You may recall the chilling murder of Virginia reporter Alison Parker, who was interviewing a local politician on camera when the gunman opened fire on the news crew in 2015. Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by a disgruntled former colleague, and the music video went viral in the wake of their deaths. Parker’s father, Andy, has spent the past seven years trying to honor his daughter’s memory by deleting the clip of her death from the internet, where copies continue to be viewed tens of thousands of times.
Now he’s trying one last, desperate effort: shooting the video in an NFT.
NFTs are a way to actually own digital property. In their most mundane form, this has involved “Bored Apes” and other digital artwork that looks and sounds like the first stage of an internet scam. But some NFTs have helped people regain some control over their identities — people like “Disaster Girl” for example, whose viral face is ubiquitous but hasn’t been compensated to match her fame. By turning the video into a non-fungible token, these people can have digital ownership of their digital identities.
Parker’s quest is similar, but far more tragic. He just doesn’t want people sharing footage of his daughter’s murder anymore, and turning the video into an NFT would technically give him the legal power to file copyright claims against the platforms that host the video. That way, instead of trying to crush individual users who upload the images, the platforms themselves would be forced to comply with copyright law or face legal consequences. “For the victims of horrific images disseminated on the Internet in general, unfortunately and inappropriately, copyright ends up being an effective tool,” said Adam Massey, partner at CA Goldberg, PLLC. Washington Post.
It remains to be seen how effective Parker’s plan will be. The internet is a big, anonymous space and having it completely cut off has been a source of enormous pain for others in her situation. Just ask bereaved Sandy Hook parent Lenny Pozner, who has made it his mission to remove his son’s photo from conspiracy theory sites — with little success.
But NFTs are a new tool that can succeed where loosely controlled policies against the spread of hoaxes have failed. They can also give hope to victims of revenge nudes and other types of non-consensual pornography who have had explicit images of themselves disseminated online without their consent. Using copyright law in this way remains very new and unproven ground for families looking for some measure of closure and reassurance. But right now, it could also be their last, best hope.