AP reverses decision to sell a photo of refugees as an NFT

In January 2022, the Associated Press launched an NFT marketplace where people could buy the exclusive digital rights to AP's newsworthy photographs. As explained in a press release at the time:

The initial collection will feature photography by current and former AP photojournalists and a selection of digitally enhanced depictions of their work. Pulitzer Prize-winning AP images will be included.

"For 175 years AP's journalists have recorded the world's biggest stories, including through gripping and poignant images that continue to resonate today," said Dwayne Desaulniers, AP director of blockchain and data licensing. "With Xooa's technology, we are proud to offer these tokenized pieces to a fast-growing global audience of photography NFT collectors."

Each NFT will include a rich set of original metadata offering collectors awareness of the time, date, location, equipment and technical settings used for the shot.

The press release goes on to explain that this is supposed to be a fundraising mechanism for the Associated Press, which is technically a non-profit organization.

Noble as that intention might be, selling an NFT of a photograph by of an overcrowded rescue boat full of refugees, which was taken by a photojournalist killed on the job in Afghanistan, may not have been the best way to go about it.

The AP has since removed the NFT, as well as the tweet, telling the Nieman Lab over email that, "This was a poor choice of imagery for an NFT. It has not and will not be put up for auction. AP's NFT marketplace is a very early pilot program, and we are immediately reviewing our efforts."

More from Nieman Lab:

Two "commemorative NFTs" by Anja Niedringhaus — the German AP photojournalist who was killed in Afghanistan in 2014, and a 2007 Nieman Fellow — were auctioned off this week at 0.66 ETH, about $1789, each.

NFTs purchased through the AP's site can be resold there, with the AP taking a 10% fee "inclusive of payment processor fees." The AP sold another Anja Niedringhaus NFT, "Splash in Kabul," for $1,799 3 days ago; that buyer is now trying to resell it for 532 ETH — roughly $1.4 million, at the moment.

An NFT of Noah Berger's "Marsh Fire," first bought for $399, is being resold for 35.52 ETH, or about $99,999 at the moment.

AP cancels auction of overcrowded migrant boat NFT after outcry [Laura Hazard Owen / Nieman Lab]