So you’ve been ripped off.
Someone took your art and, without your permission, minted it as a non-fungible token. And now that same scammer has listed those NFTs of your plagiarized art for sale, and is raking in the ill-gotten gains. This is a depressingly common occurrence, and thankfully you’re not completely without recourse — though getting your stolen art removed from massive NFT exchanges like OpenSea and Rarible isn’t going to be easy.
Welcome to the other side of the much-hyped NFT coin, where fake works and plagiarized art dominate what in 2021 was a $44 billion market. The scourge is so prevalent, in fact, that in January of 2022 the self-described “world’s first and largest NFT marketplace,” OpenSea, admitted that more than 80 percent of the NFTs minted using its free minting tool “were plagiarized works, fake collections, and spam.”
Artists, unfortunately, are all too familiar with this less glamorous side of NFTs. Twitter accounts dedicated to exposing minted NFTs of stolen artwork, like @NFTtheft, have thousands of followers and call attention to the all too prevalent scam.
The @NFTtheft Twitter account is operated by a Bay Area artist who goes by “bor.” They explained over direct message that they prefer to stay pseudonymous because of harassment directed at artists opposed to non-fungible tokens.
“I want to stress that plagiarism is an unsolvable problem in the NFT space that will always be part of it,” wrote bor. “As long as anyone can mint anything while remaining pseudonymous on an unregulated/decentralized technology, plagiarism is going to be a big problem.”
It’s a problem that marketplaces, where people list, buy, and sell NFTs, are well aware of. The steps they take to mitigate it, however, often fall short. Both OpenSea and Rarible, an OpenSea competitor, have established processes for people to report stolen work — though as the artists themselves frequently point out, reporting NFTs of stolen artwork isn’t always an easy process.
Still, many artists see it as their only recourse.
How to report a stolen NFT on OpenSea
Go to OpenSea’s Help Center.
Under the “How can we help?” drop-down menu, select “Intellectual Property Rights Violation / Takedown Request.”
Enter your email address.
In the subject line, write “fraudulent content.”
In the “Description” field, include as much detail as possible documenting that an OpenSea listing is actually just your artwork posted without permission (include links). Explain the images that you’ve attached (see Step 6 below).
Under “Attachments,” include screenshots both of where your art actually lives online (presumably someone found it there to copy before posting on OpenSea) and the offending NFT listings.
Notably, OpenSea doesn’t guarantee any results, or even that the company will get back to you.
Submit to OpenSea.
Credit: Screenshot: OpenSea
“When you make a report, as a next step, our team will review the collection to determine if it violates our Terms of Service and will remove it if so,” explains the company’s Help Center. “Please note that following resolution, your ticket will be closed, so you may not hear back from us directly.”
How to report a stolen NFT on Rarible
Like OpenSea, Rarible has a process by which users can submit reports of stolen artwork listed on its marketplace as NFTs for sale. To report stolen art in the form of NFTs on Rarible:
Credit: Screenshot: Rarible
Once you’ve located the NFT in question, select the three dots in the upper-right corner.
Select the “Report” option.
Write that the work is stolen, and provide as much detail as possible backing up your claim.
Fill it out.
Credit: Screenshot: Rarible
Importantly, Rarible does not promise it will delist the NFT in question. The company doesn’t even promise it will get back to you — making artists’ frustration all too understandable.
How to stop plagiarized NFTs
Despite artists ability to report stolen NFTs directly to the marketplaces listing them, the problem of thieves profiting off the work of illustrators, designers, musicians, and other creators isn’t close to being resolved. The issue, as the artist behind the @NFTtheft Twitter account explained, is a systemic one — and will require a systemic solution.
“Scammers are stealing from YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Deviant Art, Artstation, and even Minecraft fan forums,” wrote bor. “If it can be downloaded, scammers will try to steal it. Artists have less control over their creations than they ever have before.”
Indeed, a quick look at Twitter shows scores of shocked artists claiming that someone has taken their work, and, without the artists’ knowledge, minted and sold it as NFTs.
So what actions, other than reporting plagiarized NFTs, can people unwittingly sucked into this sometimes fraudulent ecosystem take? If bor is right, non-fungible token true believers won’t like the answer.
“The only way to reduce the amount of plagiarism artists are dealing with online is for people to stop buying NFTs or adding any legitimacy to this space,” insisted bor. “There may be some good use for NFTs somewhere, but art isn’t it.”
In the meantime, frustrated artists will just have to keep smashing that “Report” button.