WTF are NFTs? And Other Questions About Blockchain Collectables

 

When the founder of Twitter put an autographed tweet up for sale as an NFT, I asked “WTF is an NFT?” and I was informed that it stood for “non-fungible token”.

 

 

Oooookay.

 

Then a few days ago, comic book artist José Delgo sold a Wonder Woman-themed NFT collection via Makersplace. Delgo is well known for drawing Wonder Woman and other characters for DC comics over 30 years ago. Makersplace trades and sells “rare digital art” which they describe as “art with authenticity, scarcity, and proof of ownership guaranteed by blockchain technology. Every artist and artwork featured on MakersPlace is verified through a multi-step identity verification process.”

 

 

Suddenly NFT technology had gotten so popular that the trend or search term “NFT” touched the highest point it can on Google Trends statistical data. 

 

So I kept pressing, only to learn that “non-fungible” is a technical way of saying something is unique and can’t be replaced with something else. A copy of Fantastic Four number one autographed by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby is non-fungible. It’s basically one of a kind. On the other hand, a Bitcoin is fungible because you can trade it for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing.

 

An NFT can either be unique, like that rare autographed comic book, or it can be one copy of many, like digital comics. 

 

NFTs take the best of both of these traits by using a blockchain which monitors the ownership of the digital file. NFTs let you sell and purchase ownership of unique digital items. One can also keep a check on who the owner is using the blockchain. It can technically contain anything digital, such as drawings, animated GIFs, songs, or even items in video games.

 

 

And now, after some of their artists sold their own NFTs, DC Comics is now getting in on the NFT craze with the launch of new Batman Black and White digital statues which went on sale on March 11th. At first the company was very cautious about diving into NFTs. 

 

In a letter from DC Comics’ senior VP of legal affairs Jay Kogan to freelance artists, he seemingly warned them not to create DC Comics-owned characters via NFTs.

 

“Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are becoming the newest fan collectibles and have generated significant press and buzz in the digital space,” the letter from Kogan explains. “DC is exploring opportunities to enter the market for the distribution and sale of original DC digital art with NFTs including both new art created specifically for the NFT market, as well as original digital art rendered for DC’s comic book publications.”

 

The letter adds:

As DC examines the complexities of the NFT marketplace, and we work on a reasonable and fair solution for all parties involved, including fans and collectors, please note that the offering for sale of any digital images featuring DC’s intellectual property with or without NFTs, whether rendered for DC’s publications or rendered outside the scope of one’s contractual engagement with DC, is not permitted.

DC staffers and freelancers should contact DC Comics’ talent services first before engaging in NFTs featuring licensed DC materials.

 

Was this letter warning DC staffers and freelancers that have already issued non-fungible token (NFT) assets with DC images? Kogan’s letter emphasizes that if any DC staffers or freelancers are approached about doing NFT art with DC characters in their work they have to let “Lawrence Ganem, DC’s VP, Talent Services know.”

 

“We expect the participation of DC’s freelance talent will be an integral component of the NFT program that DC puts into place,” the letter concludes. “We’ll share further information as it becomes available, and we appreciate your cooperation and partnership.”

The new wave of art NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, is possible because of blockchain technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Etherium. While anyone can produce and copy an image on the internet, whether those files are .JPGs or .GIFs or myriad other compressions, the NFT technology cannot be reproduced or replicated; this gives digital art a sense of proprietary ownership inherent to physical art. Usually, they are created in a limited amount and carry value based on the demand of the item.

 

 

How to Buy NFTs?

There are several marketplaces on which you can buy and sell NFTs:

YellowHeart, the platform that Kings of Leon used to release their various album NFTs, is a music-based platform that ensures authenticity of concert tickets and seeks to prevent scalping using blockchain.

 

Are you an artist or content creator of some kind, looking to make a buck (or potentially several million bucks) off of work that is otherwise not inherently monetizable? You could make your piece an NFT. Say you have a doodle you want to turn into an NFT, or a comic strip, or something like Nyan Cat, the animated cat with a Pop-Tart body and a rainbow trail, which just sold as an NFT for about $580,000. The process differs from site to site, but it can start on platforms like Nifty Gateway, where you can apply to create a project to be sold as an NFT on their marketplace.

 

Part of the allure of blockchain is that it stores a record of each time a transaction takes place, making it harder to steal and flip than, say, a painting hanging in a museum. That said, cryptocurrencies have been stolen before, so it really would depend on how the NFT is being stored and how much work a potential victim would be willing to put in to get their stuff back.

 

Then again, think about the planet you’re destroying using all that electricity to download NFTs.

 

 

 

WTF, indeed.

Jamison Ashley

Comic geek, movie nerd, father, and husband - but not necessarily in that order. Current captain of this ship o' fools who is rapidly training everyone's computers and snarkphone spell-checkers to misspell 'supposebly.'

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