The high ethical cost of NFTs in the fashion industry

September 2, 2022

By Sharan Kaur Phillora

NFTs have become a multi-billion dollar industry in less than a year, raising questions of ethics, sustainability, and ownership as we try to figure out whether these digital assets are a 21st-century gold rush or whether we’re facing another dot.com crash. As the fashion industry launches into this brave new world of emerging digital technologies, there are many considerations for the role of NFTs. First things first:

With the rise of cryptocurrencies, the advent of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) was foreseeable. NFTs refer to digital or digitized products from the “first tweet ever” to new art forms. NFTs can include any type of digital or digitized product from the “original” of anything (such as the original tweet ever).

Newer forms of art, including blockchain-based artworks, have created a new, easier market for newer, less well-known, but equally important, contemporary, and new-age art. In 2021, an online art gallery successfully raised $69 million from investors by selling an NFT of a painting by Pablo Picasso.

Museums have used NFTs to sell their own artwork, which has gained their funding from wealthy collectors.

Anyone can create an NFT, and they don’t need permission from anyone else to do so. However, if someone creates an NFT using content created by another individual, then that creator must give them proper attribution for the creation of the NFT.

On the one hand, blockchain technology has created an open marketplace where anyone can sell anything without having to go through intermediaries. However, this new economy has raised concerns about the value-centered nature of the crypto world. For example, sales of boring animals or Paris Hilton’s Cryptoqueen are not necessarily being bought because they’re aesthetically pleasing, artistically skilled, or personally enriching; rather, they’re being sold for their monetary value.

NFTs are part of a community that values arts as investments first and foremost rather than as contributions by artists and people. By valuing arts and fashions in this way, the real and metaverse clothing industries can continue with acts of copyright infringement and misappropriation, making labor and artistic intent meaningless.

Regulations must be implemented to control the NFT’s effect on both the climate and the ethics and laws surrounding intellectual property.

And much like its real-world counterparts, this also comes at a grave cost to the environment. Blockchain technology, for now, depends on an energy-intensive interconnected network of thousands of servers running puzzles in order to mine cryptocurrency and store transactions.

 About the author

Sharan Kaur Phillora’s thirst for knowledge has led her to study many different subjects, including NFTs and Blockchain technology – two emerging technologies that will change how we interact with each other in the future. When she isn’t exploring a new idea or concept, she enjoys reading literary masterpieces.

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