Just like with physical art, forgeries and stolen copies of NFTs is a big problem. In fact, the ease with which anyone can “Right-click → Save As…” almost any NFT’s associated file makes the problem of digital forgeries even more prevalent and difficult to avoid.
A term you might come across is ‘copyminter’. This is someone who simply downloads the art of many different (and often successful) artists and re-mints them as their own.
In this post, we’ll learn how to spot a fake NFT and avoid being duped by copyminters and digital art fraudsters.
But It Looks Cool! Why Does It Matter Who Minted It?
The first question anyone new to NFTs asks is, “Why would I want to pay money for a .jpg? Can’t I just save the file to my desktop and look at it whenever I want?”
The answer is that you’re not actually buying the .jpg.
It’s true, anyone can just download the file if all they care about is the pretty picture, but what you’re really buying when you buy an NFT, or any piece of art really, is its provenance.
The simple definition of provenance is “the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object“, but provenance is much more than this.
Who is the original artist of the piece and what historical significance did they have?
A piece by Picasso is worth more than an identical piece by Joe Bloggs because Picasso has historical significance. The real Mona Lisa is worth millions of times more than an identical print you bought at the gift shop because the original was touched by the hands of Leonardo Da Vinci himself.
The same is true for NFTs.
The provenance of the NFT is what makes it valuable. This is really one of the key innovations of NFT technology; the fact that you can authenticate the provenance of any digital file.
That $69m Beeple NFT you heard about is only worth that much because of the cultural significance of that piece, the history of the artist, etc.
When you buy an NFT what you’re really buying is the story of that piece and the artist.
If the story of that NFT is that someone simply downloaded a file and re-minted it as their own, that’s not a great story.
No matter how much you paid for it, it’s probably worthless.
How Do I Spot A Fake NFT?
Spotting a fake NFT can be tricky, but there are some simple steps you can take to verify it’s provenance.
Many NFT marketplaces will link an NFT to its original creator. For example, here is the metadata of one of my NFTs on screensaver.world (you can see the actual NFT here).
Notice how, even though this NFT has been purchased by someone else (@bvalosek) you can still see the original creator of the piece (@polyforms – that’s me!).
Even if @bvalosek resells the piece, you’ll always be able to see who the original creator was.
Many NFT marketplaces provide means for creators to verify their identities. For example, in the screensaver.world NFT above, my name only shows up because I’ve linked my identity via Proof Of Twitter.
On screensaver.world, you can copy paste a creator’s handle into Twitter to verify their identity based on their Twitter profile.
As another example, Foundation lets you link your Twitter account.
Here’s my Foundation profile, where you’ll see a little verified badge with my Twitter handle. You can click on that to go straight to my Twitter and verify I am who I say I am.
What If The Artist Isn't Verified?
Sometimes you might come across a piece that doesn’t have a verified address. It might look something like this.
There are perfectly valid reasons that someone might not want to link their account to their identity, but this does make verifying the authenticity of an NFT a little trickier.
Does the NFT marketplace have some kind of community group, like a Discord server?
Try posting the link to the NFT on there and asking who’s it is. If you can’t verify the ownership, it might not be worth buying.
Take a look at other pieces from the same address. Do they all have a similar style or does each piece have a completely different look and feel? If so you may be dealing with a copyminter.
How To Spot A Copyminter
If you come across an unverified profile that has lots of different NFTs of varying styles, you’ve probably found a copyminter. This is someone who downloads the artworks of other artists and tries to sell them as their own.
Definitely don’t buy any of these. If you see a piece you like, try to find the original artist and buy it from them instead. Also, let them know that someone is stealing their work…
Most marketplaces will also have some means of reporting an NFT or profile, so make sure to do that as well, as long as you’re sure its a fraud.
Don't Buy Stolen NFTs
NFTs are super fun, but it’s a good idea to make sure you’re supporting the original artist and not an art thief.
Hopefully, you now know why verifying the authenticity of an NFT is important. You’ve also learned how to spot a copyminter.
The process of verifying an NFT might be slightly different from platform to platform, and there are even some more advanced methods using block explorers, but the important thing here is to do even a little bit of due diligence on an NFT you want to buy, especially if you’re going to pay a lot of money for it.
Now, all that’s left is to go out and buy some great (and authentic) NFTs!
If you’re looking for a place to start, check out the Art page for a collection of my own NFTs (so you know they come from me 😉) or head to NFT marketplaces like screensaver.world or hic et nunc to see what’s out there.