Digital artist Qing Han, best known as Qinni, passed away earlier this year at the age of 29 after battling cancer. Her vivid illustrations of popular anime characters, as well as her creation of the “crying in a puddle” meme, were widely beloved, demonstrated in her 2.5 million strong Instagram following. 


In 2021, barely a year after her death, her brother was made aware of fraudsters stealing his sister’s identity to sell NFTs of her artwork, as reported by Wired.

On the app Twinci, which markets itself as the first NFTs social marketplace, an account listed one of Qing’s more popular pieces, titled “Bird Cage”. The artwork had been shared by Qing just one month before her death. Five other listings with Qing’s art were also found on the site, listed for up to 500 TWIN (the equivalent of £400). 

“Regardless on [sic] what side of the debate you’re on about that, that’s just a morally shitty thing to do,” her brother Ze tweeted on April 18 after being told about the NFTs. “So, please stop profiting off of my dead sister.”  

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A post shared by Qing Han (@qinniart)

While Qing’s case is particularly distressing, she is not the only artist who has been victim to this type of theft. Twinci claims to investigate cases such as this, deleting the NFT and banning the account if the owner is not able to prove that they have created an artwork.

With the lack of controls or specific regulation on such emerging technologies, the opportunity for fraud is all too easy.

Once an account is opened on Twinci, all that is needed to create an NFT is upload an image of an artwork and name their price in cryptocurrency. Twinci then “mints” a token and the collectible is available on the marketplace. NFTs are assets in the digital space that can be bought and sold much like any other form of property. The only difference is they have no tangible form, instead the artwork is “tokenised” to create a digital certificate of ownership. 

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A post shared by Qing Han (@qinniart)

Recently NFT’s of all sorts have been hitting the market. Earlier this year an animated Gif of Nyan Cat – a 2011 meme of a flying pop-tart cat- sold for more than $500,000. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has created an NFT of the first-ever tweet, with bids hitting 42.5m. Famously, Christie’s sale of an NFT by digital artist Beeple broke records at $69m. 

While some regard NFTs as an evolution in fine art collecting, in amongst these exorbitant sales are the creators, such as Qing Han, who are sadly getting ripped off. When the whole system relies on the individuals who make the NFTs being who they say they are, a lot can go wrong. 

Concept artist RJ Palmer, best known for his hyperrealistic artwork of Pokemon, also recently had NFT enthusiasts tokenize tweets containing his works. His tweet criticizing the trend has amassed over 49.7k retweets. Another victim of NFT theft, is artist Corbin Rainbolt, whose paleoart, paintings of extinct animals, went on to monetized without his consent. 

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A post shared by Qing Han (@qinniart)

“It doesn’t seem there’s any real action to stop this stuff at the moment,” Rainbolt tells Vice. “It’s not a few bad actors ruining an otherwise beautiful thing, but the logical conclusion of what this thing is. And it depreciates the idea that art can have any value that isn’t monetary.”

The resulting hostility towards NFTs is easy to understand. Whilst the promise of NFTs may represent a way to make money off of work that might otherwise not be saleable, the reality is not so simple. However, artists online are fighting back, banding together to create blocklists to bar automated accounts from created unauthorized NFTs of artwork posted on social media or seeking out recourse for copyright violations. For some, the answer is simply locking their social media accounts to limit who can view their posts. 

What do you think of NFTs? The digital answer to art collecting or an artist’s nightmare?


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