What do LeBron James, Kings of Leon, and a hybrid Pop Tart/cat monster have in common?
They all comprise pieces of a trending type of art that lives on the internet: NFTs, or “nonfungible tokens.” These digital art pieces cannot be replicated, because they employ blockchain, the same decentralized programming foundation as cryptocurrency.
In fact, the two commonly coexist — people commonly pay for NFTs in cryptocurrency.
If you create NFTs, all of this likely sounds familiar. In fact, you may have already posted NFTs of your art, hoping that competitive online collectors will drive a wild auction run.
However, you may also feel vulnerable in this new space, because screenshots of your art are all too easy to grab.
What You Should Know about NFT Copyright and Protecting Your Work
Because of the NFT sphere’s unregulated nature, you should keep up your intellectual property guard. NFT copyright is still a bit of a work in progress. Bad actors can and do sell plagiarized artwork. It remains relatively difficult to detect copyright infringement on NFT marketplace websites like Unique.One. Even if you spot an unauthorized NFT, proving it can feel like a “chicken or egg” situation.
On the bright side, common sense guidelines abound to assert artistic copyright on websites and social media in general, and these carry over into the world of NFTs, as well.
NFT Copyright Protection Must-Dos
Make It Visible
Superimpose clear watermarks on any art that you post. This will deter ill-intentioned users from copying it. Like a thief examining bikes on a rack, they will go for one with a weaker lock; the art without a watermark.
If that feels too ugly or blatant, you can add a tiny watermark at pixel level. Not only does this protect the aesthetics of your piece, unsuspecting plagiarists will not know to add this micro-detail to an NFT. Your watermarked original will emerge as the obvious victor in a copyright case.
Artists are not known for their accounting skills, but it is wise to make an effort to save each piece as a timestamped file. Store your archive on a physical hard drive and in the cloud.
It may come in handy if you ever need to challenge a “new” NFT that uncannily resembles an illustration you posted on Instagram three years ago.
Trust the Blockchain
The very nature of blockchain obstructs tampering with its components. Release an art piece as an NFT before posting anywhere less secure. You will inherently bookmark its creation in time.
In this instance, we gain a definitive answer to the “chicken or egg” question by changing the question: “Chicken, egg, or NFT?”