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NFTs seemed like the answer... what happened?

To the naked eye, Non-fungible tokens seemed perfect; a digital trading card or certificate to verify ownership of artwork could make certain that an artist’s work was not stolen or created for free. However, as many loose ends begin to come undone, the entire system falls apart at the seams.

Cryptoart, (and crypto in general), wastes resources.

As mentioned in my previous article pertaining to NFTs and their environmental impact, the immense processing and storage cryptocurrencies require can threaten the environment with heavy carbon emissions. Not only does this issue continue to persist, but according to Anil Dash, the CEO of crowdsourcing app development company Glitch, there is little motivation to improve the environmental sustainability of crypto-trading. Many enthusiasts today will respond that “clean” or “green” NFTs are already starting to circulate. But the blockchain and cryptocurrency enthusiasts of the past decade have shown that environmental responsibility is less than an afterthought. No evidence suggests that cryptotraders will make more money by embracing green NFTs.” Though a somewhat cynical thought, if the goodwill of the general public or the environment does not outweigh the opportunity for profit, traders will make little effort to find better solutions to an industry flaw.

NFTs are not actually the artwork.

Regarding the nature of NFTs themselves, the “tokens” are not quite as advertised: they aren‘t actually the artwork, but a link to the art. Dash explained that blockchains storing NFTs were originally designed as a way to sell artwork, but the actual piece could not be stored due to size limitations. So, as a prototype, developers created a hyperlink directly to the work. However, this model was never improved upon and led to complications with accessing the artwork. If a domain was not renewed or the company that paid for it went out of business, the link would be lost forever. If found, decades later, how could anyone know if the art was authentic? The company holding the art would no longer exist, and there is a possibility that no documentation could be found to verify it. “Right now NFTs are built on an absolute house of cards constructed by the people selling them,” the software engineer Jonty Wareing recently wrote on Twitter. (Dash, “NFTs Weren’t Supposed to End Like This”)

Furthermore, sometimes grifters will attempt to steal artists’ work and sell them as NFTs, reaping the profits without a cent to the creator’s name. This entire concept poses a difficult problem in authenticating art. While some major auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christies will likely continue to maintain their NFTs, other smaller companies hoping to ride the cryptoart wave may not last for long, and with them their artists and investors.

Corporate exploitation is a continuous problem.

NFTs are, admittedly, a fad. Just as any company seeks to jump on the latest bandwagon, monetized digital art was destined to become the next victim of corporate interference. Goods ranging from Charmin’s toilet-paper-themed artwork to Pringles’ exclusive “virtual flavor”, are corporations' way of “creating” and selling digital artwork to bidders. But just because a company sells exclusive work doesn’t mean the artists involved receive a bigger piece of the pie. Many artists, in fact, have pushed back against NFTs and refuse to take part in any form of blockchain auctioning, believing that corporate exploitation of artists will only be exacerbated by NFTs. Little improvement in artist’s wages or even recognition has resulted from this craze, as corporations seldom credit the creators of their artwork even in advertisements.

NFTs are a fad, but just how long will it last?

Most believe that it is only a matter of time for the NFT phase to fizzle out. Just like always, artists will continue fighting an uphill battle to earn the appreciation they deserve. NFTs may have once appeared to be the perfect solution for starving artists, but things are not always what they seem.

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