What are NFTs?

Originally published at: What are NFTs? | Boing Boing


While I’m all in favor of providing ways for artists, including digital artists, to make money, this is a very weird interpretation of the concept of ownership.


I don’t understand why we’re creating artificial digital scarcity.


What happens if you buy an NFT but don’t believe art should be “owned”

And just put the thing on bittorrent?


Art as crypto pyramid scheme? Yeah, sounds sufficiently artsy. Definitely more on the art sabotage side of things, vs. poetic terrorism.


Or just a normal web page with links to all the digital files I “own”, free for use by others. In fact, if I buy it then it’s mine and I can licenses it for use by others, right?

Apparently not.
Copyright on a Painting: Who Owns It?.


Like most of copyright, reality will continue on its merry way, ignoring all the tortuous rules of ownership created to derive infinite value income from finite work.

Copy everything.

Edit: Besides, by Schofield’s Second Law of Computing, unless you have at least two copies, it doesn’t exist.


So that people have a way to give artists money that doesn’t feel like charity and is more affordable than traditional forms of “patronage.”

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But surely if it’s a digital work I can display it on my personal web page for the world to see. That’s akin to me hanging a physical work on my physical properly. Otherwise, why buy a digital work? Just to put in on my local disk and never display it?

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To own an arbitrary commodity that you can sell on for more money in the future. Great for money laundering! (Note: this also describes the physical art market to an ever-increasing degree, too.)


But then why change ownership at all? If I want to buy a work from an artist because I want to give them money, they I’d just buy it directly from the artist, and not some middle person.


My understanding of the situation is that if you buy a digital painting of a pizza, that you cannot then use the painting on the website of your pizza restaurant to sell pizza without also buying the rights to it, but you could display it on a screen in your pizza restaurant.

Like I said, weird notion of ownership.


I think the whole world has copyright upside down.

Definitely pay artists for their contributions - visual, audio, programming, whatever. I think crowdfunding is a good example of how this should work. After that, works are free to the world. If no one is willing to pay, then it is never released into the world to begin with unless the artist so chooses. Fairly quickly people with a proven history of good works could command sponsors for future work without all that nasty business of trying to stop people from freeloading/benefiting after the fact.


This article completely overlooks the ludicrous environmental cost of NFTs as currently implemented.

In fact, of the ~18000 CryptoArt NFTs that I analyzed, the average NFT has a footprint of around 340 kWh and 211 KgCO2


You can, but NFTs seem to be appealing to a collector’s mentality, which is fairly close to a hoarder’s mentality and sometimes a gambler’s mentality. For people like that – especially ones with money to burn, but others too – it’s less about the thing itself than about the ownership of the thing and how that ownership defines them as a person (and perhaps about the ability to speculate on it financially). This is just giving those types digital stuff to collect.

I’m looking into NFTs on behalf of a client who deals in physical collectibles and art and whose customer base has this mentality, but I’ll be taking my own billables in fiat currency, thankyewvermuch.

The creator royalties functionality is the most interesting part of NFTs for me – anything that puts more money in an artist’s pocket is a good thing. There are probably applications for this concept that don’t involve blockchain, or at least not a wasteful Bitcoin-style implementation.

Personally, though, I don’t have mindset that sees much value in these items. The requirement of using cryptocurrencies to buy and sell NFTs is off-putting for me as well.


The obvious use case is money laundering. It’s a tech that let’s you do all the money laundering of high art paintings without the hassle of dealing with a physical object.


This still fails to explain what rights an NFT would allow you to manage. If I buy a painting, I can choose where to hang it. How does an NFT enable or restrict rights surrounding the material, or is it just a trading card that can be purchased for the right to sell it to someone else?

If it doesn’t manage rights, then it really just feels like a ponzi scheme.


Right. It doesn’t seem to provide any rights except maybe the right to view it. In what sense do you own such an artwork, then?

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Pretty much this – literally in the case of trading card manufacturers like Topps who’ve been in the game of creating artificial scarcities for commodity items for a long time. And now they’ll get a royalty every time one of their digital cards is sold by one collector to another.

There’s probably an interesting case here for use of NFTs in CCGs like MTG, which in a way would bring the crypto exchanges full-circle (I refer here to the infamous MTGox).