NFTs & Art
9 days ago
What is Vitalik Buterin's newest concept, the Soulbound NFT?
Decentralizing Web3's soul
Our tech must reflect our non-transactional connections. Web3 arose from a lack of social links. It must strengthen these linkages to get widespread adoption. Soulbound NFTs help.
This NFT creates digital proofs of our social ties. It embodies G. Simmel's idea of identity, in which individuality emerges from social groups, just as social groups evolve from people.
It's multipurpose. First, gather online our distinctive social features. Second, highlight and categorize social relationships between entities and people to create a spiderweb of networks.
1. 🌐 Reducing online manipulation: Only socially rich or respectable crypto wallets can participate in projects, ensuring that no one can create several wallets to influence decentralized project governance.
2. 🤝 Improving social links: Some sectors of society lack social context. Racism, sexism, and homophobia do that. Public wallets can help identify and connect distinct social groupings.
3. 👩❤️💋👨 Increasing pluralism: Soulbound tokens can ensure that socially connected wallets have less voting power online to increase pluralism. We can also overweight a minority of numerous voices.
4. 💰Making more informed decisions: Taking out an insurance policy requires a life review. Why not loans? Character isn't limited by income, and many people need a chance.
5. 🎶 Finding a community: Soulbound tokens are accessible to everyone. This means we can find people who are like us but also different. This is probably rare among your friends and family.
NFTs are dangerous, and I don't like them. Social credit score, privacy, lost wallet. We must stay informed and keep talking to innovators.
E. Glen Weyl, Puja Ohlhaver and Vitalik Buterin get all the credit for these ideas, having written the very accessible white paper “Decentralized Society: Finding Web3’s Soul”.
25 days ago
An employee of OpenSea might get a 40-year prison sentence for insider trading using NFTs.
The space had better days. Those greenish spikes...oh wow, haven't felt that in ages. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs have lost popularity. Google agrees. Both are declining.
As seen below, crypto interest spiked in May because of the Luna fall. NFT interest is similar to early October last year.
This makes me think NFTs are mostly hype and FOMO. No art or community. I've seen enough initiatives to know that communities stick around if they're profitable. Once it starts falling, they move on to the next project. The space has no long-term investments. Flip everything.
OpenSea trading volume has stayed steady for months. May's volume is 1.8 million ETH ($3.3 billion).
Despite this, I think NFTs and crypto will stick around. In bad markets, builders gain most.
Only 4k developers are active on Ethereum blockchain. It's low. A great chance for the space enthusiasts.
An employee of OpenSea might get a 40-year prison sentence for insider trading using NFTs.
Nathaniel Chastian, an OpenSea employee, traded on insider knowledge. He'll serve 40 years for that.
Here's what happened if you're unfamiliar.
OpenSea is a secondary NFT marketplace. Their homepage featured remarkable drops. Whatever gets featured there, NFT prices will rise 5x.
Chastian was at OpenSea. He chose forthcoming NFTs for OpenSeas' webpage.
Using anonymous digital currency wallets and OpenSea accounts, he would buy NFTs before promoting them on the homepage, showcase them, and then sell them for at least 25 times the price he paid.
From June through September 2021, this happened. Later caught, fired. He's charged with wire fraud and money laundering, each carrying a 20-year maximum penalty.
Although web3 space is all about decentralization, a step like this is welcomed since it restores faith in the area. We hope to see more similar examples soon.
Here's the press release.
Understanding smart contracts
@cantino.eth has a Twitter thread on smart contracts. Must-read. Also, he appears educated about the space, so follow him.
Jim Clyde Monge
1 month ago
Can You Sell Images Created by AI?
Some AI-generated artworks sell for enormous sums of money.
But can you sell AI-Generated Artwork?
Simple answer: yes.
However, not all AI services enable allow usage and redistribution of images.
Let's check some of my favorite AI text-to-image generators:
Dall-E2 by OpenAI
The AI art generator Dall-E2 is powerful. Since it’s still in beta, you can join the waitlist here.
OpenAI DOES NOT allow the use and redistribution of any image for commercial purposes.
Here's the policy as of April 6, 2022.
Here are some images from Dall-E2’s webpage to show its art quality.
Several Reddit users reported receiving pricing surveys from OpenAI.
This suggests the company may bring out a subscription-based tier and a commercial license to sell images soon.
I like Midjourney's art generator. It makes great AI images. Here are some samples:
Standard Licenses are available for $10 per month.
Standard License allows you to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, and/or sell copies of the images, except for blockchain technologies.
If you utilize or distribute the Assets using blockchain technology, you must pay MidJourney 20% of revenue above $20,000 a month or engage in an alternative agreement.
Here's their copyright and trademark page.
Dream by Wombo
Dream is one of the first public AI art generators.
This AI program is free, easy to use, and Wombo gives a royalty-free license to copy or share artworks.
Users own all artworks generated by the tool. Including all related copyrights or intellectual property rights.
Here’s Wombos' intellectual property policy.
AI is creating a new sort of art that's selling well. It’s becoming popular and valued, despite some skepticism.
Now that you know MidJourney and Wombo let you sell AI-generated art, you need to locate buyers. There are several ways to achieve this, but that’s for another story.
1 month ago
Hate NFTs? I must break some awful news to you...
If you think NFTs are awful, check out the art market.
The fervor around NFTs has subsided in recent months due to the crypto market crash and the media's short attention span. They were all anyone could talk about earlier this spring. Last semester, when passions were high and field luminaries were discussing "slurp juices," I asked my students and students from over 20 other universities what they thought of NFTs.
According to many, NFTs were either tasteless pyramid schemes or a new way for artists to make money. NFTs contributed to the climate crisis and harmed the environment, but so did air travel, fast fashion, and smartphones. Some students complained that NFTs were cheap, tasteless, algorithmically generated schlock, but others asked how this was different from other art.
I'm not sure what I expected, but the intensity of students' reactions surprised me. They had strong, emotional opinions about a technology I'd always considered administrative. NFTs address ownership and accounting, like most crypto/blockchain projects.
Art markets can be irrational, arbitrary, and subject to the same scams and schemes as any market. And maybe a few shenanigans that are unique to the art world.
The Fairness Question
Fairness, a deflating moral currency, was the general sentiment (the less of it in circulation, the more ardently we clamor for it.) These students, almost all of whom are artists, complained to the mismatch between the quality of the work in some notable NFT collections and the excessive amounts these items were fetching on the market. They can sketch a Bored Ape or Lazy Lion in their sleep. Why should they buy ramen with school loans while certain swindlers get rich?
I understand students. Art markets are unjust. They can be irrational, arbitrary, and governed by chance and circumstance, like any market. And art-world shenanigans.
Almost every mainstream critique leveled against NFTs applies just as easily to art markets
Over 50% of artworks in circulation are fake, say experts. Sincere art collectors and institutions are upset by the prevalence of fake goods on the market. Not everyone. Wealthy people and companies use art as investments. They can use cultural institutions like museums and galleries to increase the value of inherited art collections. People sometimes buy artworks and use family ties or connections to museums or other cultural taste-makers to hype the work in their collection, driving up the price and allowing them to sell for a profit. Money launderers can disguise capital flows by using market whims, hype, and fluctuating asset prices.
Almost every mainstream critique leveled against NFTs applies just as easily to art markets.
Art has always been this way. Edward Kienholz's 1989 print series satirized art markets. He stamped 395 identical pieces of paper from $1 to $395. Each piece was initially priced as indicated. Kienholz was joking about a strange feature of art markets: once the last print in a series sells for $395, all previous works are worth at least that much. The entire series is valued at its highest auction price. I don't know what a Kienholz print sells for today (inquire with the gallery), but it's more than $395.
I love Lee Lozano's 1969 "Real Money Piece." Lozano put cash in various denominations in a jar in her apartment and gave it to visitors. She wrote, "Offer guests coffee, diet pepsi, bourbon, half-and-half, ice water, grass, and money." "Offer real money as candy."
Lee Lozano kept track of who she gave money to, how much they took, if any, and how they reacted to the offer of free money without explanation. Diverse reactions. Some found it funny, others found it strange, and others didn't care. Lozano rarely says:
Apr 17 Keith Sonnier refused, later screws lid very tightly back on. Apr 27 Kaltenbach takes all the money out of the jar when I offer it, examines all the money & puts it all back in jar. Says he doesn’t need money now. Apr 28 David Parson refused, laughing. May 1 Warren C. Ingersoll refused. He got very upset about my “attitude towards money.” May 4 Keith Sonnier refused, but said he would take money if he needed it which he might in the near future. May 7 Dick Anderson barely glances at the money when I stick it under his nose and says “Oh no thanks, I intend to earn it on my own.” May 8 Billy Bryant Copley didn’t take any but then it was sort of spoiled because I had told him about this piece on the phone & he had time to think about it he said.
Smart Contracts (smart as in fair, not smart as in Blockchain)
Cornell University's Cheryl Finley has done a lot of research on secondary art markets. I first learned about her research when I met her at the University of Florida's Harn Museum, where she spoke about smart contracts (smart as in fair, not smart as in Blockchain) and new protocols that could help artists who are often left out of the economic benefits of their own work, including women and women of color.
Her talk included findings from her ArtNet op-ed with Lauren van Haaften-Schick, Christian Reeder, and Amy Whitaker.
NFTs allow us to think about and hack on formal contractual relationships outside a system of laws that is currently not set up to service our community.
The ArtNet article The Recent Sale of Amy Sherald's ‘Welfare Queen' Symbolizes the Urgent Need for Resale Royalties and Economic Equity for Artists discussed Sherald's 2012 portrait of a regal woman in a purple dress wearing a sparkling crown and elegant set of pearls against a vibrant red background.
Amy Sherald sold "Welfare Queen" to Princeton professor Imani Perry. Sherald agreed to a payment plan to accommodate Perry's budget.
Amy Sherald rose to fame for her 2016 portrait of Michelle Obama and her full-length portrait of Breonna Taylor, one of the most famous works of the past decade.
As is common, Sherald's rising star drove up the price of her earlier works. Perry's "Welfare Queen" sold for $3.9 million in 2021.
Imani Perry's early investment paid off big-time. Amy Sherald, whose work directly increased the painting's value and who was on an artist's shoestring budget when she agreed to sell "Welfare Queen" in 2012, did not see any of the 2021 auction money. Perry and the auction house got that money.
Sherald sold her Breonna Taylor portrait to the Smithsonian and Louisville's Speed Art Museum to fund a $1 million scholarship. This is a great example of what an artist can do for the community if they can amass wealth through their work.
NFTs haven't solved all of the art market's problems — fakes, money laundering, market manipulation — but they didn't create them. Blockchain and NFTs are credited with making these issues more transparent. More ideas emerge daily about what a smart contract should do for artists.
NFTs are a copyright solution. They allow us to hack formal contractual relationships outside a law system that doesn't serve our community.
Amy Sherald shows the good smart contracts can do (as in, well-considered, self-determined contracts, not necessarily blockchain contracts.) Giving back to our community, deciding where and how our work can be sold or displayed, and ensuring artists share in the equity of our work and the economy our labor creates.
Scott Duke Kominers
1 month ago
NFT Creators Go Creative Commons Zero (cc0)
On January 1, "Public Domain Day," thousands of creative works immediately join the public domain. The original creator or copyright holder loses exclusive rights to reproduce, adapt, or publish the work, and anybody can use it. It happens with movies, poems, music, artworks, books (where creative rights endure 70 years beyond the author's death), and sometimes source code.
Public domain creative works open the door to new uses. 400,000 sound recordings from before 1923, including Winnie-the-Pooh, were released this year. With most of A.A. Milne's 1926 Winnie-the-Pooh characters now available, we're seeing innovative interpretations Milne likely never planned. The ancient hyphenated version of the honey-loving bear is being adapted for a horror movie: "Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey"... with Pooh and Piglet as the baddies.
Counterintuitively, experimenting and recombination can occasionally increase IP value. Open source movements allow the public to build on (or fork and duplicate) existing technologies. Permissionless innovation helps Android, Linux, and other open source software projects compete. Crypto's success at attracting public development is also due to its support of open source and "remix culture," notably in NFT forums.
NFT projects use several IP strategies to establish brands, communities, and content. Some preserve regular IP protections; others offer NFT owners the opportunity to innovate on connected IP; yet others have removed copyright and other IP safeguards.
By using the "Creative Commons Zero" (cc0) license, artists can intentionally select for "no rights reserved." This option permits anyone to benefit from derivative works without legal repercussions. There's still a lot of confusion between copyrights and NFTs, so nothing here should be considered legal, financial, tax, or investment advice. Check out this post for an overview of copyright vulnerabilities with NFTs and how authors can protect owners' rights. This article focuses on cc0.
Nouns, a 2021 project, popularized cc0 for NFTs. Others followed, including: A Common Place, Anonymice, Blitmap, Chain Runners, Cryptoadz, CryptoTeddies, Goblintown, Gradis, Loot, mfers, Mirakai, Shields, and Terrarium Club are cc0 projects.
Popular crypto artist XCOPY licensed their 1-of-1 NFT artwork "Right-click and Save As Guy" under cc0 in January, exactly one month after selling it. cc0 has spawned many derivatives.
"Right-click Save As Guy" by XCOPY (1)/derivative works (2)
XCOPY said Monday he would apply cc0 to "all his existing art." "We haven't seen a cc0 summer yet, but I think it's approaching," said the artist. - predicting a "DeFi summer" in 2020, when decentralized finance gained popularity.
Why do so many NFT authors choose "no rights"?
Promoting expansions of the original project to create a more lively and active community is one rationale. This makes sense in crypto, where many value open sharing and establishing community.
Creativity depends on cultural significance. NFTs may allow verifiable ownership of any digital asset, regardless of license, but cc0 jumpstarts "meme-ability" by actively, not passively, inviting derivative works. As new derivatives are made and shared, attention might flow back to the original, boosting its reputation. This may inspire new interpretations, leading in a flywheel effect where each derivative adds to the original's worth - similar to platform network effects, where platforms become more valuable as more users join them.
cc0 licence allows creators "seize production memes."
Physical items are also using cc0 NFT assets, thus it's not just a digital phenomenon. The Nouns Vision initiative turned the square-framed spectacles shown on each new NounsDAO NFT ("one per day, forever") into luxury sunglasses. Blitmap's pixel-art has been used on shoes, apparel, and caps. In traditional IP regimes, a single owner controls creation, licensing, and production.
The physical "blitcap" (3rd level) is a descendant of the trait in the cc0 Chain Runners collection (2nd), which uses the "logo" from cc0 Blitmap (1st)! The Logo is Blitmap token #84 and has been used as a trait in various collections. The "Dom Rose" is another popular token. These homages reference Blitmap's influence as a cc0 leader, as one of the earliest NFT projects to proclaim public domain intents. A new collection, Citizens of Tajigen, emerged last week with a Blitcap characteristic.
These derivatives can be a win-win for everyone, not just the original inventors, especially when using NFT assets to establish unique brands. As people learn about the derivative, they may become interested in the original. If you see someone wearing Nouns glasses on the street (or in a Super Bowl ad), you may desire a pair, but you may also be interested in buying an original NounsDAO NFT or related derivative.
Blitmap Logo Hat (1), Chain Runners #780 ft. Hat (2), and Blitmap Original "Logo #87" (3)
Co-creating open source
NFTs' power comes from smart contract technology's intrinsic composability. Many smart contracts can be integrated or stacked to generate richer applications.
"Money Legos" describes how decentralized finance ("DeFi") smart contracts interconnect to generate new financial use cases. Yearn communicates with MakerDAO's stablecoin $DAI and exchange liquidity provider Curve by calling public smart contract methods. NFTs and their underlying smart contracts can operate as the base-layer framework for recombining and interconnecting culture and creativity.
cc0 gives an NFT's enthusiast community authority to develop new value layers whenever, wherever, and however they wish.
Multiple cc0 projects are playable characters in HyperLoot, a Loot Project knockoff.
Open source and Linux's rise are parallels. When the internet was young, Microsoft dominated the OS market with Windows. Linux (and its developer Linus Torvalds) championed a community-first mentality, freely available the source code without restrictions. This led to developers worldwide producing new software for Linux, from web servers to databases. As people (and organizations) created world-class open source software, Linux's value proposition grew, leading to explosive development and industry innovation. According to Truelist, Linux powers 96.3% of the top 1 million web servers and 85% of smartphones.
With cc0 licensing empowering NFT community builders, one might hope for long-term innovation. Combining cc0 with NFTs "turns an antagonistic game into a co-operative one," says NounsDAO cofounder punk4156. It's important on several levels. First, decentralized systems from open source to crypto are about trust and coordination, therefore facilitating cooperation is crucial. Second, the dynamics of this cooperation work well in the context of NFTs because giving people ownership over their digital assets allows them to internalize the results of co-creation through the value that accrues to their assets and contributions, which incentivizes them to participate in co-creation in the first place.
Licensed to create
If cc0 projects are open source "applications" or "platforms," then NFT artwork, metadata, and smart contracts provide the "user interface" and the underlying blockchain (e.g., Ethereum) is the "operating system." For these apps to attain Linux-like potential, more infrastructure services must be established and made available so people may take advantage of cc0's remixing capabilities.
These services are developing. Zora protocol and OpenSea's open source Seaport protocol enable open, permissionless NFT marketplaces. A pixel-art-rendering engine was just published on-chain to the Ethereum blockchain and integrated into OKPC and ICE64. Each application improves blockchain's "out-of-the-box" capabilities, leading to new apps created from the improved building blocks.
Web3 developer growth is at an all-time high, yet it's still a small fraction of active software developers globally. As additional developers enter the field, prospective NFT projects may find more creative and infrastructure Legos for cc0 and beyond.
Electric Capital Developer Report (2021), p. 122
Growth requires composability. Users can easily integrate digital assets developed on public standards and compatible infrastructure into other platforms. The Loot Project is one of the first to illustrate decentralized co-creation, worldbuilding, and more in NFTs. This example was low-fi or "incomplete" aesthetically, providing room for imagination and community co-creation.
Loot began with a series of Loot bag NFTs, each listing eight "adventure things" in white writing on a black backdrop (such as Loot Bag #5726's "Katana, Divine Robe, Great Helm, Wool Sash, Divine Slippers, Chain Gloves, Amulet, Gold Ring"). Dom Hofmann's free Loot bags served as a foundation for the community.
Several projects have begun metaphorical (lore) and practical (game development) world-building in a short time, with artists contributing many variations to the collective "Lootverse." They've produced games (Realms & The Crypt), characters (Genesis Project, Hyperloot, Loot Explorers), storytelling initiatives (Banners, OpenQuill), and even infrastructure (The Rift).
Why cc0 and composability? Because consumers own and control Loot bags, they may use them wherever they choose by connecting their crypto wallets. This allows users to participate in multiple derivative projects, such as Genesis Adventurers, whose characters appear in many others — creating a decentralized franchise not owned by any one corporation.
Genesis Project's Genesis Adventurer (1) with HyperLoot (2) and Loot Explorer (3) versions
When to go cc0
There are several IP development strategies NFT projects can use. When it comes to cc0, it’s important to be realistic. The public domain won't make a project a runaway success just by implementing the license. cc0 works well for NFT initiatives that can develop a rich, enlarged ecosystem.
Many of the most successful cc0 projects have introduced flexible intellectual property. The Nouns brand is as obvious for a beer ad as for real glasses; Loot bags are simple primitives that make sense in all adventure settings; and the Goblintown visual style looks good on dwarfs, zombies, and cranky owls as it does on Val Kilmer.
The ideal cc0 NFT project gives builders the opportunity to add value:
vertically, by stacking new content and features directly on top of the original cc0 assets (for instance, as with games built on the Loot ecosystem, among others), and
horizontally, by introducing distinct but related intellectual property that helps propagate the original cc0 project’s brand (as with various Goblintown derivatives, among others).
These actions can assist cc0 NFT business models. Because cc0 NFT projects receive royalties from secondary sales, third-party extensions and derivatives can boost demand for the original assets.
Using cc0 license lowers friction that could hinder brand-reinforcing extensions or lead to them bypassing the original. Robbie Broome recently argued (in the context of his cc0 project A Common Place) that giving away his IP to cc0 avoids bad rehashes down the line. If UrbanOutfitters wanted to put my design on a tee, they could use the actual work instead of hiring a designer. CC0 can turn competition into cooperation.
Community agreement about core assets' value and contribution can help cc0 projects. Cohesion and engagement are key. Using the above examples: Developers can design adventure games around whatever themes and item concepts they desire, but many choose Loot bags because of the Lootverse's community togetherness. Flipmap shared half of its money with the original Blitmap artists in acknowledgment of that project's core role in the community. This can build a healthy culture within a cc0 project ecosystem. Commentator NiftyPins said it was smart to acknowledge the people that constructed their universe. Many OG Blitmap artists have popped into the Flipmap discord to share information.
cc0 isn't a one-size-fits-all answer; NFTs formed around well-established brands may prefer more restrictive licenses to preserve their intellectual property and reinforce exclusivity. cc0 has some superficial similarities to permitting NFT owners to market the IP connected with their NFTs (à la Bored Ape Yacht Club), but there is a significant difference: cc0 holders can't exclude others from utilizing the same IP. This can make it tougher for holders to develop commercial brands on cc0 assets or offer specific rights to partners. Holders can still introduce enlarged intellectual property (such as backstories or derivatives) that they control.
Blockchain technologies and the crypto ethos are decentralized and open-source. This makes it logical for crypto initiatives to build around cc0 content models, which build on the work of the Creative Commons foundation and numerous open source pioneers.
NFT creators that choose cc0 must select how involved they want to be in building the ecosystem. Some cc0 project leaders, like Chain Runners' developers, have kept building on top of the initial cc0 assets, creating an environment derivative projects can plug into. Dom Hofmann stood back from Loot, letting the community lead. (Dom is also working on additional cc0 NFT projects for the company he formed to build Blitmap.) Other authors have chosen out totally, like sartoshi, who announced his exit from the cc0 project he founded, mfers, and from the NFT area by publishing a final edition suitably named "end of sartoshi" and then deactivating his Twitter account. A multi-signature wallet of seven mfers controls the project's smart contract.
cc0 licensing allows a robust community to co-create in ways that benefit all members, regardless of original creators' continuous commitment. We foresee more organized infrastructure and design patterns as NFT matures. Like open source software, value capture frameworks may see innovation. (We could imagine a variant of the "Sleepycat license," which requires commercial software to pay licensing fees when embedding open source components.) As creators progress the space, we expect them to build unique rights and licensing strategies. cc0 allows NFT producers to bootstrap ideas that may take off.