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The Tale of Digital Art Theft - Part1

While NFTs are booming, or probably they could be a bubble. Nobody can tell. What's real is digital art theft! This project tries to solve this problem by gathering and organising information from all appropriate sources. Hence I named this project "The Collective Truth(TCT)".

The problem

Let's discuss the NFT Art theft in detail first before we move ahead. There are several ways in which bad actors steal digital art. The two common kinds are Spoofing and Fraud.


Bad actors disguise to be the original owner of the art and trick people into buying. Since every art piece is made publicly available, anybody could view it. And if you could view it, you can download it and save a copy.

For example, Bad actors have bots set up to scrape of new and hot NFTs that are listed and re-mint them on their account. Yes, NFTs are non-transferrable and secure. But no buyer is going to go and look for the token address and make sense out of it. All they see is the art, and if it looks alike. They most probably are going to believe it. Usually these bad actors, go a level above and maintain an appealing social media profile by creating fake accounts that resemble the original creator. It's quite compelling and the rush often gets people into buying something not what the seller is claiming to be.


The digital art creator community is well aware of the Spoofing problem. This is one of the biggest concerns for creators to not mint an NFT out of their art. They would rather be away from this mess. But unfortunately even the ones who dont mint an NFT get exploited too.

I found this very depressing story where the bad actor stole the art from the creator's website and sold it to a big company on Fiverr. The big company didn't do their due diligence properly so they believed the person whom they bought it from was the creator. I dont see why they would wanna make any effort into verifying a creator on Fiverr, they would just be happy that get got good art for a lower price. At last, the creator would find about this theft after 3 years when he noticed his art being sold at the company's NFT marketplace. The creator wasn't even making any money out of his work, he was just publishing them for free out of passion. When he found out, he would send emails demanding his art to be taken down immediately.
For the complete story , check this video

More problems

  1. Sending fake air-drops on Discord.
  2. Malicious NFT marketplaces that hijacks your wallet.

The problems take various forms, but I realised the root cause of all the problems is that:

There isn't a trusted mapping that could establish the relationship between the art and the creator.

Like I mentioned before, humans cant draw conclusions from the wallet address nor the NFT token address. To our perception, we buy the art solely based on the legitimacy of the creator.

Present solutions

After researching a bit, I found these measures at place that sort of solves the problem.

1. OpenSea's Portfolio

OpenSea is one of the largest and most used NFT marketplaces on the Ethereum chain. Artists who have been part of the ecosystem enjoy its benefits of having a verified Profile and all their collections at one place.
Image description
In the above example Artist page, one can see all the useful statistics like traded volume, number of items..etc
This plays a crucial role in identify the legitimacy of the artist. One can also notice the link to their Twitter account, that adds an additional set of trust.
Honestly, I appreciate the OpenSea team for putting in this much effort.
But I got a few problems with OpenSea.

  1. OpenSea keeps adding all the features that pulls artists together and the best case we got is they become the next monopoly like Google imposing all the necessary features under their Premium feature. Thats just the best case :) For NFTs which is supposed to be "decentralised", this future feels like we are the mercy of big corps like this. Now I know Moxie put up some real valid points about this that people dont want to run their servers. So definitely they are not going to build their own security systems. But there just gotta be a better way.

Deviant Art

Deviant Art is another well-known marketplace. They have been in the game even before NFTs were a thing. And they have boarded the NFT wagon once it occurred. I found this article with the amazing title Calling All Creator Platforms to Fight Art Theft. Even before reading through it, I had a good feeling that this is going to be something different. But, it wasn't :/
It was pretty good though, they've implemented a realtime AI engine that goes through all of the uploaded art and detects if there is a similarity to an existing art. If there is a potential spoof, it sends an email to the creator. They call is "DeviantArt Protect". I also read that they are working with other marketplaces to integrate this feature.
Like I said, its pretty good. It's the best in the industry.

Again the problem is that it is only to users who have their Core Membership.

I very well understand individuals can't build such tools pouring in millions of dollars and perform full time like their R&D. That's why Youtube is so powerful, they have the most robust Digital fingerprinting technology. It's called Content ID. This is used on Youtube to identify copyrighted content very quick.

I certainly believe the purpose of decentralisation is to take what the big companies do at scale and decentralise it. If the nodes can solve cryptographic nonce to commit a transaction, they definitely can co-ordinate and do the same compute. Web3 has a long way to go to become mainstream but if the smart engineers keep working around these fundamental problems rather than trying a make a quick buck, we can get there sooner.

A lot of people probably dont care about this. Others might view them as rants, I won't blame you. Even I feel that way sometimes...

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