Animoca Brands’ Yat Siu sees NFTs as a way to protect ownership in the age of AI

NFTs don’t always get taken very seriously, particularly now that AI and content creators are hogging the spotlight, but not everyone is so quick to discount crypto’s oft-derided younger sibling. According to Animoca Brands’ chairman and co-founder, Yat Siu, the growing influence of artificial intelligence and content is exactly why there is a growing need for NFTs in the world.

Yes, we know that’s a bold claim, but before you roll your eyes, hear him out:

Animoca has its own NFT collections, blockchain products and a collection of wildly popular games. The company has also worked with other well-known brands and personalities like Disney, WWE, Power Rangers, The Walking Dead, Formula E and Snoop Dogg.

Speaking on TechCrunch’s latest Chain Reaction episode, Siu said that NFTs are “digital stores of culture that we can then transform,” whether that’s something as simple as owning your value online or protecting your intellectual property.

He explained that NFTs could be used to open up avenues for earning money from content while avoiding traditional paths to monetization, which could cost a lot of money. He pointed as an example to someone who’s a teacher in Venezuela and earns a monthly salary of about $10 or $15 — they could create educational content or assets that can open doors to a side income. It may cost too much to have a lawyer drum up a contract, but with an NFT, you could create one in a single transaction for less than $1, he said.

“We’ve seen that in effect, where teachers in these countries have started making assets. They’re making a small yield, and then investors from all over the world have said, ‘I’m going to buy this, I can make more value out of this,’” he added.

That encapsulation of intellectual property rights can extend to everyone building their own IP by using NFTs, Siu said. For example, a dancer on TikTok can create a viral dancing trend, but without proof that they created it first, they couldn’t monetize it if they wanted to.

“Web3 is so important, especially given the fact that AI is becoming such a prevalent part of our lives. Yet, we have no control over ownership of any of it,” Siu said.

With blockchain technology, anyone can create a trademark or copyright claim on something that they had created, Siu said. “These are other ways in which you can start to defend your rights. That really empowers everyone to do that.”

Of course, not everyone will find it easy to develop such an understanding of NFTs and the related tech quickly. But over time, Siu believes there will be more accessible routes to make this vision a reality for everyone.

The whole movement can feel deeply personal because it involves money, Siu noted. “In this sense, it feels like digital capitalism sort of comes home in a very big way.”

In the U.S., Siu said he’s seen fairly anti-capitalist movements, especially among young people. “Money and capitalism starts to feel futile […] People were very negative towards folk in the finance industry, and they kind of talk about people in crypto in the same way.”

But Siu feels this is ironic, because web3 users were originally the ones who “rallied against the establishment and created an alternative system” outside of traditional financial rails.

He thinks on-chain dynamics is the best way to verify information because it’s fully auditable. “That’s why I think blockchain technology will help solve many of the world’s biggest problems that are incoming.”

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