A popular non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace has pulled the plug on most transactions after discovering people were selling tokens of plagiarised or stolen content.
The platform, called Cent, gained prominence after an NFT of the first-ever tweet by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was sold there for $2.9 million. In a statement on February 6, the company said they’d become aware of “bad actors” using Cent for the purpose of "tricking others into purchasing counterfeit work."
“Our response has been to ban the offending accounts, but we believe that this approach is not sustainable. That’s why, effective today, we’re removing the ability to sell NFTs here,” they added.
For those blissfully unaware, NFTs are crypto assets that record the "ownership" of a digital file via the blockchain (basically a decentralized, public ledger). The digital file can be anything from a song, a tweet, an image, a novel, a virtual BigMac, or a digital painting of Melania Trump’s eyes.
At the moment, much of the hype is around pieces of digital art, like Bored Ape Yacht Club or Cryptopunks
If you purchase an NFT – which can sell for the equivalent of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency – it’s effectively a digital receipt of ownership of the digital item, as opposed to physical or intellectual ownership. You can copy a digital file as many times as you want by, for example, right-clicking and saving the image. However, NFTs are designed to give people ownership of the work, which in essence can’t be replicated. Needless to say, many people are skeptical of this concept.
It’s relatively easy for anyone to create an NFT, a process known as “minting.” You can mint a doodle you did on Microsoft Paint or create an NFT of a tweet of yours that went viral. However, it appears people are using NFT minting tools on content they don’t actually own. In theory, someone could mint a JPEG of the Mona Lisa they found on Google Images, but the seller has no legal rights over the actual painting.
This is not a problem that’s limited to Cent. Reports of scams, swindles, and counterfeits have become commonplace in the burgeoning world of NFTs. Just last month, the prominent NFT marketplace OpenSea put out a tweet saying they are putting a 50 item limit on their free minting tool because it was being abused by bad apples.
“Over 80 percent of the items created with this tool were plagiarized works, fake collections, and spam,” they added.