Another iconic meme is going up for auction as an NFT: the text and sunglasses used to popularize “deal with it” GIFs. The auction is being held on the NFT platform Foundation, and bidding is currently at around $8,000, with more than five hours remaining at the time this article was published.
The meme was listed by Ryder Ripps, the designer / creative director / “art prankster” who recently made headlines for falsely claiming to be behind the dystopian redesign of the CIA’s website. (Ripps told The Verge the claim was a joke and “so obvious if you have your cerebral cortex functioning.”)
Ripps does, at least, appear to be closely connected to the “deal with it” meme, even if the decade-old image’s exact provenance is difficult to fully verify. The glasses and text were popularized in 2010 on the image sharing site Dump.fm, which Ripps co-founded, and the memes were created using a Photoshop template uploaded to the site. “I made that,” Ripps said. (He added that ownership over the meme “is too stupid to lie about.”)
Crucially, this is not the original “deal with it” image, but the template that helped to popularize putting the text and glasses on just about anything. The deal with it dog predates Dump.fm, but Ripps’ site was credited with helping the format emerge into a meme. A bunch of early uses of the meme can still be seen rounded up on an archived page from the Dump.fm.
What’s unique about Ripps’ auction is that he isn’t just selling a copy of his work, he’s also selling “the full rights to this image & meme and the Photoshop template used to create it.” NFT sales — such as the one for Nyan Cat — typically offer buyers ownership of a copy of an image, as though they were buying a physical painting, while artists still keep their intellectual rights. “I don’t agree with that personally,” Ripps said. “It just feels strange to me.”
So Ripps’ auction will hand off complete control of the “deal with it” template. The sale potentially complicates matters for meme creators, since a countless number of GIFs rely on his image, which someone else will now control the rights to. It’s also unclear to what extent Ripps can even sell “full rights” to the broader meme. The sunglasses imagery was around before he made the template, and the meme has continued to have an expansive life beyond the now-defunct pages of Dump.fm.
Ripps said he isn’t worried about someone taking ownership of his template and using it to assert control over the meme. “I think that’d be an interesting chapter in internet history,” he said. “What’s the worst thing that happens if they do that? Someone has to take down a deal with it meme? Who cares? There’s more memes in the world.”
In the past, Ripps has rejected the idea that one person can control a meme. “Do I care? Do I want credit?” Ripps wrote when Time used the phrase “Deal with it” on its front cover in 2015. “No. I think its super cool! … This type of unfettered sharing is what the internet has always been predicated on.” (The term “deal with it,” likewise, predated Ripps’ use of it.)
NFT sales have been blowing up over the past couple weeks. Nyan Cat sold on Foundation for about $592,000 in cryptocurrency at the time of sale. The digital artist Beeple is currently auctioning an NFT at Christie’s, with bidding now at $3.5 million with a week to go. And just about anyone else with a product to move is trying to get in on the hype.