Can an NFT be Copied?

01 Jan 2022

When it comes to buying NFTs, many newcomers have hesitations. Since most NFTs are made up of JPG image files, many people fear that scammers will screenshot or "right-click and save" their NFT and rob them of their value.

But is that the case? Can an NFT be copied like that, or is it an irrational fear?

Considering that almost $300 million in NFTs are traded every single week, it seems that the fear of people copying and stealing their non-fungible tokens isn't stopping most people from enjoying these digital collectibles.

But still, there are some very real concerns about NFTs, what they are, what they can do, what they cannot do, and how to maintain authenticity in an age of rampant digital scams.

Read on to learn about if it's really that easy to copy an NFT.

Most NFTs are pieces of artwork. Whether they are profile picture NFTs (PFP), or actual works of art, they are represented by JPG image files.

The NFT itself, however, is a unique digital token on the blockchain.

Wondering how to copy an NFT? It's actually quite easy on the surface. Copycats can easily right-click on an NFT and save the image associated with the NFT. They can also take a screenshot of the NFT.

In either case, the image is now saved on the copycat's computer, and they can do with it what they want. They can use it as their own profile picture, share it on social media, or any other malicious activity. Although frowned upon, and probably illegal, it's still very common.

The Irrational Fear of Copycats

Just because copycats can "steal" these image files and parade them around on the internet doesn't mean they own them, or their underlying token on the blockchain.

Remember, the NFT itself is the token, with an address on the blockchain. The image just represents the token. So while copycats might take the image, they can't sell it.

Imagine going to the Louvre, in Paris, which houses the original Mona Lisa. In theory, you can take a photograph of the painting.

You can share that photograph on social media. You can even print it out as a replica of the real thing. But you don't own the Mona Lisa. You just happen to have a representation of the real thing.

If you tried to sell your own poster of the Mona Lisa, you might make a few dollars. Or you'd face copyright infringement. In either case, you wouldn't make the $867 million that the real painting is worth. That's because art collectors know how to authenticate artwork before they buy it, to ensure they are getting the original.

The Limitations of NFTs

As an NFT collector, you don't necessarily need to fear copycats. While they might steal your image files, they can't steal your actual NFT, which is the token itself.

Unless, of course, you compromise your wallet, or share your private keys with a thief. NFT theft isn't uncommon. Many hackers will pose as NFT artists or employees of NFT companies.

They may offer access to exclusive NFT drops by sharing your wallet information. And of course, they use this information to swiftly remove your valuable NFT collections from your wallet. Now, they do in fact own the token, because you weren't careful.

Theft is easily avoided with good internet and crypto hygiene, however.

Avoiding Copycat NFTs

It's also important to know that copycats will try to profit in one way or another. They might screenshot a valuable NFT, mint their own token on the blockchain using this image file, and trick someone into paying a high price for a copycat NFT.

To avoid this, collectors should always verify they are buying authentic NFTs by looking at the token address.

In other cases, NFT imposters may create new NFT collections, with images that look just like those in a popular collection, like CrytoPunks or Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC). The images are technically unique, as opposed to a direct copy, but they still mimic the style of the originals.

They'll even give the collection a similar name, like UltraPunks, or CryptoOldPunks, in hopes of tricking an unsuspecting victim. While some of these projects end up being legitimate, others are just trying to lure in buyers, thinking they are buying into the original CryptoPunks collection.

NFTs and Copyrights

The question of copyright also comes up in the NFT space on a daily basis. While copyrights and NFTs are a confusing subject, clarity is coming.

Some NFT projects don't confer copyright ownership to the NFT owner, like CryptoPunks. Rather, the project creator, Larva Labs, owns the copyright on all of the image files, limiting what the NFT owner can do with the image.

Other projects, like BAYC, confer copyright ownership to the individual token holder. Whoever owns the individual token, owns the intellectual property and can do anything they want with the image.

They can share it online, print it out, create merchandise, hang it up in public spaces, and even profit from their art.

The debate around copyright ownership and NFTs is a heated one and not one with a clear outcome. Each NFT developerand creator ultimately gets to decide the approach that its project takes, though the general public definitely prefers an open, censorship-resistant model rather than one in which NFT owners are limited.

The Future of NFTs

So can an NFT be copied? Of course. Anything on the internet can be copied with relative ease. But just because it can be copied, doesn't mean the underlying value is diluted.

Regardless, the NFT industry is evolving daily. There is so much in store for the industry at large.

Have a question you’d like to ask?

Join the community and post or answer questions