Home / Industry / Media /  From top stars to rappers, NFT is taking over entertainment

NEW DELHI : The rage for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has taken India’s entertainment and social media industry by storm with a host of Bollywood and regional stars lining up to sell their digital collectibles.

On Monday, Amitabh Bachchan went live with his NFT auction with three sets of collections on beyondlife.club. While the mega star was the first from the film fraternity to announce an NFT sale event, Salman Khan joined the bandwagon with the “Aa raha hoon main, NFTs leke... Stay tuned, bhai log!" post in his signature style as the Bhai of Bollywood.

However, Bachchan was not the first Indian celebrity to go live with the NFT auction.

Malayalam movie star Dulquer Salmaan signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi-based technology company Ammbr to hold an NFT sale last month for his film Kurup. Salmaan, who also co-produced the film, put on block the film’s poster signed by both director Srinath Rajendran and Salmaan, besides videos with embedded music and digital artwork.

Rapper Raftaar, singer Mika Singh, and YouTuber Amit Badana have also tied up with NFT marketplaces.

NFTs are unique digital signatures stored on a blockchain ledger, which represent real objects such as artwork, music, videos, online games, and collectibles. NFTs are bought by collectors and investors and can be bought and sold in the secondary market. The creator of the NFT has the option of either putting a unique piece on the block or sell the NFT to a limited number of collectors. The unique digital assets command a higher value.

“Celebrities and actors are major brand owners and have gained popularity over the years through their work, be it movies or music. They have used social media to connect and interact directly with fans for a while. Now, blockchains have emerged as a form of evolution of the internet," said Keyur Patel, co-founder and chairman, Guardian Link and co-founder, Beyondlife.club.

Patel and co-founder Arun Pandey said Bachchan’s collections will include a recording of Harivansh Rai’s Madhushala recited by the actor and some costumes, songs and vintage hand-painted posters signed by him. “Most actors are using NFTs to put out rare and precious collectibles that may not be known to fans and which they may not want to be seen on regular social media," Patel said.

Vinay Bhutani, partner, Economic Laws Practice, said a celebrity can auction or sell almost anything—from video clips and pictures, to art, music, and paintings as an NFT. “The attraction for such items and their increasing monetary value can be linked with their uniqueness, since they represent a one-of-a-kind token that is solely owned by a person, who in some cases may also own the copyright to the same, depending on the smart contract at the time of sale." “Another reason celebrities are enjoying NFTs is because the smart contract between buyers and sellers can be coded so that any future sale of the NFT confers royalties upon them as a percentage of the future sale amount, many times in perpetuity."

Bhutani said the firm has seen traction within its advisory team on NFTs and structuring of NFT platforms. “The excitement over NFTs comes from owning a digital product which is rare and one-of-a-kind," said Sumit Ghosh, CEO and co-founder, Chingari, which launched NFT marketplace with Salman Khan as brand ambassador.

$GARI will help content creators on the app set up their e-commerce space for physical merchandise. “NFTs provide an opportunity to celebrities to monetise their online or digital content, which usually does not get them the best RoI by even going viral on social media. It provides recurring income to the artist when the NFT is sold in the marketplaces and is a way to authenticate the creators of the content or digital art," Ghosh said. NFTs are designed to give you something that can’t be copied, though the artist can still retain the copyright and reproduction rights, just like with physical artwork, he added.

Unlike movies which often lose revenue to piracy, the trend of digital art will definitely see more celebrities joining it in the coming years as everyone wants to be seen as a pioneer in such spaces, said Vijay Pravin Maharajan, founder and CEO, bitsCrunch, an NFT analytics brand.

Vishakha Singh, vice-president and co-founder, WazirX NFT Marketplace that will soon announce auctions for a south Indian language film and a bunch of young YouTubers, said celebrities are looking to stay relevant in times of the covid-19 pandemic with the growing crypto community and to enhance engagement. “However, success of the venture will lie in making actual sales since this has emerged as an additional stream of revenue for them," said Singh whose company has also collaborated with Percept Live, creators of the electronic music festival Sunburn Asia to sell tickets through NFTs.

Though there are concerns around the safety of NFTs, the exchanges said they flag off suspicious activities to one other. L. Badri Narayanan, executive partner, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan Attorneys said there is currently no express or implied ban on holding or trading in cryptocurrencies, though draft bills such as Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019 and Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 have been introduced in the Parliament, but not passed.

“The regulatory vacuum governing cryptocurrencies and other blockchain driven assets is the biggest risk for NFTs. Another point of concern is whether the creator owns the copyright in the digital art sold as NFT or the person who purchased the said NFT. In various jurisdictions around the world, the general consensus is that the creator retains the exclusive copyright over the work and the NFT is simply a license granted to the purchaser, however, due to lack of specific law or any well-known judicial precedent, it still remains to be tested," said Rajat Prakash, managing partner at legal firm Athena Legal.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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