Written evidence submitted by Cat Auburn


Evidence for DCMS inquiry on Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the blockchain


Author: Cat Auburn                                                                     

A glossary of terms is provided on page 4.


Author Biography


Cat Auburn is an AHRC Northern Bridge doctoral candidate at Northumbria University. Her doctoral research is a practice-based exploration of the authorship and ownership of collective memory. Auburn is an award winning, international artist and filmmaker; her research takes the form of artistic engagement with archival material, sculpture, film and NFTs. The research relevant to this DCMS inquiry has come about by Auburn’s collaborative, artistic investigation into NFTs, the blockchain and its implications for the cultural heritage sector. This investigation has included creating NFTs with a collaborator, conference presentations, and conversations with professionals in the artistic, academic, museum, and policy making sectors.


Key recommendations: NFTs need to be regulated.









A 2022 article on reuters.com defines non-fungible tokens – or NFTs for short - as: “a type of cryptoasset that exploded in popularity last year. They use the technology behind bitcoin to record who owns a digital file - from an image to video or piece of text.”[2] The ‘technology behind bitcoin’ is called the blockchain - an internet-based system, or ledger, on which cryptotechnology-based transactions are recorded – including NFTs.


An NFT is a way of marking a digital asset online as being unique. The problem before NFTs existed was that digital files are easily replicable, so the concept of owning a digital painting, for example, was meaningless as many other people could have an identical copy of the same file, thus making it essentially valueless.


Because NFTs enable digital uniqueness, they are a way of publicly tracking the ownership of digital assets. The development of this technology is a big change that has revolutionised the ability to own digital things and has enabled a marketplace for digital art, amongst other things. It would seem that most things can be turned into NFTs - including a famous basketball dunk meme[3], a pair of sneakers[4] and proof of education certification[5].  NFTs have a similarity to the certificate of authenticity that would accompany an artwork.


Qualities of NFTs to consider



In theory, an NFT is unchangeable once created and the information stored in them lasts for as long as the blockchain system exists. This is due to the functionality of the blockchain (or ledger) on which new NFTs are registered and through which digital uniqueness is authenticated.



The blockchain system (or ledger) is decentralized, meaning that NFTs don’t exist on a single computer server or physical storage space. This potentially removes a layer of local threat as infrastructures are usually tied to geography and political dynamics. The information in an NFT can’t be targeted in the same way as traditional methods of safeguarding information. 



The creation and ownership history of NFTs (and other kinds of transaction on the blockchain) are transparent and accessible to anyone with an internet connection. However, this transparency only goes so far once cryptoassets leave a crypto wallet[6].



The risks and benefits of NFTs and the blockchain to individuals and society


Alongside the hope that NFTs and the blockchain may be of benefit to society, there are concerns about the potential to abuse this technology. As with many things in society, there is a lag between real-time use and misuse of new technologies and the development of appropriate policy and legal frameworks.


Potential Risks






Potential benefits





The specific obligations that NFTs have the potential to support are:


A nascent example of this in action can be seen in Ukraine’s use of NFTs and the blockchain to both fundraise and attempt to safeguard cultural heritage during a time of threat[11][12][13]. Over time, Ukraine’s implementation of cytotechnology to safeguard its cultural heritage may prove to be a helpful case study.




bitcoin:              a type of digital currency in which a record of transactions is maintained and new units of currency are generated by the computational solution of mathematical problems, and which operates independently of a central bank.


blockchain:              a system in which a record of transactions, especially those made in a cryptocurrency, is maintained across computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network.


cryptoasset:              secured digital representations of value or contractual rights that use some type of distributed ledger technology and can be transferred, stored or traded electronically.


cryptotechnology:              an umbrella term for the world of cryptocurrencies.


crypto wallet:              online storage for cryptoassets. They also allow you to send, receive, and spend cryptocurrencies.


NFT:                                          Non-fungible token. A type of cryptoasset.


practice-based:              an alternative form of knowledge production or academic research, often undertaken through creative outputs other than standard academic formats.

Cat Auburn

Page 4


[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/artists-resale-right

[2] www.reuters.com/technology/ukraine-launches-nft-museum-war-crypto-crowdfunding-push-2022-03-25/

[3] https://www.npr.org/2021/03/09/975450173/the-200k-nba-nft

[4] https://thenextweb.com/news/nike-blockchain-sneakers-cryptokick-patent

[5] https://d.mba/blog/school-certificates-for-the-digital-age

[6] https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/22/22/8833


[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221462962200007X

[8] In order to investigate this question, the author and their collaborator created a series of NFT-based tests trying to create NFTs of historic battles. https://opensea.io/collection/100battles

[9] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-ratifies-hague-convention-on-protecting-cultural-property#:~:text=The%20UK%20chose%20not%20to,the%20protection%20of%20cultural%20property

[10] https://en.unesco.org/protecting-heritage/convention-and-protocols/1954-convention

[11] www.vice.com/en/article/dypn5x/how-a-radical-nft-project-is-fighting-to-save-ukraine

[12] www.kmu.gov.ua/en/news/mincifri-muzej-metaistoriyi-zibrav-ponad-600-tisyach-dolariv-na-pidtrimku-ukrayini

[13] https://metahistory.gallery/about-us