On the internet, you can be anybody you want to be, for better or worse. Despite the problems it’s brought us, being able to make a new version of yourself through a patchwork of virtual personas continues to be its greatest draw. But the more the internet and money become entangled with one another, the more problematic that becomes — especially in the case of NFTs.
The issue was brought to a head last month when someone using the pseudonym Monsieur Personne (Mr. Nobody), created a “fake” NFT artwork using a process they refer to as “sleepminting,” or, creating a fake NFT by impersonating someone. The name refers to the process of “minting” an NFT that registers a particular work to an owner on a blockchain. Sleepminting means someone registering or assigning an NFT to another person’s wallet and then transferring ownership back to themselves, destroying the underlying concept of NFTs as a unique work that is verifiable on a blockchain
Personne sleepminted a nonexistent “second edition” of Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5,000 Days, the original of which had sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million. It’s a particularly gruesome egg-on-the-face moment for the auction house, who Personne quotes as claiming that one of the greatest draws of NFTs is that they cannot be duplicated.
But Personne did not sleepmint the work for fun, but to expose how these exorbitantly priced works of art are being sold atop a technological foundation that is still pretty flimsy at best. After Personne made the work, they made a post on NFTheft.com, explaining just how ludicrous they find the current hype around NFTs to be. It’s a process of exposure that’s reminiscent of hackers breaking through security systems in the early days of the internet, just to exhibit how poor quality they were.
Recently, some have been trying to combat this problem, notably CXIP, a copyright platform that aims to authenticate NFTs through registering them with the United States Copyright Office. Lucien Smith and Jen Stark are among those involved with CXIP. FUTURA registered every edition of his NFT collection, Operation Bellevue, with the platform.
It’s somewhat ironic that NFTs have such an issue with identity, as their main draw is that they are able to authenticate a work of art to a certain user. But of course the internet is a world of opposites where often nothing turns out as intended, no matter how much it costs.