to the photographers turning all their original photographs into NFTs on the same platform as @PokerPaint is using? If I understand the tech correctly they could state their price for the original sale of any image (token), and the juice on future sales.

Was that 55th picture of BenCB really going to make you money anywhere else, photographers? Do you really own it all anyway? The law is an ass, but if you ever do make millions from a single poker image, who else could potentially have a claim on that based on the day-rate contract you did x-years ago?

Is there no poker/python/coding nerd willing to work on this project in outrage? What blockchain could this be built on and why? Later generation ledger technology? (Disclaimer: HBAR Hodler) If everyone with an opinion on how “shocking” @PokerPaint’s actions are contributed towards a start up go-fund me to build something like this how much could we achieve within a community with many bright minds and a shit-tonne of images?

If the moral reaction is genuinely about the stealing of the “art”, and not the moment these re-hashed images are available for trade as a store of value, store your own value first. The theft is thereafter immediately provable, and devalued for future NFT status, as the sale/ownership of the original can be proven. If one wants to mutilate the original with photoshop/crayons and call it “art” then one has to own the original pixels first; create the piece’s digital provenance.

@PokerPaint did steal from the photographers… but I feel like they were living in a ground-floor flat in the middle of a busy city centre and left their windows and doors open. If you’ve ever lived in that kind of space, you know what the copper’s face would look like if you told him you went out and left every door and window open and are now complaining your laptop’s gone.

It does sound like victim blaming, it probably is, but it’s not like @PokerPaint’s actions had to be, or were, sly. He’s not been creeping about in your hard drives. He didn’t scam you into sharing a screenshot of your account to start speed-selling your previously secure digital assets.

I agree that @PokerPaint stole those images, but I see he did it in the open, and irrespective of what the law says, it is a very common culture to take people’s images from google and do what you want with them. He appears to have grossly underestimated the level of negative reaction he would receive from his most obvious sales demographic.

Or he didn’t, but figured it was his best shot at cheap marketing.

We can all scream moral outrage, but I am convinced public outrage is not necessarily an indicator of artwork being impossible to sell, by any channel. If the right people perceive any image as “art” and want to buy them, they will.
NFTs mark the age of a new, modern and hyper-technological way to piss resources up the wall and call it “art”, well done, our species.

This question could keep one up at night, the virtue and morality of having works of art with so much value, but again, that’s a question that precedes (causes?) the crime of stealing art.

The reason I’ve been struggling with this question, the reason for my ambivalence, is that I can’t be outraged at @PokerPaint for stealing art for his own purposes, because it would be hypocritical, I’ve done it myself, from memes to the header for this blog. I have consistently participated in the culture of stealing people’s original concepts by sharing altered images and videos around.
I have to be outraged that someone would try to, or succeed in, making money from stealing the art, because I’ve never done that.

Or I’ve never been caught doing that.

I think what @PokerPaint has done does constitute theft, but I can’t say I’m a poker player and blame a guy for trying to exploit a leak. We can’t blame one guy for a much wider problem that will only get worse. Anything that can be stored as a digital multimedia file can be an NFT, and if I tweak your original image/video/audio file, it’s a new file. Logically no format creator is safe from this type of theft now or in the future unless technology can be established to protect the work. The law can’t keep up, and costs everyone, except the lawyers, money.

@PokerPaint stole the beautiful poker images, but, photographers, maybe you aren’t close enough to the wider culture of digital art. If you’re making art for art’s sake, you’re doing a great job, but if you want to secure a piece of all future revenue on derivative digital art in a digital age, you probably need to sharpen up.