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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 38 mins ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Tokyo Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him. Moments later, Kieran Smith grabbed a third medal for the U.S. when he won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

DOJ won't investigate nursing home deaths in N.Y. and 2 other states

People who've lost loved ones due to COVID-19 while they were in New York nursing homes attend a March protest and vigil in New York City. As of this month, Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has decided not to launch a civil rights investigation into whether policies in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan contributed to pandemic deaths in nursing homes, according to a letter sent to Republicans.

Why it matters: The Trump DOJ requested data from the three states plus New Jersey last August "amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19," per AP.

Former Blizzard CEO says he "failed” women at the studio

Image: Neville Elder / Getty Images

Mike Morhaime, who co-founded and worked at video game studio Blizzard for 28 years, has apologized publicly for toxic work conditions at his former studio, which is now the subject of a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by the state of California.

Why it matters: Morhaime is no longer at Blizzard, but was its leader for most of its existence and therefore was in charge when much of what is alleged in California’s suit would have occurred.