NFTs are frauds. They’re objects of value just as much as tamagotchis are pets. One of the red flags that caught my attention weeks ago when NFTs were hyped up in the media was that anyone can make an NFT about anything, but blockchain technology will make that assignation to that “thing” unique and that rarity will create value. But what is rarity if it doesn’t really have any practical consequences the way rarity actually works in real life? There were only 69 Faberge eggs created by the House of Faberge. Only 57 of those meticulously jeweled eggs survive today. Perhaps they can be reproduced and mass manufactured, but there is inherent value in the originals.
Acquiring a replica of the originals would also require some effort. A person does not just search for Faberge eggs on Google and immediately have a copy of it. NFTs however, their rarity only exists among NFTs. Being mostly blockchain representation of digital art, their digital art counterpart can still be downloaded from the Internet. There is often no real rarity. This is why NFT speculators burned a Banksy after assigning an NFT to it, to create actual rarity. Stupidly however, I think they just destroyed an actual valuable work of art whose image is available freely online. Maybe I’ll download an image of it and create an NFT of it as well. It won’t be tied to original that was destroyed, but it would also be an NFT that didn’t destroy a Banksy.
Then I see this piece of news from the Art Newspaper: Basquiat NFT withdrawn from auction after artist’s estate intervenes. It read, “no license or rights were convened to the seller.” Now, the seller of the NFT claims that they have proof of purchase and payment to substantiate the authenticity of the ownership, and that the buyer would be free to destroy the original. However, the estate of the artist disputed the claim and the auction was halted. The seller explained, “while blockchain transactions are widely considered a trusted source of authentification and provenance, best copyright practices have yet to evolve for the digital economy.” I don’t know. To me, it sounds like two copyright schemes are at work, and the ultimate real world copyright holders seems to have won in this case. Now, proponents of NFTs claim that the technology will help authenticate works, but I think it just creates just as many problems as it claims to solve. There may be poorly reproduced versions of Basquiat’s work produced and sold from China, but what’s stopping anyone from making equally fraudulent NFTs of Basquiat’s work? In fact, one of the things that was frequently mentioned when NFTs were being hyped is that the author of the original work doesn’t have to be the author of the NFTs. The NFTs are their own thing. The assignation to its physical counterpart is a legal fiction that all parties must agree to in order to create value for the intangible ones and zeroes.
An NFT of the Mona Lisa will never be as valuable as the real one. It certainly won’t be as satisfying staring at it on a wall than studying it on a monitor. When they destroyed a Banksy and said that they “transformed it” to an NFT. They destroyed something of value and now collectively decided that the destroyed value is now transferred to the NFT. Now, some might be willing to join in on that delusion, but I believe many more would see it as foolishness. Going back to my initial comparison, this would be like me killing a dog and claiming that it has now transformed into my tamagotchi.
And just look at the trouble the sellers of Basquiat have regarding the work’s provenance. This is just based on two competing claims which I imagine would appear equally credible to most people if not one of the sides weren’t the artist’s estate. Imagine the headache of having two or more competing NFTs claiming to be the real representation of an art piece. Now, of course, people would say that blockchain technology would prevent this confusion from happening, along with a long-winded explanation. But there’s also a long-winded explanation as to how copyright laws would prevent problems like the Basquiat NFT confusion from happening, and yet here we are.
This all concerns works with real world counterparts, where actual physical ownership and copyrights seem to trump NFT logic. I think it would be even more challenging to convince people of the long lasting value of purely digital works as NFTs. You have a copy of a normally replicable file, only that it cannot be truly replicated, with no other discernible difference from other copies except for the fact that there is some value assigned to it by crypto speculators. This, in a world were people download, copy, and pirate media and computer programs all of the time. I don’t think this will catch on. Looking at several think pieces, I’m not alone on this. The craze seems to be powered more by speculators rather than enthusiasts, and now, things appears to be winding down, with the average price of NFTs going down to a quarter of its peak in February. This could be an effect of the flood on the market, but one can also not ignore the current drop in NFT sales.
Now, I am just as guilty as writing on a platform that no one reads, but I’m just amazed at how incomprehensible the words of Donald Trump are on his blog. He either writes long “tweets” or creates an unreadable wall of text. Seriously, the man cannot write paragraphs! Somebody help him; I understand why many of his supporters don’t visit his blog.