Legitimizing NFT — Finding Context of Creator

Ethan Wu
Numbers Protocol
Published in
7 min readSep 8, 2021


“Until October the most Mike Winkelmann — digital artist known as Beeple — had ever sold a print for was $100.

Today, an NFT of his work sold for $69 million at Christie’s. The sale positions him “among the top three most valuable living artists”, according to the auction house.” — The VERGE

Headlines like the one above created much hype and anticipation for NFTs, however as the boom progressed, it became clear that the young NFT industry has many issues.

NFT Dilemma

It is fundamental that creators should get credit for their creations. This is why the ownership aspect of NFTs is so attractive and game changing. However as it stands today, NFT ownership is overly simplistic and still leaves the door open for infringement. Many platforms’ NFT minting policies are open. This means anyone can download an image, mint it as an NFT and sell it as their own. This creation flow does not sound right and it is not. As you can imagine, open NFT minting policies open the door for fraudulent behavior and negates the trust NFTs are supposed to provide.

“This is what I don’t understand about this whole NFT thing. I get if you are the original owner or creator of the art. But how is it ok that someone can take another artist’s work that’s owned or copyrighted and mint it as their own and then sell it? I’m lost on it.”

The above summarizes the dilemma of the promising NFT space. It is apparent that it takes more than just a blockchain record to legitimize digital assets, however little is being done in the space to standardize NFT creation leaving creators and prospective consumers unprotected. With the internet as it is, it is extremely easy for digital assets to be copied and proliferated without our knowledge or permission. Over-saturation of digital assets over the web have effectively made them valueless. The value of NFTs comes from their apparent “scarcity” and “legitimacy”, however if the issues from “anyone can mint NFT ‘’ trend persists, will NFTs be the next valueless asset?

Understanding Context of Creator

Like many things in life, the backbone of NFTs is its legitimacy. If people do not believe in the product then its value goes to zero. So the question becomes, if blockchain by itself is not enough to legitimize content, what can?

Foundation CEO Kayvon Tehranian states:

“This work requires context. It’s not just the blockchain. You can’t just upload an image to the blockchain and have its value. There has to be the context of the creator.”

So what is this “context of creator” and how is it established? For some, the context of creator is an awarded Proof of Authenticity badge established from due diligence or in some cases blind trust. Though this is effective in bringing legitimacy to some NFTs, it’s nearly impossible and extremely inefficient to police every asset and creator looking to mint on a platform. This is evidenced by the majority of NFTs listed without the authenticity badge. Are all of these NFTs illegitimate? The answer is no, however without any proof, uncertainty exists and makes the difference between being valuable and being valueless.

To better understand the context of the creator, let us consider the following comparison. Let us say I am a baseball collector and I have in my collection two baseballs. One is a Barry Bond’s record setting signed 762nd home run ball and the other is an ordinary baseball with Barry Bond’s laser printed signature. What is the difference and what makes one more valuable than the other?

The answer is the circumstance of creation. Home run ball 762 has context built into it. It has date, time, historical implications, not to mention an authentic signature. It is a truly one-of-a-kind baseball, whereas the printed baseball has no context with an unoriginal signature. It is a copy through and through and should hold little to no value.

How can we legitimize NFTs?

Now that we understand that the context of creation is the capturing of creation circumstances, how can we apply it to ALL minted creations and legitimize NFTs? The answer is two-fold:

First, digital assets need to have their context of creation recorded. The more unique identifiers the better as it makes the creation more unique as its unlikely a digital asset is created with the exact same circumstances. Second, the context record needs to be accessible and traceable.

Let us take a look a NFT on OpenSea with context of creation:

Navigate to Details => Contract Address => click

View Etherscan:


Get CID: Transfer => Decentralized Mint => Click to See More

Decode Input Data => tokenURL bafkreicwt26clzaw7qufytjz6hud4ntdb5tkrmllwg26gpp7xby6zgo45y

Read File from IPFS (https://ipfs.io/ipfs/bafkreicwt26clzaw7qufytjz6hud4ntdb5tkrmllwg26gpp7xby6zgo45y)

{"animation_url":"https://ipfs.io/ipfs/bafybeigtcoznnh74chnml6lrmtmdtzroemik7wsiarqeaxt7bp2qlm5hju","asset_file":"https://ipfs.io/ipfs/bafybeigtcoznnh74chnml6lrmtmdtzroemik7wsiarqeaxt7bp2qlm5hju","asset_id:":"5aa3ebb8-8d4b-4e6f-91e3-e28e84e2844d","creator":"0x827A22516a1A39BF1926E90c90200f62179d3314","description":"Mix Dog Meimei - Funny Pet Dream winner: 8th place","image":"https://ipfs.io/ipfs/bafkreifztjsmvud2wh2fiigmrcprqialyczxv23z5sdut5dr2ruiiroakq","marketplace":"https://captureclub.cc","name":"Mix Dog Meimei - Funny Pet Dream winner: 8th place","parent_token":null,"supporting_file":""}

Download Image


Content Authenticity Verification


Chronicle Record


Integrity Record


This NFT has its context of creation established and made traceable in three different ways.

  1. Chronicle Record (generated by Numbers Protocol): NFT’s context (date, location, time) and creator are established utilizing Numbers Capture technology.
  2. Integrity Record (generated by Numbers Protocol): NFT context and creator made immutable by storing on the blockchain via Numbers Seal technology.
  3. Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) Injected Digital Asset (generated by Numbers Protocol): Digital asset itself (associated with NFT) is injected with metadata making it so the asset itself holds the creator and context. Even in the event of sharing and infringement, the asset itself can speak for itself and tell who created it.

NFTs generated with Numbers Protocol

A common thread in the proposed NFT legitimization is “generated by Numbers Protocol”. Numbers Protocol is a decentralized photo network used to make digital assets traceable and verification. It achieves this with the following stages: Capture, Seal & Trace.

With Capture, birth information of the media content is recorded at the point of creation. What this means is at the moment a piece of media is created, contextual information such as creator, time, location and signature is collected and recorded. In the above example, the NFT’s Chronicle Record was generated in the Capture stage.

With Seal, the records are made immutable and traceable by creating an integrity record on the blockchain. It is important that these records are made immutable by the blockchain to ensure that no tampering and manipulation can happen with the digital asset. It ensures the security and authenticity of the media. The NFTs Chronicle record was generated in the Seal stage.

With Trace, the media assets themselves are made into traceable multilayered information containers by embedding the contextual information. The identifying quality of these assets are that the information sticks even in the event of sharing on the web. The NFTs CAI injected metadata was generated for Trace.

Final Remarks

Decentralization and crypto projects for that matter are built on the idea that communities of like minded individuals can band together to push forth positive changes utilizing blockchain technology. As the crypto spaces, such as NFTs, become more mainstream and newer members populate the space for less altruistic reasons, it is important that innovation continues to break the cycle of devaluation and illegitimacy.

Bringing the context of the creator to the digital sphere and NFTs is a primary goal of Numbers Protocol and hope it represents a small stepping stone to a more authentic future.

Relavent Links

Numbers Protocol: https://numbersprotocol.io/

Numbers Medium: https://medium.com/numbers-protocol

Twitter: https://twitter.com/numbersprotocol

Content Authenticity Initiative: https://contentauthenticity.org/





Ethan Wu
Numbers Protocol

Recent M.S Graduate and Numbers Software Developer & Developer Relations/Community Manager