In this article, we are going to dive deep into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and NFT cloning. We’ll explore the fundamentals of NFT token standards, the definition of NFT clones, and how to clone NFTs. Also, we’ll discuss what this means for NFTs and what benefits can arise from people learning how to clone NFTs.
NFTs operate using blockchain technology. For a deeper understanding of the infrastructure of this technology, see our Blockchain & Bitcoin Fundamentals course. This course caters to people with no prior experience or relevant expertise as a perfect introduction to blockchain education. As such, broaden your Web3 knowledge with the number one Web3 development and education suite today at Moralis Academy!
What are Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)?
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are cryptographic assets that operate on a blockchain. Moreover, blockchain is a form of distributed ledger technology (DLT) – a way of transacting payments and data using a global decentralized network of computers. Instead of assets being controlled by a small centralized team vulnerable to manipulation and a single point of failure, assets are verified and transacted using mathematics, cryptography, and computer science.
Fungible assets such as cryptocurrencies are interchangeable, divisible into smaller units, and make for a perfect medium of exchange. One Bitcoin (BTC) in wallet “A” is of the same value as one Bitcoin (BTC) in wallet “B”, wallet “C”, wallet “D”, etc. However, NFTs work differently. Each NFT is a unique piece of code, with one or a small limited range of assets available. Accordingly, each NFT holds an immutable record on the blockchain, publicly transparent for anyone to verify the validity and ownership.
As unique cryptographic inscriptions on a blockchain, NFTs have the ability to represent just about anything. Any kind of digital (e.g., artwork, music, or in-game assets) or real-world assets (e.g., gold, real estate, or memorabilia) are representable as unique NFTs. Further, NFTs can employ utilities within specific applications. For example, the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) collection uses its NFTs to represent membership rights to the exclusive social club. In addition, NFTs could reserve the right to a real-life experience such as an exclusive “meet and greet” opportunity with an artist.
NFTs could represent materials or goods in a supply chain, with immutable, transparent updates at each stage of the process. Further, in operation with IoT (internet of things) devices (e.g., thermometers), NFT events (i.e., temperature rising/falling) can be updated in real-time on the blockchain.
Fundamentally, every fungible and non-fungible asset operating on a blockchain is deducible to several lines of code. For assets to be compatible and interoperable across multiple applications and wallets, they follow a public token standard. Akin to following a recipe to bake a cake, token standards provide users with compatibility parameters to interact with assets across the blockchain ecosystem. Each token standard is similar to a template with adjustable fields to create and customize a unique asset. The industry’s pioneering and largest smart contract blockchain, Ethereum, set a precedent for fungible and NFT standards. The ERC-20 token standard is the most commonly used cryptocurrency standard in the industry. Further, other leading smart contract chains use their own adaptation of Ethereum’s token standards. This includes the BNB Smart Chain (BSC) BEP-20 token standard and Tron’s TRC-20 token standard.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) operate similarly; however, they use a different token standard. The first Ethereum NFT standard to emerge was the ERC-721 standard, and the ERC-1155 standard launched shortly after. ERC-721 NFTs are single, unique, individual assets. Conversely, ERC-1155 NFTs are a collection of unique assets “bundled” or stored together in one token framework on the blockchain. For example, tokenizing and selling real estate or an individual property would typically require an ERC-721 standard. On the other hand, a prestige suit of armor comprising multiple pieces as an in-game blockchain asset would be available as an ERC-1155 NFT standard.
The blockchain stores the metadata (i.e., the name, media file, and associated wallet address) of NFTs. The token standard provides two primary sets of functionality. Token standards allow for the control of the ownership of a token. Plus, token standards automate the calling and receiving of data from tokens.
How to Clone NFTs – The Emergence of NFT Replicas
As the underlying technology of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is immutable, transparent, and cryptographically secure, it can be confusing to read about “NFT cloning” and the susceptibility of NFT clones. However, if NFTs are designed to be unique, what are NFT clones and why learn how to clone NFTs?
Initially, the hype and attention around NFTs were primarily driven by artwork, gaming, and collectible NFTs. For a while, NFTs got a reputation for being “fancy JPEGs”, negating the importance of transparent provenance and cryptographic security. The narrative primarily focuses on the ability to copy and paste an NFT image and then use it falsely on another platform. Nevertheless, this is akin to consumers knowingly purchasing fake designer goods. From a distance, a fake Louis Vuitton bag may appear legitimate. However, upon closer inspection of the details, it becomes apparent that the item is a fake. This is the same concept as using an NFT image in the ownership of another wallet address. If users check the origin of the NFT on a public block explorer, they can verify whether an asset is legitimate.
However, recent developments highlighting a loophole in the token standard mean NFT cloning is becoming far more commonplace across the industry. According to an article published by Cointelegraph Magazine, a project aptly nicknamed “Mimics” has launched a platform to allow fans and existing owners to clone NFTs. To discover how to clone NFTs with Mimics, read on!
Exploring Mimics and NFT Cloning
As the world’s first NFT cloning service, “Mimic My NFT” (formerly “Clone My NFT”) is a website that allows anyone to clone an existing NFT. According to the project’s website, this facility is to allow NFT holders to keep NFT clones as “a reminder of the NFT they once owned”. Moreover, the NFT clone is an immutable blockchain record of another NFT. However, in true blockchain style, it is publicly transparent that “mimics” are indeed NFT clones.
Cryptographer, computer security researcher, and entrepreneur Moxie Marlinspike (“Moxie”) expressed concerns about the lack of cryptography within cryptocurrencies. As an experiment to accentuate the centralization involved in NFT transactions, Moxie released his own collection of NFTs. The recent exploit in the NFT token standard by the Mimic My NFT project reflects Moxie’s concerns. In a playful, ironic turn of events, Moxie’s NFTs were used in the Mimic My NFT’s contracts to generate NFT clones.
Mimic My NFT uses an optional defense mechanism in its codebase to allow its users to “shield” their NFT clones from being duplicated (or “poked”) by others using the platform. However, while this may protect Mimic NFTs, the project’s code is open-source. Therefore, someone else can copy the code, make minor adjustments, and launch another NFT cloning service that cannot block iterations of the same NFT clones.
How to Clone NFTs
At first, the “cheat” way for NFT cloning was a simple “copy and save as” action of an NFT image. Then, users would attempt to use this image when creating a new NFT. This process can be known as “copy-minting”, which results in the removal of content on most NFT marketplaces (e.g., OpenSea). Plus, it is clear from the blockchain timeline which asset was created first. However, Mimic My NFT identified a loophole in the fundamental token standard of all ERC-based NFTs.
As previously mentioned, the two primary functions of a token standard are the management of ownership and the request and display of data. NFT standards feature a line of code called a “TokenUri” or “URI”. The URI is responsible for advising a smart contract where to find the data to present to the user when called upon. Since the code is public, anyone can create an NFT with the URI of someone else’s NFT.
Using this approach, Mimic My NFT makes NFT cloning super easy. In short, Mimic My NFT copies the metadata of another NFT, recreating the digital media features (i.e., animations or graphics). Then, it creates an immutable record of this copy on the Ethereum blockchain with the user’s wallet address. Following this, users are free to keep or sell their cloned NFTs.
The fee for the NFT cloning service is currently 0.02 ETH. Moreover, users will need to be familiar with the leading Web3 wallet, MetaMask, to utilize the service. If you have yet to download it, save our “MetaMask Tutorial” article for later! Alternatively, our Master DeFi in 2022 course at Moralis Academy provides video-guided tuition by industry experts for installing and navigating the number one Web3 wallet.
What Does This Mean for NFTs?
Although the Mimic My NFT cloning service highlights a flaw in the code, it doesn’t void the utility of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Only the token attributes (such as the name, description, and media) of NFT metadata are copyable. Accordingly, owning a public Mimic NFT of a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT doesn’t equate to gaining membership rights to the social club. NFTs that feature exclusive or operational properties on a public function or interface remain secure.
With the ease and publicity around NFT clones, we could begin to see NFT cloning as a new social trend and making more and more people want to learn how to clone NFTs. Furthermore, the presence of NFT clones appears to correlate with the inflation of the price for many of the original NFTs. Moreover, reports from CryptoSaurus on the topic suggest that NFT cloning presents a valuable opportunity for users to become familiar with provenance tools in the blockchain industry.
In addition, NFT cloning yields questions surrounding intellectual property (IP) and copyright laws. An Australian lawyer specializing in crypto, Joni Pirovic, states: “to determine the rights associated with the ownership of the Token and any images or metadata associated with the Token, the Buyer must endeavor to identify whether any Terms and Conditions and any IP License apply to the ‘Sale’.” Finally, the recent publication shining a light on NFT cloning is catalytic toward the development of NFT token standards.
Improving NFT Standards
Web3 is still in its early days of development. Historically, unforeseen challenges in the industry result in antifragile sustainable solutions. For example, the likes of Mt. Gox in 2014 and “the DAO hack” in 2016 shone a light on the vulnerabilities of governance infrastructure, influencing the developments in practice today. Plus, the recent TerraUSD market crash has sparked discussions surrounding the need for the development of algorithmic stablecoins. Similarly, the Mimic My NFT token loophole hack highlights the vulnerabilities and ideal utility for NFTs.
In the Cointelegraph article, the anonymous hacker developer who founded the NFT cloning service states their good intentions. Accordingly, the founder says that they “want to not only break things but to build”. NFT clones present a dilemma for developers in the decentralization and vulnerability of NFT code. Thus, NFT cloning presents an opportunity for a collective effort to improve existing NFT token standards. Moreover, developers could redesign the token standard entirely, taking influence from other NFT standards. For example, Solana uses the SPL token standard to deploy both fungible and non-fungible tokens on the network. If you want to learn more about Solana, see our “Rust & Solana” article for later reading!
The introduction of widespread NFT cloning begs for stronger permissions and more attention at the code level of NFTs. NFT clones highlight vulnerabilities in the ECR-721 and ERC-1155 token standards while maintaining blockchain’s primary utility of decentralization, transparency, and provenance. However, there are still challenges surrounding ensuring the validity of data entered at a code level. Future NFT standards could include points for data validity, “TokenUri” provenance, or other features for preventing duplication.
Exploring How to Clone NFTs and NFT Cloning – Summary
Non-fungible tokens (NFT) are cryptographic assets operating on a blockchain network as unique pieces of code. Historically, the media has denounced NFTs for people’s ability to copy and paste an image. Now, developers have figured out how to clone NFTs. Recently, the NFT cloning platform, “Mimic My NFTs”, launched open-source coding profiting from the vulnerabilities of existing NFT token standards. NFT clones hack the metadata and attributes of existing NFTs and store copies or “mimics” on the blockchain. However, the original NFT remains publicly secure, with any exclusive features or utility only valid with original NFT contract addresses. Nevertheless, there are potentially some positives to arise from the token standard loophole exploit.
First, NFT cloning appears to positively influence the original NFT asset price. Second, NFT clones draw more attention to the usage and adoption of NFTs and, thus, blockchain technology. Specifically, Mimic My NFTs encourages users to become familiar with being due diligent with NFT investments and blockchain provenance tools. Finally, widespread knowledge of code vulnerability, particularly one of common practice, typically catalyzes the development for improvement. Such improvements could prove worthwhile for onboarding new users and investors in the NFT markets.
If you would like to learn more about the ins and outs of NFT token standards, look no further! Our Ethereum Dapp Programming course, where you get to build an NFT marketplace, is the best place to learn about designing and deploying your own collection of NFTs. Plus, students discover how to create smart contracts and use Truffle Suite and Web3.js! Alternatively, check out some of our free educational material at the Moralis and Moralis Academy blogs. For example, why not see our “How to Invest During a Crypto Bear Market” article or “Understanding Crypto Crashes” article next?