How DeviantArt aims to clean up the world of NFTs

With over 70 million registered users and half a billion artworks uploaded every month, DeviantArt is the gateway to art on the internet. “Literally every second on DeviantArt, more than one piece of art is submitted,” says Moti Levy, CEO of the site.

“For 20 years, we have served the creator community and evolved with the creator community,” adds Moti. “We built the publishing capabilities, the monetization capabilities, the curation and collection capabilities, and created communities within the community.”

So it was only natural that when the Web3 revolution hit, DeviantArt changed too. But the transition to the latest iteration of the Internet has not been smooth. Non-fungible tokens (NFT)—a cornerstone of the Web3 revolution—have been marred by a copyright theft issue. And as one of the largest repositories of user-generated art online, DeviantArt has been hit harder than most.

“Art theft in general is nothing new to us,” says Levy. “It’s not new to us, it’s not new to creators. It dates back 2,500 years. But the scale of art theft that occurs to fuel demand for the NFT gold rush – where those looking to get rich quick beg, borrow or steal artwork that could be used to make money from gullible buyers – is something new.

In August 2021, DeviantArt launched a program called DeviantArt Protect, which indexes the NFTs of nine key blockchains. To date, it has indexed over 400 million NFTs and found nearly 330,000 copyright infringement NFTs.

Among them was an artist named TK, who recently died of cancer. “Literally within weeks of his death, thieves infringed on his art and displayed it in one of the [NFT] markets,” says Levy. “There was a big, big, big outcry from the community. It touched us deeply that this could happen in such a simple way: right-click, save and repost to one of these marketplaces – and it’s mine, by nature, because it’s Web3 , and there is no KYC [know your customer requirements].”

This incident marked a turning point for DeviantArt and was emblematic of what Levy calls the broader “explosion” of counterfeiting. A significant proportion of the 12 million newly created DeviantArt NFT scans each week are stolen. “Over time, it was obvious to us that there was a huge, huge problem with NFTs,” Levy says. “Web3 comes with a huge promise for creators, to monetize in a meaningful way. And we’re all for it, because that’s what we’ve been doing for the past 20 years, serving this great community. bad actors taking advantage of the more lax elements of Web3 are taking their toll.

A neighborhood watch for NFTs

To try to counter this further and build on the work that DeviantArt protect is already doing, the site – which is owned by Wix – has launched a new, broader initiative that it hopes will help Web2 platforms share information on whether Web3 assets are legitimate or not. The DeviantArt Protection Protocol allows anyone to submit their work to be followed on the internet, whether they are a member of DeviantArt or not.

It’s a kind of all-internet neighborhood watch for artists and creators, designed to root out trouble and report it before people make illegal profits. “If you say, ‘This is mine, we’ll help you make a DCMA [takedown]and we work with certain markets through backchannels to help get the artwork off the ground immediately,” he says.

The protocol is an acknowledgment that the problem is bigger than DeviantArt alone and requires collaboration to help solve it. “If we want to create this layer of trust and security [in Web3] to see creator adoption, we really need to put the checks and balances in place,” says Levy. The decentralized protocol allows anyone to contribute, adding accountability to art theft issues. “We want to see complaints from other Web3 protocol partners, and to see other marketplaces say, ‘Hey, we found this violation,'” he adds. It’s designed to weed out bad actors, improve trust in the Web3 experience, and protect intellectual property along the way.

While Levy declines to say how much DeviantArt spent developing the protocol, citing uncertainty about his ability to do so due to his ownership by Wix, he says that between 30% and 40% of all resources of DeviantArt staff were dedicated to creating the protocol. “And we are not 20 people,” he says. ” We are numerous. A lot of DeviantArt is working on it and supporting it, not just on the engineering side.

“If we want to build trust and security [in Web3]we really need to put the checks and balances in place.

—Moti Levy

All of this begs the question of why spend so much time, effort and money developing something that is offered for free? “I think [copyright theft] is a threat to creators,” says Levy. “And if it’s a threat to creators, then yes, it’s a threat to DeviantArt, but also to Instagram, to TikTok, to OpenSea, and others. If creators don’t believe in the evolution of the web , we have a problem.

Levy is keen not to point the finger at Web3 too much, denying that it has an original sin of lax attitudes to copyright and ownership. “Every new technology and every evolution we’ve had has had problems in its early stages, right?” he says. “It’s natural, when you have technological advances.” But he thinks the problem has been accelerated by the speed at which Web3 has evolved and grown. “We tackle the opportunities first, not the problems,” he says.

The recent downturn – some might say crash – in crypto and Web3 provides an opportunity to revisit some of the biggest issues in the Web3 experience and try to fix them.

“That’s what we say,” Levy says. “There is an opportunity, but let’s be responsible, please, and create a very safe and reliable layer and environment for creators to scale with Web3.”

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About Frances White

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