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Is a Screenshot the Same as the Original NFT Artwork?

2022-11-24

Main Takeaways

  • A screenshot of an NFT artwork may look the same as the original, but it isn’t the same.

  • Taking a screenshot of an NFT doesn’t mean that you own the NFT or have access to the additional utilities that come with the actual NFT.

Many industries, whether it be art, sports, or gaming have hopped on the non-fungible tokens (NFTs) train. With many newcomers flocking into the space, some people unfamiliar with the technology may believe that a screenshot of an NFT is the same as the original. 

Digital art is one of the most common use cases for NFTs. Digital collectibles reinvented the ways in which many of us interact with, collect, and create art. Thanks to Beeple's EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS selling for a record-setting $69.3 million at a Christie's auction, and high-profile sports personalities like Cristiano Ronaldo dropping their own NFT collections, we're seeing an increasing number of digital creators and collectors joining the space. 

Naturally, with so many people new to the world of NFTs, certain misconceptions about the nature of these assets and how they work abound. A common one goes that taking a screenshot of an NFT is essentially the same as owning the original. After all, collectibles and NFT art are available for anyone to look at online, and someone could easily take a snapshot and pass it off as the original, right?

Well, no. There are many reasons why you can't screenshot an NFT and expect it to have the same value as the original. Keep on reading to find out why.

Difference Between Owning an Original NFT vs. NFT Screenshot

NFTs are cryptographic tokens that represent unique digital items stored on a blockchain. Each token holds unique identifiers and metadata that distinguish it from any other digital asset. NFTs can be used to record and authenticate ownership of digital and tokenized versions of real-world items, making it possible for people to prove the right to own something that anyone could easily digitally duplicate.

Anyone can take a picture of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, but it's not the same as owning the original painting. 

The same concept can be applied to NFT artwork. Taking a screenshot of an NFT doesn't make you the owner of the art piece. When you take a screenshot, the image of the NFT is saved on your computer or smartphone, and the only thing you own is the image file.

What's more, many NFTs have additional utility beyond just being a collectible or piece of artwork. Sure, you can take a screenshot of the image that's included in an NFT, but the screenshot won't give you access to the smart contract underlying the asset. For example, a Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT holder can get first access to new NFT drops, exclusive merchandise, and clubs within the community – the benefits that are automatically enforced on-chain. 

The smart contracts used to issue NFTs can also serve as transparent proof of ownership: if a token is hosted on a public blockchain, this information is visible to anyone. Thanks to smart contracts’ functionality, NFT creators can also program what rights can be transferred to the next owner once their NFT changes hands – another use case a screenshot can't provide.

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Are There Potential Consequences For Screenshotting an NFT?

While anyone can easily access NFTs online to view, they're still considered intellectual property (IP) owned by their respective creators. As a result, general copyright laws and ownership rules prevent them from being unrightfully used. So, saving a copy of an NFT to your computer or phone for personal use isn't illegal as long as you don't resell the screenshot or pass it off as your own work. 

However, if you screenshot an NFT and resell it or use its associated IP in any way, you could be sued for copyright infringement and face other criminal charges, such as fraud or theft.

Conclusion

Are there differences between owning an NFT and taking a screenshot of one? The answer is a resounding yes. Just like how a property deed is much more than a piece of paper, an NFT is much more than a digital image. 

Sure, you could photocopy the original certificate, and it would look nearly identical, but the copy isn’t legally valid. Similarly, an NFT can be seen as a certificate of ownership.

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