Anonymous online bidders in the digital space known as web3 were bidding thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency for an NFT consisting of a screen image of Carlson on last year’s show in which he was advocating for body autonomy over coronavirus vaccines. The NFT would continue to sell on Saturday for 12 eth – around $14,500 – with the creator, Jenny Holzer, saying she will donate the money she earns from the sale to groups such as Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and DC-based advocacy group PAI.
(An NFT, or non-fungible token, is a digital image stamped uniquely to its creator. Eth is the name of a popular cryptocurrency tied to the Ethereum blockchain that many NFTs live on.)
The move underscores the freewheeling nature of Web3, in which wild injections of cash mingle with loose standards of creative ownership. It also constitutes one of the strangest acts of unwitting philanthropy – activists outraged by the court’s overturning of Roe raising funds on the back of someone who vigorously attacked the 1973 decision. Last week, Carlson called deer “the most embarrassing court decision handed down in the last century” and a “widely recognized joke”.
During his May 11, 2021 program, however, Carlson spoke to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) about Johnson’s decision not to receive a coronavirus vaccine. As Carlson agreed with Johnson – “Well, sure; it’s your body, your choice, as we’ve heard for almost 50 years,” the Fox News host said – a chyron posted the body autonomy message. “Making an informed choice about your own body shouldn’t be controversial,” reads the text at the bottom of the screen.
Family planning in Florida quickly noted the parallels of chyron with abortion rights. Those echoes also struck a DC-based communications strategist named Gillian Branstetter, who also observed some similarities to Holzer’s work. A seasoned artist, Holzer is known for combining text and images to make political arguments. In the 1970s, she created the “Truisms” series, which made art from messages such as “Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise” which she then broadcast as lights in Times Square.
Shortly after, Branstetter captured the image of Carlson, Johnson and the chyron on screen, added the message “Is it like a Jenny Holzer installation or something?” and tweeted it to his tens of thousands of followers. Holzer then had the idea to create an NFT from Branstetter’s tweet and, after the announcement of the cancellation of the draft court opinion deer broke this spring, decided to sell it when the decision fell.
“I will confess a great deal of ignorance about NFTs in general, but I was happy to give permission for this work to help raise much-needed funds for abortion access,” Branstetter told The Washington Post. via a Twitter DM on Monday. Branstetter is a communications strategist at the ACLU but emphasized that she carried out this action as a private citizen independent of her employer. Branstetter’s deal with Holzer allows her to receive 15% of the money the artist receives from the sale, which she says she will donate to the DC Abortion Fund.
In a phone interview, Branstetter said she remained slightly puzzled about how digital feedback could be so effectively converted into a major fundraiser.
“Don’t ask me to explain how my Tweet turned into nearly $15,000 for abortion rights,” she said.
Holzer did not immediately respond to a request for comment The Post made through his studio. In a statement announcing the sale, she explained her rationale for the NFT. “Although the title is meant to read as an anti-vaccine remark, the words could also be a pro-choice statement,” she wrote of the chyron.
A Fox News spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the network and Carlson.
Holzer put the NFT up for auction around 12:30 p.m. Friday, just after the decision to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization went down. She listed it at half an eth, or about $600. Within six hours, a quartet of bidders had raised the price to nearly $13,000, before the winning bid was made around noon on Saturday.
The sale on the NFT Foundation site listed an anonymous cryptocurrency address as the buyer. The Post located a Twitter account that last November claimed to own the address; this Account, who tweeted about the Holzer auction on Friday, says he’s affiliated with a group called PleasrDAO, which calls itself “a reputation-building collective of DeFi leaders, early NFT collectors, and digital artists wonderful but caring for the acquisition of culturally significant pieces with a charitable touch.” (DeFi refers to decentralized finance, the term used for financial transactions on the web3.)
Despite the sale, who actually owns the NFT is a complicated question, say legal experts. The NFT was created by Holzer from a screenshot of Branstetter, but the image is of Carlson as he appeared on a Fox-owned show.
“I think it would come down to a fair use argument, and Fox and the creators of NFT could argue the case,” said Darren Heitner, a Florida-based intellectual property attorney with extensive experience in this new digital space. “But I would probably lean on Fox’s side that it’s not fair use due to the fact that NFT isn’t really transformative and is definitely commercial use,” he said, citing two of the criteria. legal provisions that would prohibit the use. .
He said an interesting question asked by NFTs, which are often resold, would be whether Fox could theoretically obtain an injunction that would prevent the Carlson NFT from being resold. “This is a really new area of law, and I don’t think we’ve worked out a lot of the details yet,” he said.
Meanwhile, those behind the NFT were less eager to get caught up in these details and more eager to spread their abortion rights message.
“Bodily autonomy and self-determination can be difficult, but privacy and health are pillars of the women’s reproductive rights movement,” Holzer wrote on Instagram. “Social health is the goal. We must protect the rights of the individual which protect the health of society.
Jeremy B. Merrill contributed to this report.