NFT platforms are hotspots for creators to market their work and build an audience. Since there is a high amount of NFTs present on these platforms, it’s important to have some form of copyright protection instituted to prevent art thieves and scam artists from stealing work that isn’t theirs.
While NFT platforms can’t prevent copying, they can take measures to track it and institute consequences on the person that copied it. With the rise in NFT art and artists, more copyright protections are being initiated to protect ownership rights.
The following article is an in-depth description of how NFT copies are tracked and how you can prevent them from getting copied in the first place. It also includes brief explanations of how NFTs are copied and why copying them is considered illegal.
Before we go further I have to disclose that I am not an attorney and the following is not legal advice. If you require legal advice seek out a qualified attorney.
How Are NFTs Copied?
NFTs are usually copied by someone downloading the image onto their own computer or taking a screenshot of it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it becomes an issue when the person tries to sell it or pass it off as their own.
NFTs have a digital fingerprint attached to them from the moment they are uploaded to the internet and minted. This means that every time the NFT is sold to someone else or posted on another website, it is tracked.
Each of these movements is recorded on a blockchain, which is essentially a log of everywhere the NFT is and everyone that’s accessed the NFT.
This includes if the NFT was accessed illegally, such as when someone downloads or screenshots it and sells it to someone else. NFTs are digital assets that can be easily accessed by anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world.
This unfortunately can make them easy targets for art thieves or scam artists. They download or screenshot the NFT, another form of copying it, mint it and pass it off as their own work or sell it to someone else without the original creator’s knowledge or permission.
NFT platforms are hot spots for this kind of activity since there is a large amount of them in one space. One way to help protect yourself is looking at the ownership and who really created it. Here are 7 ways to check.
Why Is Copying NFTs Illegal?
Copying NFTs is illegal because of copyright laws established to protect original owners and creators. If the copier is profiting off of someone else’s work without their knowledge or permission or passing it off as their own work, then it’s considered a copyright infringement.
The unique blockchain record of each NFT allows the user to keep track of where their NFT is and who is viewing it.
It’s essentially a digital copyright record that proves the NFT was created and is owned by the original creator. However, creators can also see when their NFT is sold to someone else that they don’t remember selling to. Furthermore, they can see when their NFT appears on another website they didn’t upload to.
If these instances occur, then it’s considered a copyright infringement on the part of the copier. Copyright infringement means any instance where someone who didn’t create something, in this case, an NFT, tries to profit off of it. This can be in the form of selling it without the original creator’s knowledge or permission and claiming it as one’s own.
These actions are considered illegal because they discredit the original creator of the NFT and they don’t get credit or payment for their work.
Furthermore, the copier is earning some form of profit by being dishonest about the origins of the work, which can then escalate to fraud and theft charges.
But as long as you don’t sell the NFT or pass it off as your own work, then taking a screenshot or downloading it isn’t illegal. You could even use it as a profile picture.
This also applies to making physical copies in the form of prints which we discuss here: Can You Sell Physical Prints of an NFT?
Platforms Try to Prevent Fraud
As you can see this problem is not easy to solve. So, what are the NFT marketplaces and platforms doing to help combat this problem? Let’s take a look at the two of the largest.
- OpenSea has a user safety team which monitors their website. Plus there is a “report fraudulant use” action that users can implement to report fraudulent behaivior. They have this informative post on “How To Keep Yourself Safe.”
How To Protect NFTs From Being Copied
There are two main ways you can prevent your NFTs from being copied. One is called Minting, where you tokenize the work to give it authenticity. The other way is to use a newly established company that detects when an NFT is being copied.
The most common way that NFTs are protected from being copied is by minting them. Minting an NFT is the process of tokenizing the NFT and using the token as a sort of seal of authenticity. Creators have to pay “gas fees” to initiate the transaction and get the tokenization recorded on the blockchain.
Minting an NFT is not cheap either but there are hacks to make it more affordable to help reduce the chance of losing money. These crafty ways are explained in these two articles:
- How To Sell NFTs Without Gas Fees (or less) | Complete Guide
- The 3 Cheapest Ways to Mint an NFT: Full Breakdown
After the NFT is minted the creator can then publish the artwork and upload it to an NFT marketplace.
The minting record on the blockchain then prevents the NFT from being tampered with or copied, or at the very least makes it harder to do so.
This is why NFT creators can be more confident that their work is copyright protected and help prevent scammers from copying their work without their knowledge.
The other way that creators can protect their NFTs from being copied is by using a new emerging company called Pastel Network. This new company is attempting to tackle the NFT copying problem head first with an advanced duplication detection tool and secure storage.
Their duplication detection system is called Sense, and it scans each NFT for authenticity. It does so by quantifying how rare an NFT or features of it are; the more unique the NFT, the easier it is to authenticate. Cascade is the name of the company’s secure storage and provides a place for creators to store their work without the risk of getting hacked or losing it.
As the use of NFTs to sell art becomes more and more popular, copyright laws will be enforced more and more. With systems like Pastel Network and procedures like self-reporting within the platforms and NFT communities, the safety of buying NFTs will become safer.
Preventing copiers from stealing and selling artwork that isn’t theirs is hard enough to do in the real world. However, when it comes to NFTs, the process can be easy.
But fortunately, with new laws being put into practice and new companies being established, the copyright issues plaguing NFT creators will hopefully soon be mitigated. The future looks bright as is discussed in this widely read article: 10 Reasons Why NFTs Will Change the World.