Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
What is an NFT from an artist’s perspective? (alex-pardee.medium.com)
76 points by jds375 43 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 85 comments

NFT sellers are dodging the elephant in the room: Buying an NFT is more like buying a print of an artwork than buying the artwork itself. Or more accurately, a link to a print of the artwork.

Yes, using crypto and blockchain you can prove that this was the first NFT print of the artwork, but that's it. It's an expensive way to proclaim that you have the keys controlling the NFT that links to the print of the artwork, and that it was associated with a crypto-denominated transaction of a certain value, but that's it.

These NFTs are also a goldmine for wash trading scams. NFT holders can "sell" the NFT to themselves over and over again at increasingly higher prices, creating an illusion of a very valuable and high-demand NFT.

Want to own an expensive NFT? Buy a cheap NFT, then use a second wallet to "buy" it from yourself. The last trade price gets recorded in the blockchain and you can now brag about having an NFT worth as much money as you were willing to scrounge up for the transaction.

This is the traditional way to launder money with art, only now much easier!

And to me the interesting question here is, if we both buy cheap 10$ tokens, and agree to buy these from each other at 1000$ and "lose our keys" will we be able to collect insurance on the lost asset? Will we be able to deduct the loss in taxes? Or if we donate the "artworks" to each others charities will we be able to deduct them in taxes?

the tax scam will be: 1. make shitty meme with alt dirty account 2. buy meme with real account for $1mm 3. gift meme to charity auction, write off 1mm in taxes 4. launder 1mm from dirty account by buying shitty meme from main account.

Good luck finding an insurer that will insure these for you


Folks aren't buying a verified unique token for obscene amounts just to brag about it. They might brag, but many have other reasons to hold an object of such "value" .

Anyone thinking that NFT is anything other than a vanity token for the wealthy and a money laundering mechanism for the same is fooling themselves.

Well, kinda. Art is a quirky way to use an NFT for sure. But being able to verify scarcity, ownership and interoperability of a 'digital asset' is pretty useful in many applications. Afterall, everyones been saying everything is going online but i don't believe we truly understand what that means yet.

Not sure about the first point, after all with digital art what matters is the NFT since anyone can copy the artifact 1:1 at virtually no cost and no risk. I agree with many that NFTs are best suited for digital worlds but that begs the question: what happens if the game is centralized? They can still prevent you from actually having or using that item, regardless of any proof of ownership.

Re: wash trading, that also happens in the art world with shell companies.

Use value is easy to assign to an NFT post-facto. That hasn't been really done in the current market(which is, of course, in the midst of a bubble), but:

* Tokens can become tickets to events

* Tokens can become options on commissioned work

* Tokens can become signs of membership

Because the token is guaranteed to be unique, and you can track ownership, there's a fluidity to this that lets you do away with contractual mechanisms. You can reuse the same tokens many times or announce that it will expire(for your use case).

Edit: And platforms can't really own it if it's on a public chain, too. You just copy the chain(see: BinancePunks copying CryptoPunks). So there's that.

What prevents people registering a new NFT for the same work? Provenance might not be easily justifiable purely by date it was created.

How is this different from having someone you know help drive up an artwork’s sale price so you get a higher last auction value?

Not that different. The art world is also kind of scammy. Most people wouldn't want to put money in to it.

NFT art is worthless imo, but NFT for digital goods as a whole is very valuable.

NFT is a glorified receipt. Some people collect receipts: like ticket-stubs for world series games or concerts, but first you have to convince the MLB or Ticketmaster to sell tickets on Ethereum, which is a big ask.

It's amazing the absolute bullshit people will force themselves to believe when their might be some money in it for them.

All these articles gloss over the technical side (which is really not complicated, because there's very little THERE). And gloss over the demand side (sure, people want to "own" the art even when "own" means absoluely nothing in that context). I can only assume that on the demand side there's a mixture of stupid money ("I don't know what this is but it seems like it might be the next big thing so I'm buying") and people working one of various angles.

At least some artists are getting paid stupid amounts of money, if someone's got to get a windfall it might as well be them. But let's not pretend thing actually makes sense as an overall thing.

Proof of authenticity, whether being digital or not, doesn't mean anything until

1) the culture of the general people around you support it, or

2) there is an entity with political power (such as the state) that forcefully protects that authenticity through law/police/the military/etc (for example, intellectual property supported by law enforcement).

But firstly I think NFTs are totally antitheical to the current culture of the Internet era, where it is given without question that data can be freely copied and shared (regardless of the countless efforts by DRM technologies), and virality and mass transmission is regarded as an important communal cultural value. Who cares if someone "owns" the Nyan Cat meme, when you can freely Google it and view it on your smartphone, and can also save it to your hard drive if you want to preserve it? And I really don't think state power is really supportive of general crypto right now, so number two is off from the start. The problem I have with NFTs (and cryptocurrenties in general) isn't about the technology, it's more about the culture surrounding it.

(Also, think the blockchain is permanent, because it's supported by "math"? If the infrastructure surrounding Ethereum vanishes, your piece of NFT is essentially gone. And Ethereum's consuming a hell of a lot of energy and infrastructure to maintain, and you might start to think backing it up in a few hard drives is the easier and saner option...)

Who cares who owns the Mona Lisa, when I can see it online better than I can in real life (infrared imagery, x-ray scan)

As soon as "real" art collectors start buying them (already hapenening) then they will mutually invest in protecting their investment, no need for government when civil courts can preside.

First of all, civil courts are supported by the civil law, and that law is supported by the government. One example of a civil law is copyright enforcement, which is often enforced by the Supreme Court.

And also, when actual powerful entities (whether that be governments/corporations/etc) start to involve in protecting NFT investments using the law, is there any benefit of "crypto" being used to protect the value of the asset anymore? Isn't it just private property with extra steps?

I really don't think the Mona Lisa comparison doesn't fit with the current conversation with NFTs, since NFTs deal with digital assets, and trying to convert an analog artwork like Mona Lisa to fit into NFTs would already demolish its authentic value as an amalgamation of detailed, non-reproducible paint strokes (which I think is the authentic value you're emphasizing about).

> Who cares who owns the Mona Lisa, when I can see it online better than I can in real life (infrared imagery, x-ray scan)

Exactly. The only things canonical-physical artworks are good for are conspicuous consumption/bragging rights and money laundering(/other money-laundering-adjactent activities).

And the bragging typically manifests by hanging the physical work on the walls of your home(s) so your guests can view it and be impressed as if they're at a museum or gallery. I'm wondering how the bragging rights for NFTs will manifest... 25 OLED screens decorating my walls with jpegs?

It has all the hallmarks of an MLM or Ponzi scheme. Lots of people hyping it up, hoping to sell on their "asset" to a bigger fool.

You can't restrict ownership of digital goods. Decades of DRM have shown us that.

It's not about not allowing access to people--it's about provably being the person named "owner" of a given good.

The fatal problem is literally: "who cares". Real "authenticity" doesn't comes from math and comes instead from culture. Using the "if a tree falls in a forest" philosophy meme: if the blockchain claims that you have the Nyan Cat image but nobody cares about it, then do you really "own" the image?

More about the history of authenticity: Religion supplied this culture of "authenticity" for some time, but after the Industrial revolution the widespread duplicate production of commodities, along with the invention of photos and videos, has been eroding away the value of the authentic "the one and only" irrelevant for some time. Walter Benjamin has a nice essay about this change of culture in his famous essay - " The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". And the Internet seems to further accelerate the notion of communal art, where memes only have value if they are shared freely and not when someone hangs it in a museum. My gripe with NFTs has nothing to do with the technicalities of crypto and everything to do with everything else (primarily, politics and culture in relation to technology).

> It's not about not allowing access to people--it's about provably being the person named "owner" of a given good.

Like this? https://lunarland.com/

The DRM comparison is one I was dying to see. This NFT stuff feels like the returning nemesis of open culture from previous web sub-eras. I hardly want to own a work. Take it, build on it, sing it somewhere with someone else who likes it.

You can't restrict ownership of physical goods or art really, it's just that there's "authentic" goods and "fake" goods.

So you're right you can't restrict possession of digital goods but you can restrict the right to sell a digital good because any potential buyers will want to know what they're buying is "authentic".

CSGO skins go for thousands with the rarest going for tens of thousands, you can download them and possess them right now but valve says you don't "own" them and can't sell them.

CSGO skins are a slightly different case because of their use in-game. You can't play in an actual competitive game of CSGO with a knife/skin that you don't own.

Yes, there are servers that will let you try out custom skins and knives but you can't play an official game with them. The knives also offer different animations which look cooler than the default one. It's slightly different to me in that there's no inherent usefulness of the NFT's (at least currently - maybe in some metaverse future they have a use).

It doesn't seem like people really want to "own" the NFTs, they are viewing them only as investments which means eventually someone will be left holding the bag. In contrast, people DO want to own the CSGO skins and knives.

Best case this is trying to find a chump to hold the bag when the music stops, and worst case is a Ponzi scheme.

Either way I don’t think there is value in ‘DRM but on a blockchain’.

Well, no; the best case is they're trying to sell bragging rights in the style of "I'm so rich I can buy original Picasso paintings for no reason beyond showing off how rich I am!". Which is stupid and says depressing thing about human civilization, but isn't really any worse than trying to sell any other kind of artwork in physical form.

I’m extremely skeptical of all cryptocurrencies and most usages of blockchain. However this seems like the first interesting and potentially practical application I’ve heard.

It deals with art - something that’s value is inherently subjective. Plus it gives makers of digital art a better/additional way to fund themselves. Further, transactions would likely be limited reducing environmental impact. Finally, it could provide some competition to company’s like Sotheby’s.

Obviously there a lot of open questions (couldn’t someone else just duplicate a work and make their own coin, why not just pay an artist directly, money laundering, etc). But I think this at least warrants further discussion. It’s an interesting way to make digital art collectible/tradable

This part made me wonder.

> So, if you were to buy an NFT from me, in a sense, you are buying STOCK in me because you believe that I (or my art piece) will continue to create more work and add more “value” to that stock over time.

So essentially, this has nothing to do with art, it's a way for artists to get in on the stupid money speculation train everyone else seems to be addicted to. You "own" the token in order to buy low and sell high, rather than it really mattering in itself.

We really are doomed, aren't we?

Oh yeah. At least at some point in the Tulip Mania, someone was actually trying to sell someone else a tulip bulb - even if by contract for a tulip at a later time.

I don't even know what this is. The most prominent NFT seems to be NBA Top Shots, and even then it seems like the speculation is on something like... an ownership claim on a limited number of pointers to play-specific metadata referring to content licensed to Dapper from the NBA, that lets decide how you want to showcase them on the platform.

No one is even promising you a goddamn tulip bulb.

Q: What's to stop me taking sometime else's art I find online, claiming it's mine, turning it into a NFT and making money from it?

A: Absolutely nothing ... I think?

This guy made a few hundred thousand by doing just that.


Every generation gets the million dollar homepage it deserves https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Million_Dollar_Homepage

Oh man, it's even structured like a penny auction where the majority tile holder 'owns' the "final creation".

I'm willing to grant that it's slightly slightly interesting to consider what some works would look like if they were chopped to pieces and reconstituted from only the pieces people would individually bid on. There's an artistic statement in there somewhere.

But the pomp and slime that this is presented with completely obscure that.

But is that substantially different from this?


Or artists like Richard Prince. Prince has been sued several times and made several settlements.

But - his court victories depended on the argument that he actually transformed the works he copied. If someone just claims ownership of a art work on a blockchain, I'm not sure that's the same thing.

Jesus Christ...

In my project, we use robust near-duplicate image detection based on image fingerprints that are generated from deep learning models. So if an image has already been registered on our system, no one else can register it.

Do you have a system in place for an artist to say “hey some asshole registered my art before I even heard of your project, no seriously, here is a screen grab of it in the editor/a closeup of the canvas/some other snippet of the Original File”?

If a "behind the scenes" screenshot outweighs an NFT in terms of proving authenticity, then why are we making NFTs in the first place?

Yes there will be a decentralized mechanism for posting essentially a “petition for relief” where they can lay out their case, but it will be optional and at the discretion of the operators of the “masternodes” in the system whether to grant relief. If the petitioner can attract enough votes then it would nullify the original registration. Anyone can operate a masternode but it requires locking up a lot of the coin to prevent Sybil attacks.

Ah, so basically if someone starts selling my art and I can get enough social media traction then maybe I can get them in trouble? Awesome, sounds like a great time for someone who's spent all their time getting good at art instead of getting good at publicity.

And half the NFT art markets require you to not post stuff you've tokenized elsewhere, so much for hacking up a multi-tokenizer that claims my work on every market as a way to avoid thievery. Unless there is a cross-market standard for claiming An Art.

That doesn’t seem to be a very confidence inspiring answer to deal with fraud.

It's a difficult issue to handle in decentralized systems, especially in a way that scales with growth in the network. Any mechanism that is not voluntary/optional but which requires some human judgment would necessarily introduce centralization and various attack vectors to undermine the system, such as people filing thousands of fake petitions as a kind of DDOS attack.

And is there many cases of that happening yet? "There will be" worries me.

No, we are not live yet, we are still developing the system and focusing on getting the basic functionality working 100%. But the mechanism I described would be fairly easy to implement.

I think the reason it doesn’t make sense is that when you buy art IRL you actually own the original which can’t be duplicated.

This is not true of a JPEG. I can perfectly duplicate it.

Now where it might make sense is if everyone views the asset through an authoritative “viewer”.

For example cryptokitties website.

In that case it somewhat makes sense.

As an analogy if I create a private World of Warcraft server and give my character a billion gold, no one cares.

But if they see my character on the official server (the official “viewer”) has a billion gold then its impressive.

Except that there's a huge market for 'official' numbered prints. Often the sales of print editions by an artist can rival or exceed the value of an original painted piece. These prints are more more authentic than any other print of the same piece. Their value derived from scarcity, provenance and association with the original creator. All of these are present in an NFT.

Can you provide an example of a print being valued more than the original painted piece?

That defies all logic unless the print isn't just a print -- e.g. it's in a million dollar gold frame or was previously owned by the Pope or something.

Parent poster means the sum of all prints. If there is 1 original and 1000 high quality prints, the prints may exceed sales of original in totality.

Oh, thanks. It can be read either way -- that way could actually be plausible in certain cases.

This is a fabrication. Original art will always be more expensive than a numbered edition.

“sales of print additions” = total sum of all print sales

At that point if you have a single authoritative site, you can just use postgres to store the who-owns-what and skip the added complexity and risk of a blockchain.

I was the first person to allow bitcoin donations for music and netted roughly $10 at the time, which today would be worth nearly half a million dollars. I happened to be lucky my interests in emerging tech and music lined up when I had an album finished. So I'm definitely an artist who has benefited from cypto. That said, I've read a few NFT FAQs and this seems wholly pointless and idiotic.

So when I first heard about NFTs for art it seemed pretty silly. As it is now there is nothing stopping some one from copying the digital asset and still deriving as much enjoyment strictly from that digital asset. The other added benefit strictly from the token might be as a status symbol and the ability to profit by selling that status symbol to some one else. So if you are buying the art for solely personal enjoyment then there isn’t much of a value add it seems (maybe you can acquire the digital asset again if you lose it by proving ownership of the token to some service?)

However if a DRM ecosystem pops up supporting this which adds enough friction to showing digital assets without tokens (ex a high end DRM only digital photo frame, DRM only music and video players, DRM enforced public hosting services, ...) then I could start to see how this might gain some traction. Legal enforcement would help as well.

As other comments have stated this does seem pretty antithetical to the culture of the original internet. Though that seems to be less relevant as the years march on.

Does anyone know where to find resources on how taxation works with NFTs? I'm in Canada. My understanding is the seller is supposed to pay 13% HST. Do they also have to consider it income, or does that only happen when transferring back to fiat?

Reading https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/programs/about-canad... it says "trade or exchange cryptocurrency, including disposing of one cryptocurrency to get another cryptocurrency" but are NFTs considered an asset rather than a security? (cryptocurrency isn't considered currency)

Not sure how taxes work out fair market value of art

FYI: I curate some awesome pages on non-fungible token (NTF) pages, that is, the Awesome CryptoKitties & Copycats [1] and the Awesome CryptoPunks & Copypastas [2]

[1]: https://github.com/cryptocopycats/awesome-cryptokitties-bubb... [2]: https://github.com/cryptopunksnotdead/awesome-cryptopunks-bu...

Smells like a bottomless pit and quacks like a bottomless pit

There is also bottomless pit poo on my windshield.

I see it mainly as a way of supporting the work of an artist

You could just send them money.

Sure but it's not the same. With provenance recorded on a distributed ledger, artworks, artists and current owners can be identified and e.g. displayed in digital galleries like Decentraland or Cryptovoxels.I also expect more use-cases and integrations as the space matures.

Yes, and ownership with authenticity proof.

But there seems to be no guarantee that the person who registers the work as a NFT actually is the artist?

yes some platforms have problems with that, one should do their research and check if the artist promotes their art on social media, their blog or sth.

For most NFTs the artist sees no part of the profit whatsoever beyond the first sale.

I personally use SuperRare and get 10% Royalties for every secondary sale

I like this "stock" analogy.

In textbooks I've seen that stock is a "share of a company's future profits" but seeing as many don't pay dividends it really is more like "share of a company's future perception."

This makes sense. However, it's not "perfect".

If I believe in KAWS and Jeff Koons and I'd like to buy some of their "stock" to resell when I retire, what jpg my shares are linked to are irrelevant. So it's a bit of an inconvenience that I need to invest in stock of an artwork rather than stock of an artist. It's like that in real life sure, but artists should just be doing their own ICOs no?

>For example, I had a friend who worked in fiber-optics and phone lines. He once tried to explain to me how a phone call worked and I almost threw up. Instead, I just accepted that it DOES exist

This explanation of "the" blockchain almost made me throw up. It's absolutely fine if you are too lazy to understand certain things, just don't assume everyone is and please do not try to explain things you do not understand, unless you're honest about it or it is simply exercise.

Once again the HN community completely missing the point on crypto and this time on NFTs. Bunch of unimaginative people who think they're smarter than everyone else but have missed out on the biggest technological investment opportunity of the past decade and continue to remain petty and close minded on something they somehow still don't even understand.

I'll throw you guys a little bone. Imagine sports card collecting, in the real world the hassle of keeping it in good condition, sending it to get it graded, then finding a buyer online, sending it again, and then hoping to get paid...all of that is full of friction and generally a terrible experience. NFTs like NBA Top Shot allow you to bypass all of that and the process of opening a pack, finding the price of it, and selling it can be done all in seconds. It is legitimately a 10x improvement from a logistical standpoint. And that's just scratching the surface, it's not only 10x more convenient and easier to find liquidity but it's actually programmable so there's pretty much infinite stuff that can be built on top of it like analytical tools, games that it integrates with and tracking ownership and getting athletes involved and displaying in virtual spaces and attaching digital custom signatures etc etc.

Even if you personally don't like it or think "its stupid", the popularity of some of these products is undeniable. It is legit blowing up and has disrupted previous industries that people who get it refuse to go back to old ways. Sorry the market has spoken and your take is wrong.

> Once again the HN community completely missing the point

> I'll throw you guys a little bone.

Just leave this out. You're part of the the community you're lumping here.

You seem to know a lot about NBA Top Shot, so I'm hopeful that you can clarify some things for me that I couldn't quite understand from the documentation on the web or from reading the smart contracts on GitHub.

If I own a Moment, how do I download the associated video, archive it, and view it offline? Do I get the rights to do that, or does the moment only consist of the metadata that allows me to view the content? Is it even that? Is the Moment really just a way to hang a tag that says "I've got this one and this one" on a website that hosts all the actual content?

Whenever crypto comes up on HN all the comments are either copium, Tether, or people saying "I'm not wrong its the market thats wrong".

Amazing to see how the tech/SV mainstream completely missed out on Defi, and are now missing out on NFTs.

This comment explains HNs relationship with crypto perfectly: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24310174. Good quote from @balajis: "Crypto is what comes after Silicon Valley"

"tech/SV" in no way missed out on Defi, they own a pretty big part of it.

Check out a16z, sequoia portfolios or check out the founders of the top defi projects...

> "Crypto is what comes after Silicon Valley"

yet some of the biggest success stories to come out of crypto are "Silicon Valley" (or close enough in this context) companies such as Coinbase ?

Disagree. A16Z is the exception, not the rule (and I can only see 3 defi protocols in their portfolio: COMP, UNI, MKR). What defi projects has Sequoia invested in?

There are many VCs who are into crypto that have invested in smart contract platforms (i.e. ETH killers), but missed out on investing in the actual applications built on Ethereum (Defi protocols). The applications have heavily outperformed the ETH killers. USV is an example of this, pioneering the fat protocol thesis and completely missing out on actual applications.

While there are SV based crypto companies like Coinbase, the majority of things happening in crypto happens outside of SV. Binance, FTX, Bitfinex, Bitmex, Bitstamp are all non US. Out of the top 10 defi projects, only 2 are SV based and the majority are non US based.

In crypto SV is not the center at all, which is very different to the internet where SV is obviously the center

Aren't NFTs just digital authenticity certificates, complete with blockchain protected provenance?

In some artworks the certificate is the only non transitory asset (e.g. banana taped to wall, or the famous lawyers dot painting)

In what way is an NFT token like a stock? A stock is bound to a company via dividends and voting power. An NFT only bears a name.

Interesting point of view from an artist.

Made me wonder if authors of open source code could use something similar to provide for themselves.

No really, officer, I wasn't laundering those drug proceeds, I was just buying a non-fungible token from Pablo Escobar in order to resell it to El Chapo. NFTs are just like artwork, officer. You know, the kind of artwork that billionaires use to launder money? We're just doing the same thing they do, but on the blockchain!

Is there any NFT that reserve the right of printing for an artwork?

Bitcoin is my favourite non-fungible token.

I really hate and distrust Medium. You get garbage like this gussied up like it's coming from a trustworthy and informed source. I'm not sure why it seems that way in a way that, say, LiveJournal didn't, but it does.

The "you don't have to understand it, just accept that it exists and believe in it" line of nonthinking is a memetic neurotoxin. It sucks whether it's applied to blockchain, NFTs, gods, homeopathy, or an MLM, and a healthy mind should expel it on exposure.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact