Singular Verification—A Mini Guide
With more top quality artists flocking to Singular in the last few months, a lot of the questions we’ve had to answer relate to getting the coveted pink checkmark of verification. Whereas some marketplaces reserve verification for only the biggest artists, we feel that in the spirit of true decentralization this is not ideal. We wish to verify as many original artists as possible, but this leaves us in a difficult situation.
How can we ensure that everyone granted verification will not abuse it? In trying to fix this problem, we found that most artists that run afoul of our verification guidelines do so because they do not fully understand the terms copyright and plagiarism.
We’ve written this mini guide to help dispel some of this confusion and create better understanding so that we can have more talented and verified artists on our home Singular. We cover:
- Copyright, without the big words
- How copyright leads to plagiarism
- The elements of plagiarism
- About permissions
- Why you should avoid plagiarism
- Singular verification and plagiarism
- Degrees of originality
- When we will grant verification
- When we will reject verification (or unverify)
We hope that by reading this guide you will be better equipped to gain your verification checkmark and keep it. Let’s begin.
Copyright, without the big words
Copyright is made up of two words, copy and right.
Copy here means literally what it means, to replicate something.
Right, in this context, means the power to do something, as in someone has a right to plant trees on their land and not on someone else’s land.
When you put both words together, the meaning is obvious. A copyright means the right to copy. But what can be copied? Intellectual property.
An intellectual property is simply something that has been created by someone’s intellect (brain). This ranges from music to stories to characters to patents and much more. For example, only the creator of a character, owns the copyright to that character. Meaning only he can:
- Copy that character from one medium to another
- Copy the character multiple times to make a profit (like an NFT collection)
- Give/sell the copyright to someone else
As you can see in the third point, creators are not always the owners of copyright to works they created. One standard practice is that when an artist creates while under an employment or freelancing contract, he/she doesn’t own the copyright to anything they create. For example, Stan Lee may be the creator of many Marvel superheroes but that doesn’t mean he owns the copyright to them. That probably belongs to Disney or Marvel, the company.
How copyright leads to plagiarism
The natural consequence of having copyright is that these rights must be respected. Should they ever be violated, plagiarism has occurred. How can copyright be violated?
All copyright violations occur through unapproved use. As in, when someone uses the work of an artist (or copyright holder) commercially without first getting approval from the copyright holder. This is seen as intellectual/creative theft. No one likes to be stolen from and so it only makes sense that it is heavily frowned upon everywhere.
To reiterate, you plagiarize by using someone else’s creative labor without their permission.
Why you should avoid plagiarism
- You can get arrested and jailed (in some extreme cases)
- You can be sued and have to pay hefty fines if you’re found guilty
We believe that those two reasons should be good enough to dissuade anyone from plagiarizing, but we’ll add a third for good measure.
- Your collectors (or fans) and the wider market will want nothing to do with you, given that you’re a thief.
The elements of plagiarism
Here are some of the most plagiarized elements in the 21st century relevant to our field of focus (digital art): 1. Trademarks—logos 2. Characters—particularly names, design, and style 3. Music—melodies 4. Visual design elements—brush strokes, bokeh effects, clip art,
Many creators understand 1 to 3, but are oblivious to 4. Most free photo editing elements on the internet are open to copyright infringement should you use them outside of the approved terms. Thus, some elements (like brush strokes) can only be used to create works that won’t be sold commercially. The moment you sell an art created using that brush, you violate the copyright terms and are liable to be sued. This presents a good opportunity to talk a bit about permissions.
Permissions (the right to use an Intellectual Property) can be granted for free or sold. There are varying levels of permissions for using third-party work.
- Some permissions give you the right to use the work for profit-making without having to pay (but having to give credit to the original creator).
- Other permissions let you use the work for free only if it is for a non profit purpose.
It is important to be clear which permissions are granted by the piece you use. Make it a habit to confirm the permissions granted by any third-party IP you want to use.
Singular verification and plagiarism
Despite what this article has said about copyright and plagiarism, RMRK’s stance is somewhat different. The primary purpose of our verification system is to ensure that only original works (I.e. works that have not been copied from another artist) are verified. Naturally, this means we need to care about plagiarism. But we also realize that we can’t police creativity and so we have to find a good balance. Hence, we discussed amongst ourselves and came up with what we deem our official stance on plagiarism. RMRK’s official stance on Plagiarism Using percentage share of composition as a metric, there are three main ways to use third-party IP in an original work: 1. As a subject—IP takes up over 45% of the composition: this is copying another artists work and making it the focus of your new creation. 2. As major support—IP takes up 10-45% of the composition 3. As minor support—IP takes up less than 5% of the composition Using this analysis method, we come up with the concept of degrees of originality.
Degrees of originality
- Purely original - a work that is created without any third-party IP (intellectual property) copyright.
- Supported original - an original work that is created with the help of other third-party IP. For a work to be a supported original, all third-party IP must come with the right permissions. Sometimes third-party IP can be in the public domain (meaning that no one needs to give permission for certain uses). The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. As a result, the public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it. Another type of supported original is created when a third-party IP is considerably altered to create a new art that is inspired by, but not a copy of the original IP.
- Faux-original - any supported original without the proper permissions is a false original. It seems original but is not. Thus, to the artist it is a supported original, but to the court of public opinion, it is a false original. A false original can be fixed (turned into a supported original) by getting the proper permissions.
- Unoriginal - an unimaginative copy of the original IP with little to negligible alterations.
Thus, RMRK’s verification process seeks to reject all unoriginal and faux-original art. For better detail, let’s talk separately about verification and unverification.
When we will verify
- If the account requesting verification has at least 10 RMRK (subject to change through community governance).
- If the collection has over 5 minted artworks that don’t infringe on any third-party IP. The easiest way to avoid infringement is to avoid using third-party IP in creations you want to sell (unless it’s an IP in the public domain). Naturally, we need proof that all works have been originally created by the artist. The easiest way to do this is for the artist to share their behind-the-scenes (proof of creating the work—sketches, photoshop/blender/Lightroom workstation with the different layers).
- Or should the collection have any third-party IP, the proper permissions have been acquired (by sale or copyright holder’s consent). To verify this, we need receipts (contract, sale receipt with permission stated)
When we will deny verification (or unverify)
- If we can’t verify that the work is original
- If the work is a false original - meaning that the artist may believe his work is original, but based on our opinion, it is not.
- If new NFTs that plagiarize are added to the collection after it’s been verified
We fully understand that plagiarism and copyright are complex topics, but we believe they are also very simple to navigate. To avoid ever having plagiarism issues, you can adopt the following commandments: 1. Thou shalt not use any third-party IP 2. If one uses third-party IP, one should get the right permissions or use only third-party IP in the public domain
And that is really all there is to it. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments and we’ll respond.