Headline artists like Snoop Dogg, DeadMau5 have brought mass public attention to blockchains through NFTs as tangible ways to interact and support both their, and other artists’ work. Decentralised games like the Sandbox, Decentraland, Axie Infinity have exploded in popularity, offering new ways for artists to be rewarded, creating game assets as NFTs.

Everyday, news of another big brand getting on board buying land, offering NFTs… Influencers, celebrities, sports teams and mass ticking of events, it seems everyone is in on the craze.

Most important to blockchains, NFTs have been and will continue to be (at least in the medium term) the gateway for the masses (i.e. current web2 users) to be exposed to web3. NFTs will lead the masses to overcome the critical adoption milestone of creating their first wallet, funding and purchase of a digital asset.

However, for every big headline about an exciting new project there are equally matched by bad press exposing NFTs and marketplaces. We're clearly still in the bleeding edge phase of this technology. There is work to be done if NFTs are to be taken seriously long term.

In summary, the issues can be categorised as:


NFT art sells for big $ yet the legal aspects are often not clear:

  • Buyers: What are you buying?
  • Artists: What rights are you giving away?
  • Collectors: Can you be sure you bought an original?

Side note: Interesting uses of Creative Commons have also created new market opportunities. NounsDao case study by @jackbutcher

For Artists

Artists deserve to be paid for their work. Fakes being sold on marketplaces is outright fraud. Derived works that don't pay or even attribute the original artist are immoral and unfair.

For Customers

Commissioning an artist to create a work is a commitment of funds and trust. Projects can be abandoned if either party is unsure of what they are getting and in what timeframe.

For Collectors

NFT collectors encounter the right click save issue which can impact the perceived value of NFT images.

For NFT Marketplaces

Doubt over the authenticity of works is a nightmare and damaging to the marketplace brand. Marketplace suspends buying / selling due to plagiarism

Recognising the industry is in its infancy, we identified what it would look like if the issues were solved maturely. We've built a dApp 'ArtPay NFT' to demonstrate.

What it does

A Fiverr like dApp experience for Web3 digital work and NFT artists

For our demo and the submitted codebase, we've focused on the experience from the Artists perspective: Imagine the use-case of an Artist commissioned by a Client to create a body of work:

  1. The artist can create a Project, set the licensing, incorporate royalties and attributions all in a few simple steps.
  2. The client receives the quote, and should they accept, proceeds to fund the escrow.
  3. The escrow contract resides on the blockchain and ensures both parties fulfill their obligations without risk.
  4. Iterations of the works continue through convenient messaging and progress updates stored in the contract.
  5. On final acceptance, the Artist is paid out automatically and the NFT is minted.
  6. Final works are minted as an NFT; binding rights and assigning ownership to the Client (according to rights agreed in the contract)
  7. Should the work be a derivative work and royalties are payable, these payments will be automatically disbursed.
  8. Provenance of the parties (buyer, artist and attributions) live on in the transaction history on the blockchain.

This all sounds complex, but it's all done through a clean, familiar UX and tidy dApp that guides users through the process.

'Artworks' can be anything from commissioned cartoon avatar pictures to a custom designed 3D models in the Sandbox.

Some artists are excelling in the web3 world. Our aim is to lift the creator economy by simplifying processes and solving their problems:

  • Artists should not need to be skilled in Web3, NFTs and Blockchain tech;
  • Artists are not lawyers but can set the legals correctly and easily;
  • Artists want to be attributed and receive royalties for their work.

Our NFT minting event binds to the original escrow smart contract, providing a traceability mechanism.

How we built it

NEAR blockchain:

  • Smart contract: Escrow to hold and release payment.
  • NFT Minting contract: NEP-199 (NFT Event compliant for Paras marketplace)

IPFS storage for file assets.

Metadata bound in the blockchain transactions

Users can view transactions on the block explorer for artpay.testnet

Inspection reveals the NFTs history back to it’s original contract:


  "client": "[purchaser_of_nft.testnet]",
  "contractor": "[artist_who_created_it.testnet]",
  "id": [contract_number]

Inspecting the minted NFT, royalties and legal agreements are applied in nep171 fields and metadata:


  "metadata": {
    "title": "Crazy horse"
    "right_assign": "BYND"
  "perpetual_royalties": {
    "[artist_derived_work.artpay.testnet]": 25

The end result is that there is never any doubt about the original parties who commissioned or created the work nor the rights that were assigned. In the secondary market this information lives on. Marketplaces on NEAR respect the perpetual royalties, meaning original contributors continue to be rewarded.

Challenges we ran into

Typical of a hackathon... a few miss-starts with onboarding front-end team members :) but we rolled up our sleeves and got it done.

We really struggled to get a stablecoin into the platform. We tried TrueUSD. Although there were announcements with NEAR, we could not find docs or support to get it done. We now see a partnership of NEAR Protocol + Allbridge + Celo for cUSD has been announced and this may be an option. (note: we’ve maintained TUSD in the video as it clearly communicates the goal UX).

Learning Rust! challenging at first but really rewarding once you get over the learning curve.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

The UX of the platform has inherent network effects. By an Artist using ArtPay a client is onboarded to the platform. More users means more opportunities for other Artists. More artists means more clients and the cycle continues.

What we learned

NEAR NEP-199 natively supported a lot of the capability we'd envisaged we'd need to build into our smart contract and minting process in order to build in traceability.

NEAR’s wallets are easy to work with and identifiers are human-readable which is a bonus for projects where individuals' identity is important such as ours.

Building smart contracts is better in Rust than in Solidity, we were able to tap into the NEAR blockchain at the bare metal.

Minting on NEAR is cheap! Beyond the NEAR ecosystem of Paras, Mintbase etc. We can bridge for compatibility with Ethereum based marketplaces (ERC-721 etc) via (Aurora EVM rainbow bridge connector). []

What's next for ArtPay NFT

Test MVP on more artists and their clients for feedback before going to the main-net. Request Paras to approve our minting contract for NFTs to appear on their marketplace.

Features we foresee we'll need to build:

  • Stable coin (T.B.D: cUSD / TUSD) to make it understandable and stable for escrow
  • Mint to Ethereum network via Aurora Rainbow bridge to provide an additional business model
  • Workflow from the Customers perspective of finding an Artist (Marketplace starter)
  • Arbitration process for release of escrow when there are complex disputes
  • Full artist profile and listing gig marketplace with filtering/search and categorisations
  • ‘One click’ block inspector to allow users to see the contract and NFT metadata relationship.

For the entire project playground (interaction with NFT and Escrow) Walkthrough:

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