On November 18th, Geoffrey Huntley announced to the world that, over a period of just 3 days, he had downloaded all of the media content for every NFT on Ethereum and Solana, and was releasing a torrent containing all this media so everyone can "steal" every NFT on these blockchains. He created a parody of The Pirate Bay called The NFT Bay, linking to this torrent for everyone to download. We at ClubNFT were pretty impressed if true, because 3 days to download all this media would be quite the feat - obtaining all the data from IPFS to re-pin the Hic et Nunc media, which was only 4TB, was pretty involved, and we have been working on IPFS & NFT for a long time.
Vice, Bloomberg, Business Insider, The Verge, Tom's Hardware, Kotaku, and many others picked up the story and it made quite a storm on Twitter. The crux of every story was the idea that this "artist has stolen all the NFTs". By that, they mean that Geoff has done what he asserted in his Twitter posts, on the website, and in the torrent's description: Right-click-saved all the media for every NFT on Ethereum and Solana. If Geoff had not done that, then this would be just another NFT skeptic expressing some concerns. Many of the articles are careful to point out "we have not verified the contents of the torrent," because of course they couldn't. A 20TB torrent would take several days to download, necessitating a pretty beefy internet connection and more disk space to store than most people have at their disposal. We at ClubNFT fired up a massive AWS instance with 40TB of EBS disk space to attempt to download this, with a cost estimate of $10k-20k over the next month, as we saw this torrent as potentially an easy way to pre-seed our NFT storage efforts - not many people have these resources to devote to a single news story.
Fortunately, we can save you the trouble of downloading the entire torrent - all you need is about 10GB. Download the first 10GB of the torrent, plus the last block, and you can fill in all the rest with zeroes. In other words, it's empty; and no, Geoff did not actually download all the NFTs. Ironically, Geoff has archived all of the media articles about this and linked them on TheNFTBay's site, presumably to preserve an immutable record of the spread and success of his campaign - kinda like an NFT.
Edit: After publication of this post, Reddit user Constellation16 reached out to us with some further analysis. tl;dr it appears that the 10GB of “data” is nothing of value and the Torrent really is effectively empty.
Geoff raised several points about NFTs which provide an excellent educational opportunity. So many people who are new to this space, or who are considering entering this space, are not really sure what an NFT actually is. Some are piling into this space with dollar signs in their eyes, fueled by FOMO (fear of missing out), and falling victim to scams and pump & dump schemes.
What is an NFT?
An NFT is a token on a blockchain which is unique and self-describing. That means that the NFT itself, and the contract which created it, describes what it is, what it does, and how it can be traded. The blockchain itself tracks the ownership of that token, and allows you to execute transactions with it - buying it, selling it, trading it, or in some cases modifying it. For art & collectible NFTs, the token usually contains a link pointing to an image, video, or other media file. Similar to how a deed conveys ownership of a house at some address, the token conveys a sense of “ownership” (outlined below), of that media. Just like you can invite a neighbor over to visit your house, and a car driving by can take a photo of your house, anybody can view the media associated with your NFT. Indeed, anybody can download that media and watch it on their computer or mobile device at any time.
So Why Bother Owning an NFT?
Being able to view the Mona Lisa in a gallery does nothing to reduce the value of that painting - if anything, the fact that so many people want to view it increases its value. Snapping a photo of the Mona Lisa, or spending years learning Leonardo da Vinci's painting technique so you can produce a perfect reproduction of it, does nothing to reduce the value of the original Mona Lisa (and your reproduction likely has very little value as well). That's because the value of art, beyond its aesthetic qualities, is in the provenance and story around that art. The fact that Leonardo da Vinci created that one, particular painting hanging in the Louvre is 99% of what makes it valuable. The story of how that art has changed hands over the centuries adds to that value.
The blockchain is a way to track the provenance and story of digital media via NFTs, in much the same way a catalogue raisonne tracks that story for famous works by famous artists. The value of an NFT is in having the right to insert yourself into that story, as the owner of that work, and with the ability to transfer that right to another person (i.e. selling the work). The same way purchasing a painting gives you the right to resell that painting and prove to others that you are the owner, but does not necessarily convey copyright or other rights (unless worked out separately via a contract), purchasing an NFT gives you the right to resell that NFT and prove to others that you are the owner.
The real value of an NFT, in other words, comes from the artist who created it. Sometimes that's one person, sometimes it is a project with multiple people working on it. One of the most important questions a collector should ask themselves before buying an NFT is, "Who created this?" followed closely by "Should I care what this person produces?" A good way to get an answer to the second question is by learning about the NFT community - see what well known collectors, artists, and curators think of an artist or a project, and go from there. When you see a small community trying to hype an NFT or a project, be wary - see if anybody outside of that group has anything good to say about it. Just like a con man can easily surround himself with friends who holler and cheer at fake wins playing three-card-monty, a small group can easily create hype around a scammy project. This issue exists everywhere in life, and is not specific to NFTs.
What About the JPEG?
As mentioned above, the token (stored and tracked on the blockchain) usually does NOT contain the image or video file itself - it points to that media, living somewhere else, via a URI. Sometimes this media lives on some random website, or on cloud storage like AWS or Google. These NFTs are a little risky - the owner of that website or cloud storage can choose to change or delete that image, effectively changing the NFT out from under the owner. However, most NFTs either store the media on IPFS, or contain code on the blockchain to generate that image in a way that cannot be changed.
IPFS is a fantastic tool that gives us assurance that the media cannot be changed out from underneath the owner of an NFT - it is unchanging forever. However, IPFS has its own issues - it does not guarantee that the media will always be available. Someone, somewhere, has to actually own a hard drive containing that image, and make it available to the IPFS network. Usually, that person is actually the marketplace where the NFT was minted. However, many of us in the NFT community don't like relying on third parties to protect our NFTs, and would rather secure this data ourselves. That's why we founded ClubNFT - to help collectors take control of their NFT media.
We Were Hoping This Was Real
ince many of us worry about the safety of the NFT media hosted on IPFS by various third parties, many people in the community were hoping that this torrent really did contain all of the Ethereum and Solana NFTs. We could download this data and back it up somewhere, removing the worry about it disappearing from IPFS. As made clear above, downloading the media does nothing to change the ownership of the NFTs - it is effectively a public service you are providing, helping the actual owner to be sure their NFT media would be recoverable in the future.
Unfortunately, it is actually rather complicated to correctly download and secure the media for even a single NFT, nevermind trying to do it for every NFT ever made. This is why we were initially skeptical of Geoff's statements. But even if he had actually downloaded all the NFT media and made it available as a torrent, this would not have solved the problem.
First, it is well beyond most collectors' resources to download and store a 20TB file containing every single NFT. Most collectors would be happy just protecting the NFTs they actually own.
Second, a torrent is unchanging over time. Even if this would be valuable as a snapshot of all the NFTs at a given point in time, it is important that tools be developed to help secure all future NFTs, as well as older NFTs that were perhaps too complicated to figure out how to secure initially.
Third, a torrent containing all the NFTs does nothing to actually make those NFTs available via IPFS, which is the network they must be present on in order for the NFTs to be visible on marketplaces and galleries.
Fourth, and this is a bit in the weeds, in order to reupload an NFT's media to IPFS, you need more than just the media itself. In order to restore a file to IPFS so it can continue to be located by the original link embedded in the NFT, you must know exactly the settings used when that file was originally uploaded, and potentially even the exact version of the IPFS software used for the upload.
For these reasons and more, ClubNFT is working hard on an actual solution to ensure that everybody's NFTs can be safely secured by the collectors themselves. We look forward to providing more educational resources on these and other topics, and welcome the attention that others, like Geoff, bring to these important issues.