Is it possible to “pirate” NFTs with the right mouse button? It’s not that simple – Finance – Tecnoblog

With the boom in the market for NFTs in 2021, there was a lot of discussion about the technology behind them, about the content that is being registered as digital assets and about the prices (sometimes millionaires) paid for “simple” non-fungible tokens. More recently, we saw a movement on social media that encouraged “hack” NFTs through the right mouse button (right-click), thus saving a copy of the file.

Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs (Image: Marco Verch/Flickr)
Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs (Image: Marco Verch/Flickr)

However, is it possible to steal or hack an NFT this way? The answer to this may not be what you expect. Yes, anyone can copy and save the file linked to an NFT on their desktop and claim to “own” a digital artwork, for example. However, this image file does not has no value nor does it configure a digital asset, with authenticity guaranteed by a blockchain network record.

A practical and recent example was the creation of the so-called “The NFT Bay”, in allusion to the famous platform of torrents and pirated files “The Pirate bay”, in mid-November. The Australian Geoffrey Huntley, creator of the platform, gathered all the files linked to the NFTs of the Ethereum and Solana networks in a single torrent called “the billion dollar torrent”.

According to the project’s creator, “The NFT Bay” would be a major criticism of the market for non-fungible tokens and the fortunes that are spent to buy “useless” digital representations. The entire platform was based on downloading the files linked to the NFTs of two of the main blockchains that host these assets.

“Did you know that an NFT is just a hyperlink to an image usually stored on Google Drive or another webhost?” Huntley asked on the project’s description page.

The NFT Bay allows downloading of “pirated” NFTs (Image: Reproduction)
The NFT Bay allows downloading of “pirated” NFTs (Image: Reproduction)

“People are spending millions on instructions to download images. So you can use the second mouse click to download them, because they are just images. The image itself is not stored in the blockchain contract… Since webhosts are known to go offline (errors 404), here is a very useful torrent that contains all the NFTs so that future generations can study the current generation ‘tulipomania’ ( in reference to the first speculative bubble in history) and ‘Maria goes with the others”.

Well, Huntley isn’t technically wrong, but his eyesight is limited. Complex? Don’t worry, I’ll explain all this in more detail. But, we need to go back to defining a non-fungible token and why this form of digital asset has value.

Why does an NFT have value?

Remember, an NFT, or non-fungible token, is a tool which allows virtually anyone to log essentially anything on a network. blockchain. This is the same technology behind cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH), which is considered to be extremely secure.

These networks are generally decentralized, meaning that there is no company or institution that manages them. Thus, data processing and decisions about important updates are in the users’ hands.

With that explained, let’s get back to “pirate NFTs”. in reality it is impossible to copy or hack the token in itself. They are unique assets, blockchain registered and have the same security and authenticity as a cryptocurrency. But that’s not what the creator of “The NFT Bay” was talking about. He criticizes image files like JPGs, PNGs, GIFs and MP4s, for example, which are pegged to these non-fungible tokens and sell for even millions.

It is inevitable to remember the case of the digital artist Beeple, who auctioned his work “Everydays — The First 5000 Days” for more than $69 million at Christie’s in early March, still considered the most expensive NFT in history. Thus, we can understand that digital art, through non-fungible tokens, follows the same reasoning pattern that has always been applied to traditional art.

Bee NFT de Beeple:
Beeple’s NFT work: “Everydays: The first 5000 days” (Image: Reproduction)

There is someone with more property to talk about this. The Brazilian digital artist who attends by Daisa TJ talked with the Techblog about the subject:

“If someone sees my work and offers 0.5 ETH for it, then it’s worth it. If another collector offers 1 ETH, the NFT value goes up for that. All it takes is for a person to believe and assign a price.”

And she is extremely right. In today’s NFT market, even when the product itself is not a piece of digital art but rather a collectible card or a 3D model for some metaverse platform, the value of these assets is primarily determined by personal attribution. However, this is only possible because whoever is buying one of these tokens knows that they will have one certificate of authenticity and that that NFT will be unique forever.

Also, being a digital asset, a non-fungible token can be resold later, something that attracts investors from the capital market who see a great opportunity to profit in the medium and long term.

Even so, this attribution of value is questioned from other angles. For example, Huntley, the creator of “The NFT Bay”, repeatedly returns to the fact that the image file is not actually stored in blockchain.

What exactly is registered in blockchain?

Well, that depends a lot on which blockchain we’re dealing with. Generally, as Huntley points out, the smart contract signed in the process of creating an NFT does not actually store the image file. In reality, these photos, illustrations, GIFs or videos, for example, go to a database to generate a hyperlink which will then be linked to the non-fungible token contract, immortalized in the blockchain network.

NFTs are not regulated in most countries (Image: Executium/Unsplash)
NFTs are not regulated in most countries (Image: Executium/Unsplash)

Huntley’s biggest criticism of this mechanic is the fact that these webhosts can eventually disappear and the file linked to the NFT be lost. Therefore, in his view, these tokens would just be “instructions for downloading an image.”

However, Daisa brings an interesting counterargument. The Brazilian digital artist, who has been working for months selling her works as NFTs, points out that this mechanism is something that also bothers her, but that it varies from network to network. “All of this depends on the platform contract and it is possible to carry out contracts that specifically allow these images to be stored more securely. Therefore, there are ‘chains’ that are safer than others to create NFTs”.

In addition, the artist remembers something extremely important that we constantly forget in the face of the frantic pace of news in the area of ​​technology: “we need to understand that, even though NFTs, as a technology, have been around for a few years, the use of these tokens in art market has only been going on for a year”.

According to Daisa, this period is too short for platforms, networks and the technology itself to address all these issues. “Many problems have already happened and many will still happen, the sector is evolving. Every technology has flaws…”

How do image rights enter the equation?

Another very important point for the issue of copies of NFTs highlighted in our conversation is the copyright of the registered object. After all, a very real problem in this crypto universe is that the blockchain world is still very far removed from the legal world in most countries. The concept of NFT, cryptography, digital currencies and everything else is still poorly assimilated by justice.

CryptoPunks avatar NFTs collection (Image: Reproduction/Christie's)
Collection of CryptoPunk avatars NFTs are constantly copied (Image: Replay/Christie’s)

So, how are the copyright, image and use rights of each file registered as NFT? Well, Daisa reaffirms that copyright will always belong to the author and that non-fungible tokens offer more resources to prove the authenticity and ownership of the object in question. It is worth remembering that the sale of NFTs almost never includes any rights to the image., GIF or video you are buying.

Therefore, if such a case does come to justice, however confusing it may be, the author will have more chances to prove ownership and authorship of the file, something that doesn’t change with a simple second click of the mouse.

“Once the work is registered in blockchain, the token will forever be my authorship, I will always receive the sales royalties… As much as the person is essentially buying a link, we are validating the registration, that’s what has value.”

However, there is a very complex legal discussion to be made here. Since the token is tied to a hyperlink, would it be a plausible argument to say that the owner of that token does not necessarily own the image in question, as it is not directly present in the blockchain contract? I don’t know the future implications of this, but I choose to leave it to the experts.

Anyway, this whole story finally came to some conclusion.

What happens when you right-click

“What does someone get when they ‘right-click’ on an NFT and download the image?” I asked Daisa. “You get a new wallpaper”, she answered me. That’s it.

Pirate products (Image: Peter Dutton/Flickr)
Piracy (Image: Peter Dutton/Flickr)

After all, it is impossible to “pirate” an NFT. Of course, you can download the image file to your desktop and think you hold a digital artwork, or a collectible, or whatever. However, it is the token registered in the blockchain that represents the image. The NFT is the certificate of ownership and authenticity, which is why it has value.

Hypothetically, if you download a work already registered as NFT, and create another NFT for it, your token will have no value. the blockchain doesn’t lie and it’s open to everyone. No collector would buy a plagiarized digital asset. Furthermore, Daisa assured me that the digital artist community is extremely united and engaged all over the world.

“I’ve seen a lot of justice being done within the community. Upon discovering that someone is plagiarizing the work of someone else, the community, which is very strong, ensures that that person is no longer successful”, explains Daisa. In practice, if you intend to copy someone else’s work and sell it as NFT, be careful as you will certainly have a lot of problems.

Finally, I understand that selling a digital work, something that for many is still intangible, for millions of dollars may seem absurd. Even so, we must remember that these are the cases that go viral on the internet and reach the media around the world. But the reality is quite different.

It was the NFTs that gave an opportunity for digital artists of any nationality to be able to value and sell their work safely, consistently and worldwide. In addition, this same technology is able to guarantee the authenticity and scarcity of a work, reproducing the logic that has occurred for hundreds of years in the traditional physical art market.

Of course, the current world of NFTs has its “haters”. It’s easy to get angry when you see that someone has made millions by selling something “simple” (I put too many quotes here) made in Photoshop. However, Daisa said something very important and it will be with this quote that I will close this text:

“When you ‘pirate’ a work on NFT, you’re not devaluing the work of millionaires, you’re reaching us mostly small artists who have now found a chance to change their lives… But I understand, I don’t like millionaires either, but it doesn’t affect them, it affects those who have been looking for an opportunity all their lives and now have a chance with the NFTs.”

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