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Trying to define proper Seller Ethics & Buyer Safety in the cutting edge field of NFTs

Everything in this article is based on the opinion of an individual, specifically this opinion was held on the date that this article was published, and as such is subject to change.

The Current State of Play

It’s been an interesting few months, a lot of experimentation has led to some new types of NFTs which might be exclusive across all chains – pretty hard to say but it’s a good chance. Outside Synth we’re loving the innovation we’re seeing from other creators, with a great variety of generative and pure art NFT’s, even some emerging audio-creators.

We’ve hit and broken our all time high several times in terms of sales for a single 1/1 NFT, and other creators have done this as well for much bigger amounts. Despite this we’re never going to sit here and say with a straight face that buying our NFTs is a guaranteed profit, we have always thought of our tokens being categorised as collectible and in some cases utility.

To put it simply, things are really starting to grow on the RVN NFT scene! It wasn’t always this way.

For the first 5 months of working on Synth there were usually an average of 3-4 NFT sales per month. Aside from some notable superstars (i.e the team and creators over at RVNFT) we were the only ones regularly burning RVN to produce content. Although just for context, we were nowhere near the first, and there were plenty of projects that came long before us – either abandoned or completed by the time we started.

Enough Waffle, on to the point. We’re all flying blind here, with only our personal morals and codes to advise how we handle the ethical situations and questions that are beginning to arise.

Things that creators should avoid

There’s never going to be a NFT code of conduct accepted by all, but below we’ll list some things to try and avoid when launching your NFT collection or brand.

Using other people’s work without permission or credit

There’s a lot of this going on at current, fuelled by the success that many original creators are having on RVN through their solid proof of work. Creators should strive to always do their own work.

Value is subjective, we can’t say that nobody would want to possess a copied image, look at how big the counterfeiting industry is! However – a buyer of a fake purse will generally know what they are getting, and will be paying a price matching this. With NFTs there’s more of an element of dishonesty through deliberate mis-representation.

Rather than outing the creators we’ve so far observed doing this, we’ll simply say – please be vigilant in ensuring what you create is at least a representation of your own work.

Some additional guidelines for good ethical practice, just our personal opinion:

  • If an element of your NFT is directly re-used from someone else’s work, you should refer to the license that’s offered with that content as to how this should be represented. If there’s no license available, you are just stealing someone else’s work.
  • License terms will dictate whether you need to show the license or an associated message in the NFT it’s self, a good way to include license info without affecting the NFT visually is within HTML page source, or metadata
  • If using commissioned work as part, or all of your NFT – it’s good courtesy to let the creator know what you intend to use this for. Despite your commission payment it remains their work, and if they request it you need to include a credit to them somewhere in the NFT or sales info. This information is also relevant to most buyers.
  • For commercial licensing of content it’s good practice to mention which parts of any given NFT may be commercially licensed on the sales page, or within the NFT, it’s important that the buyer is aware of this.
  • On the flip side, there’s a trend right now where people are attempting to monopolise various types or themes within the NFT space. Here’s some advice – you don’t have a copyright on circles with other circles in them, you don’t have a copyright on some specific animal. Stop trying to call out and censor other creators just because you feel they had a similar idea to you. It’s offensive when you spend hours on something and someone comes out to ask you if this was not your work because of one feature being subjectively similar.
  • Most buyers prefer 1/1’s to be chain exclusive, there’s some argument around NFTs based on sub tokens. But as a rule of thumb buyers should be made aware if they are not the sole owner of the image you just sold them as an NFT. This also counts for any non-NFT platform which displays the NFT, especially those platforms which retain ownership of the content.

Ways that collectors can protect themselves

  • Look out for approved vendors on marketplaces, generally these have been vetted by the marketplace owner, use this as an indication though rather than gospel.
  • Search the NFT series name on google, often you will find the original image that the NFT came from, some scammers really are that stupid.
  • For image based NFTs you can search for matches across the internet with TinEye – https://tineye.com/
  • For 3D based NFTs, search marketplaces like Sketchfab, again google really is your friend here!
  • Finally, always worth giving Opensea, or the WAX/Sol/Tez marketplaces a check if you want to ensure that the NFT you are buying is chain exclusive.

Why do creators break these rules? What about Synth?

Mostly it’s a consequence of people new to the scene coming and and trying to get started, and be accepted by the community. But there are clear cases of cash grabs/scams as well.

Much of it can come from not really understanding NFTs, we’ve been guilty of this ourselves – when we first started out back in March 2021, at least 2 of our original Synth Factory items were commissions in terms of the 3D model(with an idea of producing virtual collectibles to be viewed on a handset through an app) , at this time our focus was very much getting 3D interactives onto the RVN chain, and that made the bulk of the work – a learning process to produce a 3D model display template based off model-viewer that many other creators use to this day.

While we did generally follow the above rules we were not as transparent about this as we could have been at the time – admittedly we didn’t exactly have marketplaces or anywhere to put this information back then. I’m glad to say that since those original few models we thankfully learned that we could produce rudimentary 3D models ourselves, and have been doing so ever since!

A more modern example of us getting this right is Synth World, it’d be a very different timeframe if all in-world graphics were exclusively produced by a 1 man team (with middling pixel skills), as such some of the graphical content in the world is commercially licensed. These projects are extremely code and systems heavy and that’s where we want to be putting the time in, to produce a proper metaverse that you can visit like a video game, all within the chain. With every Synth World listing we prominently display this information.

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