Can NFTs Be Copied?

Stephen G.
Stephen G.
Last Updated on November 11, 2021

If you’re new to the NFT trading craze, you might be wondering whether that exclusive piece of digital art you’re thinking about is as exclusive as all the hype suggests.

This sort of skepticism is natural enough. After all, anytime you spend your hard-earned money on something, you want to be sure that you’re making a sensible purchase. If NFTs could be duplicated or reproduced at will, they would instantly become devoid of value.

But is that the case? Can there be more than one of any particular token?

Can NFTs Be Copied?

In short, no.

All NFTs in existence, regardless of their manifold differences, share one crucial defining feature—they have proof of individual authenticity coded right into them.

“NFT” is short for “non-fungible token.” Those first two words are the key to understanding what makes these digital collectibles special.

Vector illustration of woman wearing virtual reality glasses with flowers

Something that’s non-fungible is irreplaceable. It can’t be swapped out with or exchanged for something else. There will always and forever be only a single instance of it, just like there’s only one Hope Diamond.

Simply put, NFTs are designed to be one-of-a-kind.

How Do NFTs Work?

NFTs are built on a computing framework called Blockchain, the same system that enables the exchange of Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin (BTC), and other cryptocurrencies. Blockchain acts as a kind of digital ledger used to document various transactions.

Along with keeping a running record of all the times digital items have changed hands, this infrastructure also supports the storage of metadata and other important ownership identifiers.

Blockchain technology makes it impossible to copy, clone, imitate, or otherwise tamper with NFTs and crypto collectibles. You could think of Blockchain encryption as a kind of digital DNA, a unique collection of data that serves as a kind of verifiable signature.

Whenever you purchase Cryptopunks, Cryptokitties, limited edition NBA Top Shot clips, first tweets, or similar digital tokens from an NFT market like OpenSea or Rarible, you can rest assured that it’s the real deal.

Could a Hacker Counterfeit an NFT?

As mentioned, Blockchain’s airtight authentication protocols prevent anyone—including the original creator—from modifying an asset’s informational core in any way. Once they’re unleashed on the internet, NFTs are inseparable from their digital credentials.

While hacker-related theft has occurred from time to time, duplication is out of the question. Unlike trading cards, which can be forged and fabricated quite easily, NFTs are unfalsifiable. 

Sure, someone could take a screenshot of a certain digital work, but all they would have would be a simulacrum of the piece, not the piece itself. The value of non-fungible tokens derives not from their visual contents but their exclusivity of ownership.

The pride of sole proprietorship and the potential for financial gain that comes with it are the whole point of non-fungible tokens.

Does Buying an NFT Give You the Copyright?

The laws relating to NFTs and their production, trade, and ownership are a little complicated—and more than a little murky.

NFTs are the creations of digital artists who work with pixels rather than pencils and paints. The process of producing and publishing NFT art is known as “minting.”

According to U.S. copyright law, fully minted NFTs fall under the category of intellectual property, which means the original artist retains the copyrights to the images they contain. They have the freedom to use these images on any other type of media (t-shirts, tote bags, etc.) they might choose, even after you’ve bought one of them fair and square in NFT form.

That doesn’t make your collectibles any less collectible, however.

After you’ve finalized an NFT purchase, you’re the only one in the world who owns that particular digital file. To emphasize this point, traders often repeat the refrain that anyone can own a print of the Mona Lisa, but only one person can own the original painting.