With each passing year adoption increases, yet there are many artists who are still skeptical of the technology. As the market grows, the amount of art scams and copycats are increasing as well, and this has made many wary of entering the NFT space. This skepticism is understandable, but if artists wish to avoid having their art stolen, they cannot afford to stay away from the NFT space.
NFTs are here to stay, and the artists who learn how to properly harness this technology and navigate the landscape are the ones who will come out on top. A strong creator community is essential for ensuring that as the NFT market evolves, it becomes a safer, more equitable space for everyone.
So what will it take to create a fraud-resistant community? It is often said that NFTs put power back in the hands of creators, but with great power comes great responsibility, and education and engagement is what it will take to wield that power to its fullest extent.
Technological Tunnel Vision
The art community was in an uproar this September when the NFT game Epic Hero Battles was discovered to be stealing art. The cover art for their game was stolen from the indie game Wildfire, and the game’s developer, Dan Hindes, called them out publicly on Twitter, leading to an alarming number of other artists realising that their art had been stolen too.
In the wake of this scandal, we saw an increase in the anti-NFT sentiment among digital artists. When Dan Hindes tweeted about his art getting stolen, he didn’t actually call out Epic Hero Battles, but instead put the blame on NFTs themselves.
This is a common sentiment among many artists, who believe that NFTs are just a huge scam. Those who hold this view do not fully understand the technology, but have been exposed to countless stories of art theft and fraud in the NFT market. This has made them fearful, or at the very least, dismissive of NFTs as a positive evolution of art. More damagingly, some believe that NFTs are fundamentally exploitative of artists.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. NFTs put a lot of power back in the hands of artists by creating a more accessible market where artists can have greater control over the distribution and monetization of their work. The decentralized nature of the NFT market means there are fewer barriers to entry, and that creators are in control of the market itself. Because it runs on blockchain technology, the NFT market is also far more transparent than the traditional market.
Clearly, the cases of fraud that we see are not symptomatic of the technology itself. So what’s the real cause?
NFTs Don’t Copy People, People Copy People
The truth is, stealing digital art has always been easy. In this way, the advent of NFTs can be compared to the advent of the internet. As art expanded to encompass the digital, so did we see an increase in the number of copycats because digitization itself makes it easier to copy art.
Yet, digital art and online means of distribution have only proliferated, because the benefits the technology provides to artists far surpass its drawbacks. The same is true for NFTs.
In fact, NFTs are an improvement to the digital art market because they enable verifiable ownership of digital art. NFTs cannot be copied or changed in any way, and ownership is publicly viewable on the blockchain. Proving that an NFT is not genuine is extremely easy, which bodes ill for copycats.
This is how NFTs help solve the problem of art fraud – while they do not prevent people from stealing art in the first place, the transparency of the market means that copycats can always be caught. Whether they actually are caught, is a different matter entirely.
So what does it take to make sure this happens?
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility
Decentralization is a double edged sword. The NFT market may be free of the gatekeepers and intermediaries that hinder access and eat into artists’ profits, but it also means that they aren’t around to protect their interests. With this shift in power, the responsibility of shaping a fair and equitable market now falls on the shoulders of the NFT community.
This may sound like a huge undertaking, but it’s much simpler than it seems. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the technology itself – all you need to do is get involved.
Many of the art scams that have hit headlines were uncovered because of community action. This was how the insider trading by Nate Chastain, the former product head of OpenSea, was uncovered. ricefarmer.eth, a member of the NFT community, tracked Chastain’s wallet transactions, then called him out publicly on Twitter. He even tweeted his surprise at the fact that Chastain was doing this publicly on the blockchain, because of how easily he could be found out.
This is the real reason NFT scams are so common, despite the transparency of the blockchain. NFT scammers tend to assume that people in the community aren’t knowledgeable enough, or aren’t engaged enough to catch them. Sometimes, somebody proves them wrong, and publicly lynches them to warn off other scammers.
If we want to create a safer NFT marketplace, we need more lynchings. The harder we make it for people to get away with art fraud, the less likely they are to attempt it in the first place. Even anonymous scammers would think twice about putting effort into a scam if they know that the community is vigilant enough to find them out before they can turn much of a profit.
The NFT market is still in its early days. Those of us who are involved right now have the chance to shape the market, and create a strong community that is resistant to fraud and disruption. Educating yourself properly and actively participating in the space is therefore of the utmost importance if we want to see this community thrive.
To learn more about protecting yourself from NFT scams, read this article.
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