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Photo: Dave Roth

Zoë Roth, the centerpiece of the "Disaster Girl" meme, has made nearly half a million dollars after selling the original copy as a non-fungible token (NFT), the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The market for ownership rights to digital art and media as NFTs has recently soared in popularity.

Roth's photo was taken in 2005 when she was 4 years old. Her family went to go see a controlled fire in their Mebane, North Carolina, neighborhood.

  • Her father entered the picture in a photo contest in 2007 and won, and for the past decade the "image [has been] endlessly repurposed as a vital part of meme canon," the Times writes.

The big picture: Most Americans are not at all familiar with NFTs, though they have become major buzzwords among asset managers and market participants.

  • All NFTs contain a unique segment of digital code as an identifier of authenticity and are stored on the blockchain, a public digital ledger.
  • Memes have become a particular cash draw. Ben Lashes, who manages the Roths and subjects of other memes including "Grumpy Cat," "Success Kid" and "Doge," told the Times his clients have cumulatively made over $2 million in NFT sales.

What they're saying: Now 21, Roth studies peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina and plans to use the money from her NFT sale to donate to charities and pay off student loans.

  • "People who are in memes didn’t really have a choice in it," she told the Times. "The internet is big. Whether you’re having a good experience or a bad experience, you kind of just have to make the most of it."
  • "Once it’s out there, it’s out there and there’s nothing you can do about it," Roth's father added. "It always finds a way to stay relevant with whatever new kind of awful, terrible bad thing is happening, so I’ve laughed at a lot of them."

Go deeper... Axios Re:Cap: CryptoKitties, Grimes and the rise of NFTs

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misattributed a quote from Roth's father to Roth. It has been corrected.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.

2 hours ago - World

UAE asks U.S. to reinstate Houthi terrorist designation after attack

Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) listens to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint news conference at the State Department iin October. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a phone call Monday to re-designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, a senior Emirati official told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than a month after he assumed office, President Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s decision to make the designation. He said it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region — including an attack Monday in Abu Dhabi.