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August 31, 2022

Is Screenshotting NFTs Illegal? What Can Someone Do With the Screenshot?

Why buy an NFT, which can sometimes be worth the equivalent of thousands of dollars in fiat, when you can just right-click and save or take a screenshot? It’s a real head-scratcher and a question that many newbies in the crypto NFT space ask. Is screenshotting NFTs illegal? Can you get in trouble if you don’t try to capitalize on it? Let’s find out.

Laws on Intellectual Property Surrounding NFTs Today

We’ll be perfectly honest, the laws on intellectual property on NFTs and its regulation are still not completely laid out. However, with a name like “non-fungible token” (NFT), you would expect your digital asset to be completely unique. Non-fungible means it cannot be copied, subbed, subdivided, or replaced.

As of now, NFTs are considered “art” and are covered by intellectual property laws that pertain to artwork. What also protects NFTs is smart contracts (which dictate the terms of the transaction) and their records and storage on a blockchain ecosystem, which cannot be manipulated.

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The Process of Selling and Buying NFTs

So, how does the purchasing of NFTs work? The owner/creator of the NFT will have the rights. When they sell the NFT to a buyer, they would transfer all rights to the buyer (but maybe stipulate receiving royalties from secondary sales on marketplaces such as Opensea).

All of the terms are outlined in the smart contract, which will automatically carry out the conditions. When you purchase any secondary sale or future NFT drop, make sure you check the terms.  

The Boundaries Between Screenshotting and Owning an NFT

The internet is a very public place, and it is nearly impossible to control what’s out there, what’s seen, what’s taken down, etc. Unfortunately, this applies to most images floating around in the digital space. Anyone can screenshot and save an image they like. The difference between doing that and owning the NFT is ownership gives you the right to use the image as you wish (or what’s stated in the smart contract). 

• Saving vs. Owning the NFT

To put it simply, saving vs. owning means, you could commercialize the image, resell it to make a profit, and get a verified NFT profile pic on Twitter if you hold ownership. These are all things you cannot do and you also cannot prove ownership of the NFT, which is recorded on the blockchain.

What’s Legal and What Isn’t

Instances When Saving an NFT is Considered Illegal

Is screenshotting NFTs illegal? It’s a very fine line and there is yet to be a concrete definition. However, general screenshotting and keeping for personal viewing won’t get you in trouble, but trying to use the image for your own gain is.

Where Actual NFTs are Stored and NFT Screenshots Saved

Most people know that screenshotting an NFT or any image for that fact, means it is saved on your computer or phone. You can then move it to external drives for storage. NFTs are not stored on anything that accessible. NFTs are stored either in your wallet or on the blockchain. This makes them immutable.

You cannot just “view” an NFT someone owns, unlike a photo on a website (unless it’s being listed on a marketplace).

The Future of NFTs and Copy-Pasting Loopholes

So, what does the future look like for NFT security? As of now, the debate of “is screenshotting NFTs illegal” is exactly a reason why the NFT community hasn’t flourished quite as quickly. Why buy something to keep that you can screenshot or right-click save

If you are only a collector, then we understand the argument. However, NFTs are more than just digital artwork. Many projects assign utility to the tokens and the projects are working to do something good such as reforestation and earning money for charity.

There is no argument that more laws and regulations should be clearly laid out to govern the NFT space for security. However, we’re not so sure anything can be done about copy-pasting/right-click saving if the person is simply just keeping it. The problem only happens when people who save the NFT want to commercialize it. 

Conclusion

Just simply screenshotting an NFT right now is not considered illegal, but using it inappropriately is. Claiming you own the NFT when you don’t is also illegal, and easily proven due to transaction history on the blockchain and smart contracts. If you own NFTs and are worried about copyright infringement don’t be, because there are plenty of ways to prove ownership in the NFT world.

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