Will Loot Redefine the Legal Parameters of Social Networks?
Loot is a new thing, Founded by Dom Hoffman, who created the Vine that many of us knew and loved (at least for a while). It’s being hailed as a social network, yet Loot doesn’t look or feel like any other social networks.
As reported in Coindesk, In its first five days, “Loot: (for Adventurers),” a text-based NFT side project from social media network Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann, has managed to attract $46 million in sales and a total market cap well in excess of $180 million.
So, what’s Loot? It’s “adventurer gear” generated and stored on the blockchain. What you get from Loot is essentially a randomized bag of something that feels like an NFT. As it says on the Loot site, Stats, images, and other functionality are intentionally omitted for others to interpret.
Feel free to use Loot in any way you want.
Honestly, when I first heard about Loot I thought of this abandoned store in my neighborhood where you can now go to buy unmarked Amazon grab bags. These stores really exist – you’re buying micro- (or even macro-) lots of Amazon returns. Why anyone would want to do this boggles my mind every time I walk by these modem dumpster divers happily exiting the shop.
But with Loot you’re essentially getting (loot) bags o’pixels, which won’t make sense for a lot of people, but maybe it’s not supposed to. The initial haul of Loot was 8,000 bags of randomly generated items. What Hoffman asked is that people would then “mint” (“create” for those who don’t speak blockchain NFTs from these loot bags.
A piece this week in The Verge described Loop as “a viral social network that looks like nothing you’ve ever seen,” and while that last half of that sentence is absolutely true, why is Loot a social network? Because there’s a social component to the trading and just like Vine was, Loot itself is a social community – one that already has its own real-word gravitas. As The Verge reported, on Wednesday, the cheapest Loot bag could be had for about $20,000. That price more than doubled overnight and would now cost more than $46,000. But the time this piece is published, we could be climbing towards $100K.
But with a tumultuous and disturbing past 12 months for social networks, do we need to be more wary than ever about the creation of a new one that sits on a foundation few of us actually understand?
We certainly need to be aware of how new social networks might be regulated when they deal in the intangible (such as the blockchain and NFTs) – but what about when the new network itself could become intangible even by social network norms? What’s the worst that can happen on Loot? You can lose the value of an individual purchase or all of your purchases. What about theft and harassment? The latter may not be a huge issue given the anonymity of the blockchain. And as to theft, maybe it’s part of the game? Maybe even a desired game feature rather than a bug, with the notion of crypto-pirates stealing loot bags not a wholly undesirable thing for Loot.
Yet John Lawlor, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, warns that anything dealing with NFTs comes with legal risk far beyond pixel theft:
“The problem with the NFT space, especially for those who are brand new to it, is that they don’t fully consider how and when there are legal restrictions on work that may be copyrighted. Without even knowing, the creator or owner of an NFT might be infringing on the intellectual property rights of another person, group of people, or a corporation. This doesn’t mean that you need to stay away from new ideas such as NFTs – just tread carefully.”
Legal issues at least temporarily aside, the opportunity for new social networks to come from NFTs is exciting, and who better to build one of the early ones than the person who built the once-viral Vine app.
Robleh Jama, a product director at Shop, who built several top-rated apps before having his company acquired by Shopify, loves new Internet ideas and watches the NFT space very closely. This week, he tweeted how impressed he was by Loot:
“Loot is the wildest thing I’ve seen on the internet and in crypto. So much energy, creativity, and real-time experimentation all coming together to make internet magic.”
For those willing to embrace the discomfort and lack of familiarity that comes with new social media frontiers, Loot and its progeny could prove to be interesting for their creative mill. For others who can’t or won’t push their comfort level beyond what the Internet and social media has meant to them for a decade or more, they’ll miss new experiences but will probably be erring on the side of Internet safety, at least for a while.