NFT vs the asset itself. How independent or connected are they in practice?

Gist: Is an NFT technically independent from the specific media file it purports to represent? Are they technologically bound together in any way or is it just human perception that they are assigned a meaningful connection?

I’m looking for some general insight here as well as elucidating some particular examples as I’ve done research but there’s still some finer points to NFTs that aren’t so clear. It’s also the case that not every NFT system will operate the same so there may not be a definitive “this is how all NFTs work” but more so there being different approaches to executing NFTs (like how Ethereum uses smart contracts but that Cardano doesn’t need smart contracts to make an NFT).

I understand the gist of what an NFT is in that it is basically a “deed” that exists on the blockchain which documents ownership (and transfer) of a media file

Is the media asset only “theoretically” associated with its corresponding NFT though there isn’t actually anything linking the specific media file itself to the NFT on the blockchain?

Is the asset itself ever stored on the blockchain with the NFT (the deed) or are they entirely separate? Are there certain systems that exist where they ARE stored together (i.e I can locate my NFT on the blockchain and my PNG file will be there with it which I can download or view at any time)?

Here’s an example I’d like to use to reach a finer point about whether the file itself is arbitrary from the NFT:

Let’s say there is a famous digital image on the internet and EVERYONE already has a copy/screenshot of it, but the originator of that image sold me the only NFT he decided to produce of it.

What is the difference between what I own vs what everyone else owns… is it the case that I have basically the same exact media file image as everyone else AND I have the only record on the blockchain indicating that the originator transferred ownership of the NFT/deed to me. Or is there something special or perceptibly different about the media file I received (making it “different” than everyone else’s) because of its “connection” to an NFT (let’s assume that millions of other people have the exact same png file down to the pixel)?

If my harddrive gets wiped and the image I had is deleted forever, I’ll still have the NFT recorded in the blockchain, right? Is there anything special about the media file copy that was lost or could I just transfer/sell the NFT to someone else and send them a copy of the image that I clipped from the internet without there being ANY perceptible difference (possibly just metadata)?

***Is transferring the actual media file even in any way technically necessary for an NFT to be transferred or could NFTs by themselves (without the actual media files associated with them) be traded simply on what they purport to represent (including the metadata validating its ownership history) WITHOUT actually transferring over the media file in question? Like in the example above, if I lost the original media file but someone wanted to buy the NFT and said to me “I already have a copy of the image, I don’t need another. I just want the NFT.”

Or if the “original” media file is lost, is it technically impossible to transfer the NFT/deed to someone else because “the blockchain won’t allow it / can’t process it without the original file being transferred with it?” [I doubt this is the case but I’d like some technical clarity on the matter]

I guess an analogy to the above example might be: selling someone a deed to a house without the house attached to the deal (or that the house has been destroyed already). Though extending the analogy, the house itself is fungible (many digital copies of that asset can exist) while the deed is not fungible. Is that accurate?


Interesting question, i will follow this thread!

So for the question with what is different between the media of an NFT and the copy of it that every one else have:

The original painting “Mona Lisa” by the artist Leonardo Da Vinci is hanging in the Louvre, Paris. But there are many copies out there for around 20 US$. So what is the difference, this are exact copies of the original one.
Its the difference that the one is the original one.

You can use the same way on an NFT, if you buy one you have an original. The other pictures are only perfect copies of it.

I wouldn’t stick to the area of artistic painting, nor to the concepts of (true) Art and originality. Because when it comes to digital, the difference between original and copy is only a matter of a file creation date - and also the concept of “backup” expands the idea of a “copy”, in a digital context.
I see a NFT as a certificate that contains several informations about a particular material or digital object, of which ownership is just one of them. Then I see the NFT as if it were a digital token whose circulation was only 1 relative to that object and, therefore, impossible to be replaced by another value (or token ID) nor being referred to another object. Certification, ownership, uniqueness - I think thats what gives value to a NFT. Object copies are a concept that does not enter the equation.