The Furry Fandom, artist culture, and the dangers of Non-Fungible Tokens
Editor's Note: This article was also published in DogPatchPress and was dual submitted by the original author. In discussion with DogPatch, it was decided to follow the author's wish to post this piece to both sites, but editing credits go to Patch from DogPatchPress. If you read it there, it is the same here, minus these respective editor notes. Furry opinions are, apparently, quite fungible.
Cryptocurrency isn’t a new thing to a lot of people. Most safely assume that it’s a common matter to discuss by now. From one trend to another, it seems like the over-publicized success stories, scam emails, and ads that badger you to invest or download this or that app never stop coming. Yet while furries are notoriously well versed in technology, for most of us, it’s just background noise. Spam, business con tactics, and maybe hearsay from the friend of a friend who invested; it all sounds almost good enough to break through our skepticism… but not quite.
However, early in 2021, things suddenly changed. A digital work from Mike Winkelmann (AKA Beeple), entitled ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, sold for $69.3 million USD. It was entirely unexpected for most of the online community, and the term NFT exploded like crypto did before it.
Though the concept was born in May of 2014, and many other high-profile exchanges had been made earlier, this sale made a tidal wave and a new landscape. Non-Fungible Token means a piece of content, be it an image, sound, or any other digital file, attached to a certificate labelling it as the ‘one and only true original’ proven by a blockchain address. Each individual certificate of absolute ownership is collectable, tradable, and beyond all exclusive – a factor that seemed to draw in many. ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’ made it a currency of its own.
Once merely for investors and stock players, Bitcoin miners and the financially gifted, the trading now broke out into the world of small content creators. A space where there’s no more quirky and unique a breed than furries, and their infinite array of creativity and oddball ingenuity – qualities made saturated, stylized and enigmatic through NFTs. Soon artists and creators both within the fandom and without were bombarded by requests, demands, and processes relating to NFT marketplaces, whether understood or not. Communities across the internet pivoted all too slowly to adapt.
While the hype was insurmountable – drawing target groups worldwide who had never been interested in cryptocurrency to suddenly invest – there was more to it than the surface craze and annoyance. Something that no-one had seen at first. Something insidiously unhealthy, that has grown worse and worse in the months since.
We think NFTs are dangerous to the Furry Fandom, and here’s why.
To fully understand why many people see NFTs as a risk to both the environment and creative culture, we should explore exactly what impacts they report. For research, we have both passively and actively observed fandom insiders and outsiders, to see the community as a whole. We learned general consensus of those affected, and patterns in that information. The most common complaint of those affected by the NFT trend is without a doubt theft. Artists keep finding their works for sale on NFT marketplaces without their knowledge or consent. These sites are notoriously less than vigilant or helpful for removing discovered thefts.
Art theft and copyright infringement was a massive problem since long before the first online file sharing. An amazing array of traced ‘original art’, bootleg albums, and rip-offs of your favorite children’s show are made every day. Yet, in the furry fandom, the motivation for stealing someone’s art is at least somewhat small-minded and limited, though widely practiced. You mostly have to want to be known as an artist to steal art and claim it’s yours. However, with the advent of NFTs, now there’s big money to gain. Sure, some art thieves in the past have altered other artists’ work to scam commissioners, but rarely was there opportunity for such clean and relatively risk-free fraud. The odds are that the average artist won’t know if one of their pieces is quietly made into an NFT and sold. That’s exactly the point for many people entering this market.
Next, the theft continues from the earth itself. The environmental issues of cryptocurrency have long been questionable. Wikipedia compares the carbon footprint of a single NFT purchase to an additional passenger on a commercial flight, and the New York Times states that a single Bitcoin transaction uses the energy of an average American household in six weeks. In September this year it was estimated that 0.5% of all energy used worldwide is for Bitcoin alone — more than many whole countries — and almost more than half of all other data processes globally, as stated by DigiEconomist founder Alex de Vries. Given this environmental cost, it’s also troubling to know cryptocurrency’s fragile financial status for its investors. As an economic straw man, crypto works purely on the ebb and flow of exchange and stock value. In other words, if there was no supply, there would be no demand, unlike in classic economics, where demand is met and balanced with supply foremost to make profit.
Lastly, among things vulnerable to battering by surging popularity, we have culture. The furry fandom is a unique space, built over decades, and formed around a concept rather than an existing set of work. The stories, lives, creations, and artistic energy of members is the sole thing that defines it as a community. Independent and freelance creators seek their living from the exchange of art and content. It’s a shaky business at most for the best of them. Introducing depersonalized, commercial bias into a space based on personalization — such as wanting to see your characters come alive for emotional investment rather than profit — discourages creators and influencers. They’re bitter at how it may affect their incomes, and damage the community around them.
Outcry on social media has risen from artists urging fans to fight harassment from shills. They fear the market being saturated by soulless token trades, and drowning out the healthy sharing of unique stories, characters, and creativity. It could seem disheartening that genuine care might turn to greed, and kill the joy that a commission brings to both recipient and creator.
Others promote the NFT market and its opportunities for trading and stock, but for quick personal wealth or collecting for hope of a future payout, rather than a living and breathing community. We already have the cryptocurrency trend in the fandom’s already precarious place for its artists, their income and business. Do we need another one?
The answer, which may come with the age-old balance between wealth or happiness, is, as always, up to you, but for many furries it is no. And, in good conscience for the spaces and people we love, we at Doppelfoxx are definitely among them.