It’s the ultimate case of investing in yourself. A young woman whose childhood photo went viral has made almost $650,000 by selling the original copy of the meme as a non-fungible token (NFT).
The now-21-year-old subject of the Disaster Girl meme, Zoë Roth, immediately received $US500,000 ($AU643,000), and will retain copyright over it, ensuring a further 10 per cent share of any future sales of the NFT.
Ms Roth said she would use the money to fund her college education and donate to charity.
The NFT was purchased by 3F Music, a Dubai-based music studio.
In a statement in March, 3F Music explained its purchase was in step with technological markets.
“Our management team is always in cooperation with some highly knowledgeable and experienced art advisers who believe that we must grow with technological movements that help us to not only promote our business but also to support artists and the art market,” it said in a statement.
The image of Ms Roth has enjoyed a rare sustained internet success spanning more than a decade.
Ms Roth’s father took the photo of the then-five-year-old smirking at the camera as a house fire burns in the background.
The meme became a bedrock for expressing gain from the misfortune of others.
The story behind the image is considerably less nefarious.
According to the New York Times, the house fire was a controlled blaze set by firefighters who were letting local kids in the North Carolina neighbourhood take turns holding the hose.
Ms Roth said she consulted the subjects of two other memes who also found rare internet fame before deciding to sell the image.
Kyle Craven, better known as Bad Luck Brian, and Laney Griner, the mother of Success Kid have both sold their memes as NFTs.
“It’s the only thing that memes can do to take control,” Ms Roth said Mr Craven told her.
The creator of Nyan Cat, Chris Torres, is another among the exclusive group of internet stars to make a lucrative living off NFTs, having made $750,000 from his artwork.
Ms Roth said she found the success of her meme “crazy”.
“People who are in memes and go viral is one thing, but just the way the internet has held on to my picture and kept it viral, kept it relevant, is so crazy to me,” Ms Roth said.
“I’m super grateful for the entire experience.”