Turning my Art into a NFT
A lot has been made of NFTs lately. Some people believe that they are the future of ownership, others view them as a new business model to support artists. I view it as an interesting solution to DRM, enabling third parties to verify ownership of digital assets without relying on centralized control or a server that could be taken down at any time (as has happened many times with DRM before).
Given all the excitement over the technology, I decided to try my hand at creating my own NFT. Although a NFT can contain virtually any content, I decided to go with something simple that I created myself: an unpublished image from my experiments with style transfer algorithms. Because this is something that I am ultimately planning to sell, I wanted to list a creation of my own. Many people forget that although the transactions that occur on a blockchain are protected from fraud through their consensus algorithms, the places where blockchains interact with the real world (such as an exchange) can be as fraudulent as the managers of that exchange let them be. OpenSea is one of the most well known marketplaces with a good reputation, so I decided to list there.
The process was incredibly simple. After linking my crypto wallet, I uploaded my photo with a description (I decided to grant the owners of the asset rights to the image, so long as I am allowed to retain a physical print of it). The only major change to default settings I made was to list it on the Etherium side-chain Polygon, rather than the main Etherium chain. Technically, the Etherium chain would be more secure, and it would make sense if I was listing this for a high price. However, since this is just an experiment, I wanted to keep the gas costs low. After publishing this blog post, I plan to link it within the description of the NFT, and then "freeze" the metadata on the IPFS decentralized file storage system. Although this is not necessary, I view it as keeping more "in spirit" with what a NFT should be by limiting how much of it is listed in a centralized system (aside from the exchange, of course).
You can see the NFT here:
In addition to listing my artwork, I wanted to leverage the royalty function of NFTs. This was also easy to do with OpenSea. Within a "collection" there exists the option to set a royalty fee (up to 10%) and a payout address (and yes, that is my real payout address, feel free to send tips). I decided to have a 5% royalty fee, so I can get a cut in case this art really takes off.
All NFTs in my collection are listed here: https://opensea.io/collection/freddydopfel
Listing was where things got much more interesting. After setting a price and listing length (.01Eth or $37.65 at time of writing), OpenSea needed to sign with my crypto wallet. This validated that I, the owner of the NFT approve of the digital contract. The NFT is now available for purchase to everyone.
This was a fun experience, and I anticipate that I will get a lot of joy and validation if/when anyone purchases my artwork. I was honestly expecting the process of creating a NFT to be a lot more work, on par with the time it takes to create the artwork itself. Instead, this process was easy enough that many of my non-technical friends would probably be able to do it as well. It is actually easier and faster than listing a physical painting for sale in a gallery. I believe that the only thing that is standing in the way of greater adoption of NFTs, especially NFTs of images, music, or video, is questions around fraud and potential revenue.
The most concerning part of this process was that listing my artwork was TOO easy. I could have just as easily listed a copy of the real "Starry Night" and sold it. This is because there is no way to validate that the owner of the digital assets being uploaded to the exchange is actually me. Unfortunately, there is no easily-scalable solution to this problem yet, but I have faith that given sufficient time, the blockchain community will find a way. Just as spam filters have grown to reliably protect us from spam, so too will new systems protect us from NFT scams.