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Digital Ownership: Can NFTs Be Copied?

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In this week’s #culturecryptomonday, we talk about digital ownership in the case of NFTs and what advantages they bring to the world of digital art. We also answer the questions of whether NFTs are truly resistant to copyright infringement and whether they really can’t be copied!

Blockchain, Smart Contracts, and NFTs

First and foremost, even if the first thing that comes to mind when you think of NFTs is digital art, this is not the only possible application – they can also be used for tickets, patents, memberships, or even supply chain tracking, and much more. The possibilities are endless, as “real” objects can also be represented via NFTs, thus not only digital property can be secured.

Since NFTs are secured via so-called ‘’smart contracts’’ on the blockchain, they are not interchangeable and above all: traceable. That’s because the blockchain is based on calculations and codes that can (theoretically) be verified by anyone and everyone. It is important to know that the blockchain is not – like other “programs” in the broadest sense – located on one or more servers, which belong to certain corporations or even governments. Rather, it is located on quite a lot of servers and thus represents a “decentralized network”. This means there is no need to trust a single provider and its stability, which can change fast.

From Byzantium to Blockchain

And with this, we come to…Byzantine generals? Indeed! This theory addresses the problem of multiple army commanders, who can only communicate indirectly through messengers, having to agree if they attack (and when). This is a system based on trust, because the messengers’ words cannot be verified. And even a few pieces of misinformation can sabotage the whole system.

So what does this have to do with the blockchain?

Blockchain calculations solve the problem of relying on an entity (like messengers in the previous example) to verify information. Digital assets (like NFTs) are secured on the blockchain – in simple terms, this means that they are repeatedly calculated and therefore verified by different computers or servers via complex calculations that are copied many times and distributed in a decentralized manner. If something were to be manipulated, it would be impossible to do so in all calculations, and thus changes or forgeries would be noticed immediately, as they would deviate from the other calculations.

Digital Ownership and Fraud

Does this mean that NFTs are fraud-proof? Yes…and no. Let’s take a digital artwork as an NFT for an example: it is anchored on the blockchain and thus cannot be counterfeited, as the originality of the respective file can be verified flawlessly. However, it is possible to copy and sell digital images. But these copies are clearly forgeries – it is not the NFT, i.e. the authentic original, that has been copied here, but only a part of it that looks just like the original. This can be compared to a painting that someone has meticulously repainted, i.e. copied – but this copy is not an original, it is simply a very good forgery. In contrast to analog paintings, however, NFTs do not require experts to painstakingly examine the painting in order to give their professional assessment of its authenticity. This is because an independent and unambiguous verification is quickly feasible via the blockchain, and digital ownership is thus easily verifiable.

 

If your head is now spinning due to all the technical terms, you can find help in our Crypto Glossary. And if you want to read more about NFTs, decentralized systems, Web3, and much more, browse our blog articles on crypto and culture!

 

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