Log into OpenSea. Find an NFT I like. Screenshot it. Log back in and upload it. Sell it.
Simple? Not so much.
Just like burning a DVD isn’t the same as owning the 8mm film roll of your favourite movie. Screenshotting an NFT doesn’t mean you have the original work in your hands. Not all digital copies are made equal, even if they appear exactly the same on our computer screens. Keep scrolling to learn why it’s not so simple as taking a screenshot.
Look at the photo above.
Imagine if I took a photo of that, and then another screenshot. Which image is real? All of them.
Which one is the original? The subject of the photo itself: a snowy winter-themed walkway.
Like taking a photo of a photo, you can screenshot an NFT quite easily. It could look just as real as the original subject matter. But just because it looks the same, doesn’t mean it is the same. There is a digital difference between the original work and the copy. The copy is — and will always be — worthless. Here’s why.
You can walk into MoMA today and snap a photo of any Picasso you desire. Even with the most powerful camera and an accurate lens, you can get extremely close to the original image. But it will never be the real thing.
Likewise, you can rock a t-shirt with Hokusai waves all over it but that doesn’t grant you any form of ownership to his original painting.
The common argument against NFTs lies in the meaning of originality. How can something digital and intangible be in any way different from a copy of the work? The answer lies in the blockchain. Unlike a simple jpeg of gif, NFTs have proof of originality and ownership built directly into their code. The blockchain acts as an authenticator; confirming the uniqueness of the artwork.
Like a certificate of authenticity or a serial number in a Louis Vuitton purse, this verification method shows that the NFT is the real deal and not a knockoff.
You think it's funny to take screenshots of people's NFTs, huh? Property theft is a joke to you? I'll have you know that the blockchain doesn't lie. I own it. Even if you save it, it's my property. You are mad that you don't own the art that I own. Delete that screenshot.— Hurt CoPain (@SaeedDiCaprio) November 5, 2021
So why collect digital art? Where is the value in something you could never hold? It’s the ongoing struggle art collectors go through at every auction house around the world.
At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We justify purchases of non-necessities because of the value we find in them. We buy the Mickey ears at Disney World because it sparks nostalgia. We collect vinyl recordings from artists we can easily find on Spotify. Or we purchase the only copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin just to say we have it.
Art, music, collectibles, and memorabilia have value because of the value we apply to them. Outside of the Mona Lisa being a technical masterpiece, its value lies solely in the fact that so many people around the world find the work so moving. And the same could be said for the more erratic 50 Days at Illiam.
Not everything that others deem valuable will have meaning to you. And will the objects you collect end up on Pawn Stars a few decades from now? Maybe. We support art and ideas that move us to spend what we want to spend on them. And through the blockchain, NFTs have made it possible to support our favourite artists directly.
As long as you don’t try to sell or pass it off as an original, screenshotting NFTs is totally legal. But just because it’s legal to screenshot an NFT, doesn’t mean the original is worthless. As we saw with the music and video piracy boom in the early 2000s, the way we consumed entertainment was forced to change. But consumers weren’t left off the hook.
Original content moved to streaming services. Instead of purchasing a piece of content, you paid a flat fee to access a library. Creators were given a percentage of this fee. The value of the original work remains largely unchanged.
NFTs have taken the concept of value and turned it on its head. No longer does a museum curator determine what the masses want to see. You can now find and support the artists you love by purchasing directly from them.
As NFTs grow in popularity, have you been drawn to a particular artist? Have you acquired some NFTs of your own? To learn more about all the interesting things you can do with your NFT, check out our post on how to display NFT art.
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