A new website has been created to make it possible for anyone to download images that are subject to non-fungible token (NFT) ownership in one go. An Australian artist and programmer called Geoffrey Huntley put together the website to make a point about NFTs and their relationship to a raft of digital assets including cryptocurrencies and art. According to Huntley, his site will allow anyone to download ‘every NFT’ that is currently listed on and accounted for with the Ethereum blockchain. Whether or not this so-called piracy will make NFTs less attractive to investors and collectors remains to be seen, however.
One of the issues with digital art is that it can be so easily replicated over the internet. An image that is in the form of a publicly displayed JPEG file, for example, only needs a web surfer to right-click on it and then they can save it on their own hard drive or even on a cloud-based server if they wish. The point about an NFT is that it is supposed to prove the ownership rights of the person who has purchased or created the art or cryptocurrency coin so that disputed rights can be easily settled. The technology behind NFTs is called a blockchain, a publicly viewable record of when items were created, traded and exchanged. With one, digital ownership rights are supposed to be protected because they are verifiable.
Although the new website – known as the NFT Bay – does not interfere with the blockchain itself, it makes it less useful than it might otherwise have been – potentially, at least. This is because the NFT system only really works when people have confidence in it. What Huntley has done is to provide people with a means of downloading supposedly protected digital art en masse. Rather than having to find an image, right-click on it and then save it somewhere, his NFT Bay website means being able to download automatically. Anyone can use the site to search for a particular digital asset they want to make a copy of or, in a nod to how Google used to work, hit the ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button instead.
Some digital activists have tried to raise awareness about NFTs in the recent past. This is because some buyers have mixed up the idea of purchasing an NFT with the concept of exclusive rights over the image it relates to. Clearly, some buyers have thought that purchasing an NFT meant that no copies of a digital image could be made nor that people would be able to view them unless the owner were to display them. In this sense, an NFT is not like a physical artwork which you have to be present with to be able to view. Rather, it is more like a digital receipt that proves its provenance.
For some time, activists have been right-clicking on digital art to copy it so that buyers are more aware of how an NFT works and to what degree it protects their investment. Huntley’s website, which has a visual style that is akin to Pirate Bay, an old piracy website where people illegally shared copyrighted material, merely attempts to make that process easier and faster.
Huntley said that he wanted to show buyers what they were getting into with NFTs. He pointed out that anybody can access and download a copy of a digital artwork that has an NFT. He said that NFT art is nothing more than a set of instructions on how to access or download an image. “Crucially, the artwork itself isn’t stored in the blockchain,” he said. Nevertheless, anyone using his downloading site will only be able to obtain copies of the artwork it provides access to and not the NFTs that go with them. This means that although Huntley is seeking to ‘burst the bubble’ that currently surrounds NFTs, some digital collectors are likely to be undeterred by the so-called piracy of the images themselves.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.