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So I have had this question for a while, and I haven't been able to find an answer yet, although it seems like a very basic question. Apologies if it is already answered somewhere and I missed it.

So lets say big artist Alice mints an NFT of her art. Lets call this NFT A. This NFT is identified by a token, and we can verify who is the owner, and thus also which adress minted it.

But here is the catch. Let's scam artist Bob mints NFT B of the same art piece. Now when you go on a marketplace there are two NFT's of seemingly the same art piece. So you need now to find which one is the 'real one'. To do that, you need to look at who minted it, and verify that it is the real artist.

But how do you do that in a de-centralized manner ? It feels like I would need to confirm that an address belongs to Alice, but how can I get/confirm this information ?

In the case of big NFT's like the cryptopunks it is easy because everyone 'knows' which is the correct minting address, but for smaller artists it is literally impossible to tell, as far as I know. And this is (I think) one of the reasons that it is easy to 'steal' art piece by minting an NFT of it.

I guess this concern must have been considered time and time again, but I have not been able to find discussion about it.

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Assuming that the NFT contract itself is legitimate and ERC-721 compliant (i.e. if it says that ownerOf a specific NFT is a specific address, then it is that address), then the only reliable way to know that an address (or ENS domain) belongs to a specific “small artist” is for that artist to publish this information through an alternative channel that you already trust to be controlled by that artist, e.g. the artist’s Twitter channel.

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  • Then it is as I suspected. This in my opinion undermines greatly the "utility" of NFT's. In the end it doesn't prove much if you still need to ask a centralised source to be sure you haven't got a fake. In other words I don't see the difference between owning an NFT and the artist saying "yes that is my address", and just skipping the NFT part and the artist saying "yes, frotaur owns this piece"
    – Frotaur
    Jul 5, 2022 at 18:28
  • You don’t have to ask a centralized source. Twitter was just an example. The artist could email you their Ethereum address, and in theory they could even communicate it to you in person. But regardless of how that initial association between artist and address is established, once it has been established, the NFT can then change hands trustlessly on the blockchain, and you would be able to trace it back to the artist, without the artist having to keep “announcing” the new owner every time the artwork changes hands.
    – dwardu
    Jul 6, 2022 at 0:39
  • I agree that you are able to trace it back to the artist's address. But to verify authenthicity you need a reliable source that tells you that this is indeed the artists address. So in any case you always need to go and email the artists, and trust the "unverifiable" communication (say e-mail address, I can just make a fake e-mail address and pretend I am the artist). I guess they do facilitate the trustless exchange, but they don't feel that "non-fungible", since generating a seemingly "true" copy doesn't seem that hard, for lesser known pieces.
    – Frotaur
    Jul 6, 2022 at 10:21
  • But the issues you are raising, about reliance on centralized source, spoofing email, etc. are not specific to NFTs. You could make the same arguments for a Bitcoin or Ethereum payment… and even for a PayPal payment. If you want to send a payment to someone, how can you be sure that behind the destination address there is the correct person? Whichever method you would use to establish the link between human and address for the payment case, you could apply it to the NFT case too.
    – dwardu
    Jul 6, 2022 at 11:24
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    But thank you for the precisions, I have accepted the answer. It just feels like NFT actually accomplish much less than their are touted to do. In the end, they don't really help with verifying that you own the "real" artpiece, any differently than already existing methods. I do agree that they help with the transaction of the good, but it felt to me that this wasn't the main goal (at least in the "popular" mind). Anyway, all that to say that people make it seem much more than it really is, but maybe I am wrong !
    – Frotaur
    Jul 6, 2022 at 12:11

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