The (hidden) Cost of NFTs.
When it comes to NFT art no one really talks about its pitfalls. Yeah. Yeah. NFTs can be great for artists in many ways but how come there are no discussions about ‘the cost’? This game we’re entering ain’t free, so let’s talk about it.
What is NFT art? Clearly we have never met (or else you would have been bored to tears on the subject). Here is the briefest explanation. Non-fungible-token art (NFT art) is art stored and sold using blockchain technology. For more check out ‘Let’s talk NFTs ...art’.
You have to PAY. Fees.
To mint your digital art on the blockchain, you would have to pay. Firstly, in most cases, to join a market place there are initiation fees. Furthermore, most marketplaces require users to pay a fee for buying and selling. Then there are the ‘Gas Fees’.
What are they? Gas fees are the fees artists would have to pay to ‘mint’ (create) NFT art. Every transaction on the blockchain is processed and validated using large amounts of computing power. The amount of computing power required to mint your art is called ‘gass fees’, and this can really rack up to hundred of dollars. With Ethereum (currently most NFTs are on the Ethereum blockchain network), an artist must set a ‘gas limit’, this is the maximum you are willing to pay per transaction. Then there is ‘gas price’, this is the amount you are willing to pay for each unit of gas. Gas price can fluctuate based on network traffic and various other factors. If you set your gas limit too low, other transactions offering high gas fees will take priority over yours. Gas fee= ‘gas limit x ‘gas price’.
Ok. I have heard some grumble about the negative environmental impact of NFT arts, so it’s not really ‘hidden cost’. But I'm not above beating a dead horse, so let's discuss it some more. To store and trade NFTs on the blockchain requires computing power. More computing power, the more energy it consumes. You’re getting the drift here? Good.
Then there are criticisms about the energy needed to mine cryptocurrency. Excerpt from ‘The unreasonable Ecological Cost of Cryptoart’ by Memo Akten. “A single Ethereum (ETH) transaction is estimated to have a footprint on average of around 35kWh. This in itself, is ludicrously high. To put that into perspective, this is roughly equivalent to an EU resident’s electric power consumption for 4 days.”
Inadvertently Facilitates Art Theft
There is no governing body in this sphere. It’s a selling point for many. Except, with the NFT craze came along a tsunami of copyright theft. Anonymous persons minting NFTs using stolen artworks by oblivious artists. What’s stopping this? Nothing. No one. In fact, there is already a twitter account that will mint tweets for you regardless of whether you were the creator (and no I’m not linking it). It's a cruel turn of events from technology that fundamentally promises one of a kind authenticity.
Capitalism Gone Wild.
To be fair this isn’t entirely the fault of NFT art. However, one can’t deny that it is getting a little ridiculous. People’s destructive desire to own things, for bragging right? Hey, if someone is willing to pay $69.3million for digital art, who am I to say otherwise? But don’t fault me for laughing at the phrase ‘ I own this NFT’ though.
Bit Rot, and the Possibility of Losing Your Art.
NFT art works are generally not stored on the blockchain due to its size. The ‘token’ functions as a certificate of ownership, with a link directing back to the source of the art. This makes it especially vulnerable to ‘Link Rot’. Link rot is when links are no longer directed to the original source (file, server etc), this can be a result of that source address being relocated or permanently unavailable. There’s 101 ways to lose your art really; websites get taken down, servers go offline, you forget your password to your wallet etc.