Troy and Karen Burns watched in tears as the spire of Notre Dame de Paris fell into the flames on April 15, 2019. They remembered their image Spire Over the Seine which had just appeared in Donald Glover’s Atlanta on FX. The couple sought a way to sell or donate their print to the restoration efforts. On January 1, 2022, they minted the world’s first Real Fungible Token (RFT).
A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a unique digital asset that can’t be subdivided or replaced by another like item. The ownership in the blockchain is the token providing ownership, rights of resale, and licensing. Another NFT characteristic is an artist’s royalty on the resale of the NFT.
If there is a NFT, there must also be a RFT.
Photography is a unique art form due to Title 17 US Copyright Law which grants copyright protection to an image the moment the image is recorded onto film or a digital sensor. An image created by a digital camera can be a NFT. An image created on film is tangible, it is real.
When a photographer prints an image and sells it they are selling the right to enjoy the print or to sell the print. No other rights are granted. The photographer can make an identical print with the negative making the print a fungible work of art.
When a photographer bundles the print created from a negative with the negative, rights of reproduction, licensing, resale of the print, or resale of the negative with an artist’s royalty they have minted a RFT. The negative is the token that conveys the rights of the RFT and the creator maintains copyright in perpetuity.
Karen Burns is the majority owner of Metro Productions, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia working with C-suite executives in marketing, PR, and corporate communications. Before they could organize the journey to sell the world’s first RFT, Russia invaded Ukraine bringing everything to a halt.
The couple then remembered an infrared image of a field of sunflowers they photographed in 2014 and minted a second RFT to benefit Ukrainian refugees with an emphasis on children. A week later the couple minted an image of Jerry Garcia from the Atlanta Spring Tour in 1995 to fund a charitable foundation to allow the first two RFT’s to fully benefit the causes they were minted to support.
The couple has a long history of volunteering for social causes. Karen has been the photographer for Camp Horizon, a charter camp of Camp Twin Lakes that works with children in the Georgia DFCS system for 23 years. They participated in street feedings and organized Thanksgiving Dinner on the Street in Atlanta for three years serving dinner under the stars a block away from Atlanta’s busiest heroin corner. The couples’ foundation seeks to provide scholarships to foster children, implement after-school programs for kids, and organize parent-child sporting competitions.