Is the World’s First Digital NFT House a Fraud?

The artist Krista Kim is embroiled in a copyright dispute with the visualizer who rendered the Mars House, a virtual property that recently sold for $500,000 as a non-fungible token.

This past week, the artist Krista Kim announced that she had sold Mars House, billed as the world’s first crypto-digital home. According to the artist, who counts Lamborghini and Lanvin among her collaborators, the digital home stems directly from her recent explorations of how to incorporate “meditative design” into our newly digitized life during quarantine. She originally created the transparent digital house using the 3D rendering platform unreal engine, and its shimmering furniture can be built in real life by glass artisans in Italy. Adding to the home’s “zen factor” is an ambient soundtrack composed by Jeff Schroeder of the Smashing Pumpkins. 

“In the near future, we will live in an AR/VR world, with digital art, architecture, cars, fashion, and pets,” Kim tells AD. “Everyone should install an LED wall in their house for NFT art. This is the future, and Mars House demonstrates the beauty of that possibility.” The virtual home’s selling price of 288 Ether (roughly $512,000) will be donated to the Continuum Foundation, which supports global tours of sound and light installations for mental health and healing. 

Kim had enlisted Argentine 3D-modeler Mateo Sanz Pedemonte to create visualizations of the Mars House, and now he’s claiming that the entire project was a fraud. According to Pedemonte, Kim never owned Mars House fully—he created the project with his own hands, and he possesses the full intellectual property. “I’m afraid to say that this project is a fraud,” Pedemonte told Dezeen. “Krista Kim never owned this project fully. I have created the project with my own hands, combined with her direction. I possess full intellectual property. I have all the content in my PC and have produced all in Unreal Engine, with all recorded working sessions. I was discarded from this project.” Kim disputes his account, stating that she retains full ownership and copyright, and that Pedemonte was properly compensated for his services.

While the virtual home’s healing potential is questionable at best, and it may seem absurd that a digital property is fetching more value than the median cost of a single-family home in the United States during a period marked by deep housing insecurity, controversy surrounding the sale seems to only be getting started. As we noted in our initial crypto coverage, creators can program royalties directly into non-fungible tokens so they can receive a predetermined cut of sales whenever the work sells to a new owner. It might be worth visualizers and fabricators to start negotiating their far share, especially as crypto sales venture into uncharted legal territory and continue to fetch astronomical prices.

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