The Future is Digital – a bit obvious for a title isn’t it? Our entire lives are on the internet; from our social lives, our money, our work and now collecting. Buying and selling anything from original files of art and photography to car part designs at McLaren and first copy merchandise – it’s all online and marketable. NFT’s are opening up new pathways for businesses and introducing new forms of investment for purchasers but many are confused at their place in the art world, how they work and their longterm success.
What is an NFT?
NFT stands for Non-fungible (goods that are unexchangeable or not replaceable) token, NFTs can be any digital asset, that is usually easily copied and reproduced, that is now original using blockchain technology to establish a verified and public proof of ownership. It’s essentially a reaction and answer to the difficulty of policing copyright online with the hope of providing some income to digital creators that traditionally couldn’t have ‘originals’ in the art collecting sense – prints? Sure, but originals were deemed impossible because people download the images anyway with little stopping them. They are also ‘tokens’ working in a way that’s a bit like a trading card – you can’t return an NFT.
What is the value in owning an original file?
Many creators are responding to NFTs with randomised artwork so you get something different to any other purchaser, others sell one-off pieces. Either way the purchaser gets the digital copyright and ability to use that image. It is also made for collectors and well-brought NFTs could increase in value and be sold on. You are also supporting the digital artist and creators that make the art or other digital creation in purchasing NFTs.
NFT’s use the same blockchain technology as cryptocurrencies that use a lot of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, so their effect on climate change is not a sustainable one at the moment.
When I first heard of NFTs last year and heard that someone brought a piece of digital art, essentially a file, for millions I thought it absurd that someone would pay so much, or have enough money to buy, a file that is original but would look the same as all the other copies. It’s not like art where you get to see and feel the texture of the surface and the hand made feel over the smooth impersonal print. I’m still unsure of how sustainable NFT’s are or of how popular they will be in the future as an investment product, but for digital creators with concerns over copyright NFTs seem to be a solution to a growing industry with little policing. To me, NFTs show just how badly we need to look at the structures and laws in place in a relatively free online world.