The NFT space has grown immensely growing to $35 billion in 2022 and expected to reach over $80 billion in 2025. Prices of popular collections like CryptoPunks and Bored Ape continue to rise as users flood the NFT space wanting to have a piece of the cake. Even virtual lands from The Sandbox and Decentraland are selling like hotcakes despite their soaring prices.
Creators across the globe both traditional and digital have also joined the bandwagon. But with the huge popularity of these digital artworks, another problem is also on the rise. Plagiarism is now one of the growing concerns in the NFT space today. According to a report, artists have lost their creations to NFT theft. Their works were plagiarized, minted as NFT, and sold to unwitting buyers believing it’s the real ones. Artists who were members of DeviantArt, an online art community, have fallen victims to NFT theft. Liam Sharp, an artist for DC Comics, was one of the victims of this vicious act. He stated:
“Sadly I’m going to have to completely shut down my entire @DeviantArt gallery as people keep stealing my art and making NFTs. I can’t – and shouldn’t have to – report each one and make a case, which is consistently ignored.”
To mitigate this, the platform had since utilized a new tool that scans public blockchains and NFT marketplaces for art fraud and theft. It was able to send massive alerts for cases of NFT plagiarism.
But since minting NFTs on most marketplaces like OpenSea was free, plagiarism remains a colossal problem almost impossible to resolve. This was pointed out by artist and game developer Jon Neimeister in his statement with Hyperallergic.
“Platforms like OpenSea don’t charge initial fees to mint, so there’s tons of bots that are dragging through artists’ portfolios and minting their work as NFTs.”
To address the issue, OpenSea and Cent have suspended most of their NFT sales. In this comment on the issue, Cameron Hejazi, CEO, and Co-Founder of Cent stated:
“We believe these people are bad actors, who only engage with Cent for the purpose of tricking others into purchasing counterfeit work. We do not condone this behavior – ethically, legally, and philosophically, it goes against our values and what we stand for as a company.”
The NFT marketplace was behind the sales of Twitter founder and former CEO, Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet in the amount of $2.9 million. The problem with plagiarism on NFTs has become almost impossible to counter especially with the entry of Web 3.0 further stated by Hejazi.
“I think this is a pretty fundamental problem with web3.”
OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace announced the halting of the free minting feature of the platform on its official Twitter account.
To all the creators in our community impacted by the 50 item limit we added to our free minting tool, we hear you and we're sorry.
We have reversed the decision.
But we also want to offer an explanation ↯ pic.twitter.com/Y3igaE1RM2
— OpenSea (@opensea) January 27, 2022
This is a result of the abusive actions of bad actors in minting other artists’ works and selling them to buyers on the platform.
However, we've recently seen misuse of this feature increase exponentially.
Over 80% of the items created with this tool were plagiarized works, fake collections, and spam.
— OpenSea (@opensea) January 27, 2022
Even popular collections like CryptoPunks and Bored Ape were now subject to plagiarism. This could also turn out to be a nightmare for NFT collectors after buying a pricey NFT due to its rarity but later on would see a copycat with a relatively low value. Cent a decentralized NFT marketplace with 150,000 users is now considering shifting to being a centralized platform in order to circumvent NFT plagiarizers. Despite its huge number of users, the decentralized marketplace is just a small pry as compared to OpenSea’s 1.5 million users. OpenSea and Cent have delisted all items that are counterfeits. But is there a way for artists to protect their work from plagiarizers?
A published article by Cointelegraph shared tips on how to protect one’s artwork. One simple way could be adding either a visible or invisible watermark. This could deter a bad actor from plagiarizing your works. Keeping an archive of your works could be another way that may include the date it was created. You may also consider minting your own artwork as blockchain’s immutable records will definitely serve as protection. But with blockchain, the underlying technology behind NFTs soon offers a concrete solution for rampant plagiarism? Unique.One, a decentralized non-profit platform for artists, creators, and collectors has commented on the matter.
“It’s a sad fact that the very freedom and flexibility provided to creators by decentralized, permissionless NFT platforms can also attract abuse by bad actors.”
But it further added:
“But innovation also breeds solutions. Technology can be leveraged to help creators keep control of their work.”
Whether blockchain technology will soon be used to resolve this problem plaguing the NFT space is yet to be seen but could soon turn into a reality.