Selling digital art leveraging block chain

Interesting news story on using block chain tech to create and sell certifiably unique digital art work, called non-fungible tokens (NFT):

Hard to parse the hype from the substance, but I do get the feeling there’s something there, or could be there given time. Not having thought deeply about it, I don’t think it would be that hard to implement. A public Git repository*, commit your art piece, ding! You have an NFT. It’s building the respectable Marketplace that would be challenging.

* Or any other distributed source code system like Fossil, Mercurial, etc.

Yeah, crypto art is apparently a thing since a few years already but recently got a big hype. A week ago there was already a topic about creary, another crypto art site.

Interestingly the hype now doesn’t really come from someone making big money alone but from a single work consuming the electricity equivalent to a small town. This negative news pushed crypto art in social media and since you can in theroy make easy money many jumped the train and the tone shifted.

I can also recommend this article

Here the artist researched energy consumption and found out his transactions cost as much electricity as his whole studio in two years.

So the environmental impact of crypto art just like cryptocurrencies is huge, especially since most of power production still comes from fossil fuels. Bitcoin for example has a energy consumption of a small country.

Another thing, this is more my personal opinion, is that crypto art devalues your artwork to a mere currency type. Another thing people can speculate on, buy and resell for quick cash or use as means of payment. It strips off your passion you put into it and the meaning it has to you. It basically becomes a commodity. The most ironic work I can think of is an artwork about environmental destruction sold as crypto art.

So yeah. These are the two main points why I don’t touch any crypto art with my 12 inch artist stick.


I was just about to comment about the environmental effect this thing has. Thanks for bringing it up.

I don’t quite see how being the first to tokenize a given work proves you’re the copyright holder at the time of tokenization. IOW, what’s to prevent people anonymously selling “rights” to pieces they don’t hold the rights to, but haven’t yet been tokenized. Is it just that if the artist doesn’t publicly promote their cryptoart with their own identity, it’s not likely to be valuable?

I’m not exactly sure how they do it since the technology itself doesn’t have any mechanic to prove that you are actually the person you claim to be so someone could easily create a wallet with my name and resell my works so basically the same as always.

From the link in the original topic post:

“In October 2020, Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile spent almost US$67,000 on a 10-second video artwork that he could have watched for free online. Last week, he sold it for $6.6 million.”

It’s a way for rich people to buy something that makes them feel special or unique.

“… as enthusiasts and investors scramble to spend enormous sums of money on items that only exist online.”

And so it goes on and the bubble expands.

I’m in possession of unique artistic creations, made by me, that only exist online and can’t be copied (except by me). So if you want to invest your money in them, please get in touch with me and we can set up a legally binding contract for transfer of ownership and full rights.


Yea, that’s basically what I meant. The artwork itself is reduced to a commodity that you by low and hopefully sell high or claim ownership of something just for the sake of it.

It’s a bit like when rich people buy a Rembrandt to hang in their living room or whatever they have just so nobody else can see it (although not quite the same since there are no “originals” of digital works in the traditional sense).

What I want to say this comes from an (in my opinion) outdated concept of ownership of art. It reduces the value of an artwork mostly to its rarity and scarcity, at best the artist is dead and no new artworks can be created. It comes from a time where only the most rich people even could afford art (or being artists too sometimes) and looking at artworks was a privilege reserved for the top of society — or for people going to big churches and when you’re into naked little boys with wings, uegh (srsly wth?).

But it isn’t that way anymore. The digital age and digital art, no matter if created digitally or just digitized, has brought art to many that could not have enjoy it in the past. It’s a chance for us artists and people who just enjoy looking at art as well. Using crypto to again put ownership on artworks is a step in the wrong direction, in my opinion. The only one who should really own an artwork should be the creator.

Of course this is an idealized image that only exists in my and other artists head, since a lot of us artist are idealists. The reality is different of course. Artists have to eat and have to live somewhere just as everybody and for that they need money and for that they need to work another job or sell their works or services. And with crypto art there is a chance to get some income from your craft. Get that bit of money you need to survice between comissions. However in reality the chances to make a six million dollar breakthrough like in the article are small and most likely not to happen. But of course I can understand that artists try everything to get some money to continue being artists. I saddens me that again some big people sell this as a solution to us, show us how you can make money easily, when the pople getting most of it are a actually few selected ones that set up the whole system.

Regarding the ownership discussion:

I always get inspired for how @deevad approches it. I think either all or nearly all artwork made by him in recent years are CC-BY, which means they can be changed, they can be copied and everything is fine as long as you say who is the original author. I recently joked that he decided to do that to get eternal fame - because in various cases when people need accessible artwork and if they know about his existence, they take his paintings, so for example Krita has his Carrot in the filter tests, and I’ve seen at least two science papers/articles that were using his artwork. There is even a few games and stuff: Derivation: Peppertown video-game by Congusbongus and StarNavigator - David Revoy

I wanted to write I don’t know how successful it is financially since I’m not privy to this information, I just know about the books he sold… but then I remembered that on Patreon the amounts are often disclosed. So you can see here: David Revoy is creating Pepper&Carrot, an open-source webcomic | Patreon . From what I know, he doesn’t make millions, but it still shows that this might be a feasible road.

Knowing him inspired me to make my work more accessible to others, too. I mean if his artwork is available and it doesn’t harm him but makes it easier for people to use it for various purposes, why wouldn’t my work be available, too? It’s not like I live from art, in any case. And his is much better, too. If someone wants to steal my art, they will do that anyway, and if someone is genuine, that way they can use it. It’s something similar to open source, except that open source have GPL license which is better for enforcing the freedom of derivative, but… I’m not sure if it’s needed here anyway.

Same. I publish pretty much everything under by-nc-sa or by-nc-nd. I’m still hesitating to drop the non-commercial because I want to prevent people reselling something I have provided for no charge and maybe tricking people into paying for something they didn’t have to.

The musicians The Fat Rat is pretty famous for using CC-BY too. Since his preferred genre is Glitch Pop his works are popular among indi game developers and also on youtube for game streams and such.

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Thanks all for contributing your thoughts!

As @Takiro noted, it is the possibilty of a path towards earning a livelihood from creative effort that I piqued my interest. I love the benefits a potlatch giving culture digital has opened for me, and us. The extreme imbalance troubles me. So few who give get paid farily. I know sooner or later the listing ship will flip to right itself, and think that if we don’t do it smartly, with introspection and foresight, it’s going to hurt.

It’s also worth noting that the whole thing gets abused already. Automated scripts and bots are scraping social media for popular posts and put NFTs on them and people tag anyone’s (not their own) works to make money from them.

That’s pretty much what I figured would happen. IMO this is mostly a problem for the buyers - they will have bought a whole lot of nothing. I suppose it’ll be interesting to see whether known fraudulent tokens still keep some value.


This is also shitty for the artist who can lose control over their own works. I guess we have to wait for the first lawsuits. One of the points of blockchain is to have a log of every transaction forever but I’m not sure if there is a system to roll back transactions to the point of invalidating the token for cases like this. Either way, the damage is done.

It also further shows that empowering artists isn’t really the point. It’s just another get rich quick scheme. The whole thing reminds me of the websites that looked for popular tweets with images to print on shirts but it’s much easier.

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I haven’t read too much on NFTs, and as usual, none of the articles that try to explain them seem to actually describe how they work. But I think they’re just a contract essentially, saying that ownership of the token conveys ownership of a particular thing. I’m not sure any actual representation of e.g. a painting gets added to the blockchain, although some way to distinguish what the contract applies to must exist, I suppose.

What I’m getting at is, I’m not sure fraudulently issuing an NFT on something one does not actually have the rights to is a copyright violation, although it would clearly be fraud of some kind. If my understanding is correct, this would be little different from buying a paper note saying the bearer of the note is the owner of e.g the Mona Lisa. What the tokenization adds is a verifiable chain of custody and an easy way to trade the contract, but no more.

Again, I haven’t actually found a reasonable explanation of what goes into issuing an NFT, so I may be wrong here.

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Please read this and then try to understand it or even believe it.
Summary: an NFT backed digital artwork sold for $69,000,000

Is there any way we can get in on this? We’re all capable of creating original and unique digital artworks so …
(But should we get in on this? …)

No, we should stay away from this as far as possible. It’s a scam, nothing less – and above and over being a scam it’s a disaster for our planet’s climate.


What’s not mentioned in the article is that the artist sold it for about 30000 (still much of course) and the 60 million was the price the first buyer got for reselling it later. And this pretty much shows for whom crypto art is actually made.

I can’t find the better article in my browsing history anymore but the point is the artist made a lot less money than the reseller. And what I think about the etics of it, I think I made it clear.

When a transaction for one of my works costs as much energy as a household in years, I have failed as an artist.

I’m wondering how much a bubble can stretch before it bursts.

For things like this it’s usually as long as people belive in the system or until it gets regulated with taxes or similar. At least that’s what experience showed in my country where bit coin stopped beinng interesting for anyone without the ability to funnel revenue around the tax system or already having lots of money. Big corporations intervening can also help. People are already shamelessly slapping NFTs on original Disney works and we all know how they will like this. I feel dirty for rooting for Disney but I hope they can burst this bubble at least they have the power.

Artists lose control over their own works. Somebody makes thousands to millions more than the artist, or the first purchaser(s).

That’s status quo for all art, including music, so not arguments against NFT. Note I am not saying this is right or fair situation, just that it’s not new with this tech.