Welcome to issue #26 of our recently launched Q&A series, Startup Spotlight.
This series is all about diving into the world-class technological innovation conducted by exciting startups. Getting to grips with the technology, the mission, and even the stories behind them.
Today, we interviewed Sanjay Wadhwani, CEO of MetaFrames, to find out how they’re democratising the content creator ownership process for fan artists... and beyond.
- 🤑 Why fan artists have struggled to make money, up until now
- ⚖️ Navigating the nuances of copyright law
- 🛍️ Why they're building the 'digital Selfridges' for NFTs
To make it as a financially successful artist, in this modern age, is a feat that’s kept away from many of the worlds' talent.
Whilst technology has opened up many opportunities, it can still be difficult for artists to monetise their creations, and support their lifestyles.
MetaFrames promotes the creation, sale, and collection of authentic artworks and collectibles in a safe community... with guaranteed monetisation, usage, and ownership assurances for IP owners, creators, and collectors alike.
It's a win-win for everyone, with NFTs as the underlying technology making it all viable.
What's an NFT?
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are cryptographic assets on a blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other.
Unlike cryptocurrencies, they cannot be traded or exchanged at equivalency. This differs from fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, which are identical to each other and, therefore, can serve as a medium for commercial transactions.Investopedia
MetaFrames also has its own creative studio. Through it, they work with established music, sports, and entertainment brands to bring a new generation of content, products, and experiences to collectors and fans. This includes working with one of the biggest names in football, ever!
But, how does MetaFrames make selling artwork a possibility with NFTs? What unique value do they bring to the emerging web3 ecosystem? And, what world-famous football superstar brand are they working with!?
We spoke to Sanjay to find out. Here we go! 👇
What is the mission of MetaFrames?
The mission of MetaFrames is to democratise the content creator ownership process.
That's the original promise of Web 3. Web 1 was all about sites publishing content and the user was supposed to read it. Web 2 is read/write, where we could generate our own content.
NFTs and the blockchain mean that, for us, it's an opportunity for creators to own more of the rewards from the content that they create.
That is the mission behind MetaFrames.
Where did the idea come from?
It was born out of fan art.
Fans, for many years, have been creating art that celebrates their fandom. Their love of whatever it might be - a brand, icon, musician, or a film or TV series. All they could do in the past, certainly since the.com era, is share it with people, but not earn from it.
There are two barriers to earning. One, there's no real sort of model for earning. And secondly, in particular, where you're basing fan art on somebody else's IP, you're at risk of infringing on that IP, and then not only can't you earn, but you're exposing yourself to liability.
Our mission is to connect fans and brands, in a safe community, where people can create and collect, curate, and connect.
I want to be able to say to fan artists:
"You can come to MetaFrames, create the work that celebrates your passion and love for somebody else's IP (e.g. James Bond or Mickey Mouse), and be insulated from litigation because we've got a license agreement with the IP owner. If it's good enough, it can go on sale and the rewards can be shared between you and the IP owner."
Today, fan art is shared on forums and social platforms like Reddit and Facebook. It's very popular and generates a lot of engagement. But, neither the creators nor the fanbase of this fan art actually earn from it. All the profits from this ad-supported activity go to the social networks and venture capital investors.
How does the license part work? IP owners must have to put in fairly specific guidelines on acceptable use cases, which could limit creativity?
That's right. The terms of each license vary, and that will be made clear to artists.
It's my plan to educate artists on where the boundaries of copyright infringement start and end. Another part of our mission is leveling the playing field between creators and IP owners. Copyyright is too often used as a weapon to protect the work of writers and creators. And, it very often overreaches the intended boundary of the legislation - copyright has a legal limit.
Copyright is actually about the 'right to copy'. So many people come to the opposite conclusion because they are lent on by big media, who feel their rights are being infringed upon. But, actually, what creators are doing is adding to the cultural capital of the world. That's a perceived grey area that needs to be more clear.
That's super interesting.
In the US, from what I understand, satire that utilises someone else's IP is protected under the First Amendment.
But, what is and isn't satire is ultimately subjective. Potentially, creating a grey area. Is that a legal example of something that you'd help your creators navigate?
This would come under 'fair use', legally, which also includes 'critique'.
It's important to answer the question for creators... "Where is the line?"
In the US, you also have an exemption if what you've created can be shown to be a 'transformative work'.
What is a transformative work, in the US?
That's all based on the evolution of case law in the US. The fundamental principle is that it's capable of being viewed as a new creative work.
Let me show you an example. Below is an iconic scene from Steamboat Willie:
It's what we call a CineFrame - a transformative work created and made up of frames taken from the film.
This is a zoom-in of the same image:
And, this is the same image zoomed in even further:
It's a seven-minute film. At 24 frames per second, that's over 10,000 frames. The artist then put that together in a specific way to recreate the scene.
It's a really interesting question about who owns the copyright now in this. In the UK, this is a new copyright that belongs to the artist.
How are you using technology to solve the problem of monetising creator content?
With blockchain and NFTs, we can guarantee authenticity of a digital file or digital artwork. This makes it automatic, with the distribution of the proceeds of the primary sale, and secondary sales. This was something that wasn't able to be done before, in an immutable, protected, and authenticated way.
We couldn't execute in the way that I wanted a few years ago. But now, we can because of NFTs. NFTs helped with streamlining the commercial side, and then the user experience.
What blockchain tech are you using?
Ultimately, we're going to be chain-agnostic. But we are starting with Ethereum and Polygon because 98% of crypto wealth is in Ethereum wallets.
There are already emerging chains which are less environmentally impactful. In the meantime, we're going to deal with our environmental impact in the traditional way, by planting trees. I would rather not be contributing to the climate emergency, and none of our brands will want that either.
But the wealth is where it is. Through the various incentives we will be introducing with our coin, my plan is to incentivise people to move over to less energy consumptive chains.
What is your unique selling point?
The unique selling point is that we’re a curated, high-quality store, full of licensed product. That's a USP in terms of the studio.
In the last 12 months, many NFT studios have popped up. They are largely populated by people who know the tech, but not the user experience, the content, or the way the media world works.
I've met many IP owners. I'm never the first meeting they've had. But the meetings they've had before will go like this, “Hi, guys. We know tech, you've got IP, let's work together and we’ll share the money with you, how does that sound?”
My meetings go like this. “Hey, guys, don't do anything. Have a good, long time to think about the strategy here. It's not about flogging stuff to your fans, it's about generating and harnessing this new technology, to deliver new experiences and content to your fans, whilst deepening that fandom”.
I think a perfect example of deepening the fandom is where you go to your fans and say, send us your stuff, and if we love it, you can be an owner of that. We’ll share it with the rest of the fans who enjoy the stuff that you make.
We also want to build 'a digital Selfridges'. Unlike other NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, which is like a flea market, when you cross the threshold and enter our store, you know that everything's of guaranteed quality, and it's authentic. There will be many levels - a fine art department, a sports department, a music department, etc.
So, I think in terms of uniqueness, we're unique on a few fronts.
What’s it been like acquiring and approaching target customers?
It’s been interesting because there are those that are a bit more forward-thinking, and there are those that are still very territorial.
We recently signed an agreement to become the exclusive worldwide agent for the global brand of football icon, Diego Maradona. The agreement was signed with Maradona’s sisters Lili and Rita Maradona and Sattvica S.A. - the commercial entity controlling the worldwide rights to Maradona’s brand name, image and likeness.
We are leading commercial development as part of a broader vision for growing the Maradona brand globally, with a particular focus on web3, gaming, and the metaverse.
The potential reach of 'brand Maradona' is huge and I am excited about the opportunities - particularly in gaming, esports, merchandising, and media. Sattvica understands this very well, too.
At the end of July, we launched the Official Maradona Fan Club. On the 22nd of September of this year, the club will be doing its first NFT drop. Fans will be able to mint a rare tradeable collectible featuring artwork from sports artist Paul Trevellion.
What milestones have you achieved?
We're going to be doing a launch of our first drop of fan art, in two weeks time. Our platform, the 'digital Selfridges', has currently got scaffolding up. So, the drop we will do will be like a pop-up venue. But the big store reveal will come, and then we'll take the scaffolding down in October.
If you'd like to learn more about MetaFrames, you can read our whitepaper here.
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