Derivative NFTs: Everything You Need to Know

If you have been involved in the NFT space then you have probably seen countless ripoffs of popular collections. From cartoon monkey NFTs to pixelated avatars they dominate the space.

While a simple concept NFT derivates are an essential component of the space. That is why in this article I will be explaining what they are and much more. So without further ado, let’s jump right in.


Derivative NFTs are projects that draw inspiration from popular NFT collections. They have similar characteristics and functions.

What are derivative NFTs?

Simply put, derivative NFTs are modified versions of popular collections. Blue chip NFTs such as Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks have gained international attention and this has led to imitations in hopes of gaining market share.

These imitations have similar visual appearances while also sharing similar names. For instance Bored Ape Kennel Club or CryptoPhunks.

There are two types of derivative NFTs, official and unofficial. The official NFT collection is usually created by the same artists.

For instance, the NFT project Mutant Ape Yacht Club is a mutated version of the original that was airdropped to BAYC token holders. Official NFT derivates can also be in collaboration with another artist.

Conversely, unofficial derivates are essentially copycats that have no relation to the original artist. As a result, they are unoriginal assets that often scam collectors.

Why are derivative NFTs so popular?

Derivative NFTs are popular as they are an easy way of minting. They don’t require original ideas therefore the cost and effort to produce them are significantly lower.

Moreover, bluechip NFTs such as doodles, Azuki, and Bored Ape Yacht club are out of reach for the average investor. Therefore, derivates are created to lower the barrier to entry.

Furthermore, the style and function of the underlying inspiration have a proven track record. They indicate that there is strong demand and therefore there is an opportunity for both investors and creators to capitalize on it.

What do derivate NFTs look like?

When it comes to art NFTs the derivates contain similar traits, styles and names. To illustrate this let’s look at the example shown below. Bored Ape Yacht Club is on the left and Mutant Ape Yacht Club is on the right.

These two NFT collections share the following characteristics:

  • Abstract art style
  • Similar name
  • Both based around an ape avatar
  • Single color background
  • Similar traits. E.g headgear, fur type, expression etc.

Are NFT derivates illegal?

This depends on whether the underlying artwork has been modified or not. If it has been modified then artists are usually protected by fair use. Simply put, if you modify the meaning, expression, and aesthetic of the artwork then you are protected by the fair use doctrine.

On the other hand, there is rampant plagorizm in the space. Often derivative NFTs are carbon copies and therefore infringe on copyrights.

To put this into perspective, Open Sea stated in a recent Twitter thread that over 70% of NFTs created were either fake or plagiarized. Therefore, it is important to do your research before purchasing a derivative NFT.

If you want to learn more about copyright, click here to read my previous article. 

Should you buy derivate NFTs?

This is entirely dependent on the project. If it is in collaboration with the original creators then it will likely succeed. After all, one of the main influencers of the value of art is the artists’ reputation. Moreover, if they have an active community then this is also a good sign.

That being said, the vast majority of derivate NFTs are cash grabs. They are unoriginal and they are fraught with rug pulls. Oftentimes, these projects promise similar utility to the original collections but fail to deliver while taking users’ funds.


Overall, NFTs derivates are copies of original collections with slight variations. As a result, they are unoriginal and are mostly cash grabs.

However, they do lower the barrier to entry and there are still opportunities to be had. At the end of the day, if you do your own research then you can still find great derivate NFT projects.

I hope you found this article useful and thanks for reading it.

Want to learn about 5 different Metaverse investment opportunities? Click here to read my previous article.