NFT Copyright Law: Protecting Digital Assets
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. What are NFTs?
  2. Copyright law and digital assets
  3. How does copyright law apply to NFTs?
  4. How to protect your NFT assets
  5. Legal challenges in NFT Copyright
  6. Why NFT copyright law matters?

When it comes to the world of digital assets, there’s a new kid on the block that's causing quite a stir: Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs. They're changing the digital landscape, but they're also bringing up some complex questions around copyright issues. This blog will help guide you through the maze of NFTs and copyright issues, giving you the necessary know-how to navigate this exciting, yet challenging, digital frontier.

What are NFTs?

Let's start from the top: NFTs. NFT is a term that stands for Non-Fungible Token. In simpler words, it's a kind of digital asset. But what makes NFTs unique from other digital assets? Well, that's exactly it: they're unique.

Understanding Non-Fungibility

To understand NFTs, you need to understand what "non-fungible" means. In the world of economics, an asset is fungible if it can be exchanged with another identical item. Think of it this way: if you lend a $10 bill to a friend, it doesn't matter if they don't give you the exact same bill back. Any other $10 bill will do because they're all the same.

But if you lend a friend your favorite book, you'd probably want the exact same book back, right? That's because your book is non-fungible — it's unique to you, and no other copy will feel quite the same. NFTs operate on the same principle in the digital world. Each NFT has a digital signature that makes it one-of-a-kind.

How NFTs Work

You might wonder: "How can a digital item be unique?" Here's the thing: NFTs are built using blockchain technology — the same technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But unlike Bitcoin, which is fungible (you can trade one Bitcoin for another identical one), each NFT is unique. They're like digital snowflakes — no two are the same.

When you buy an NFT, you're buying a unique piece of code that's stored on the blockchain. This code includes information about the NFT's origin, ownership history, and authenticity. It's like a digital certificate of authenticity that verifies that you own a unique digital asset.

Now, you might be thinking: "If I buy an NFT, does that mean I own the copyright to it?" The short answer is: not necessarily. While buying an NFT gives you ownership of a unique digital asset, it doesn't automatically grant you copyright. This is one of the sticky issues when it comes to NFTs and copyright issues, and we'll dive deeper into this in the sections to come.

Understanding copyright law is key when dealing with NFTs and copyright issues. Copyright law protects original works of authorship, including digital creations. Let's take a closer look at how this applies to digital assets.

In simple terms, copyright is a type of legal protection for original works of authorship. This can include books, music, artwork, and yes, even digital assets. The key here is the word "original" — for something to be eligible for copyright, it needs to be an original creation, not a copy of someone else's work.

Once you create an original work, you automatically own the copyright to it. This means you have the exclusive right to use, reproduce, distribute, and display your work. Others can't do these things without your permission.

So, how does copyright apply to digital assets? Just like books or music, digital assets can be original works of authorship. For instance, a digital artwork that you create on your computer, a unique piece of code, or even a blog post like this one, can be protected by copyright.

But here's where it gets a bit tricky: just because something is on the internet doesn't mean it's free for anyone to use. Copyright law still applies in the digital world. If you use someone else's digital creation without permission, you could be infringing on their copyright.

What happens if someone infringes on your copyright? In the physical world, you could take legal action against them. The same applies in the digital world. If someone uses your digital asset without your permission, they could be liable for copyright infringement.

But enforcing copyright in the digital world can be a bit more challenging than in the physical world. After all, the internet is a vast, borderless space, and tracking down copyright infringers can be like finding a needle in a haystack. And this is where the issue of NFTs and copyright issues becomes even more complex.

Now that we've explored the basics of copyright law and digital assets, let's look into how this law interacts with NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens.

NFTs: A Brief Overview

At their core, NFTs are unique digital tokens tied to digital assets. These tokens are stored on a blockchain, a type of digital ledger that records transactions. Because each NFT is unique, they can be used to represent ownership of a specific digital asset.

Here's a common misconception: buying an NFT means you own the copyright of the digital asset it's linked to. That's not necessarily true. When you buy an NFT, you primarily buy the token — not the underlying digital asset. The original creator still holds the copyright unless they explicitly transfer it to you.

Imagine you bought a painting. You own the painting, but that doesn't mean you own the copyright. You can't just start making copies of the painting and selling them. The same logic applies to NFTs and copyright issues.

Can copyright be transferred via an NFT? Yes, it can — but it needs to be explicitly stated. If the creator of a digital asset sells an NFT and includes in the terms of sale that the purchase includes the transfer of copyright, then the buyer would indeed own the copyright. But this isn't standard practice. Usually, the creator retains the copyright, and the buyer simply gets the bragging rights of owning the NFT.

What about copyright infringement in the world of NFTs? This is a grey area in the intersection of NFTs and copyright issues. If someone mints an NFT of a digital asset they don't own the copyright to, they could be infringing on the original creator's copyright. But as mentioned earlier, tracking down copyright infringers in the digital world can be challenging.

And that's the skinny on how copyright law applies to NFTs. It's a complex landscape, but understanding it can help both creators and buyers navigate the burgeoning world of NFTs with confidence.

How to protect your NFT assets

Protecting your NFT assets can be a bit like a balancing act — you need to ensure that you're not infringing on others' copyrights while also safeguarding your own rights. Let's walk you through some steps to help you keep your NFT assets secure.

Do Your Homework

Before you buy an NFT, it's important to do your homework. Who is the seller? Is the digital asset original, or could it be infringing on someone else's copyright? Remember, ignorance of copyright law isn't a defense in a court of law. So, make sure you research thoroughly before you part with your hard-earned money.

Understand the Terms

As discussed in the previous section, buying an NFT doesn't automatically mean you're buying the copyright to the associated digital asset. Ensure you read and understand the terms of the sale. If the copyright isn't explicitly included in the sale, assume that it's not part of the deal.

Keep Your Assets Secure

Once you've bought an NFT, it's important to keep it secure. Cybersecurity is a real concern in the world of digital assets. Keep your digital wallets and blockchain accounts secure — use strong passwords, enable two-factor authentication, and be cautious of phishing attempts.

When dealing with valuable NFTs and potential copyright issues, consider getting legal assistance. Lawyers who specialize in copyright law and digital assets can provide guidance and help you navigate this complex field.

And there you have it — these are some practical steps you can take to protect your NFT assets. Remember, a little caution can go a long way in the uncharted waters of NFTs and copyright issues.

When it comes to NFTs and copyright issues, it's a bit like the Wild West out there. The laws haven't quite caught up with the technology, and that creates a whole host of challenges. Let's look at some of these hurdles.

Proving Ownership

One of the biggest challenges in the NFT space is proving ownership. Sure, the blockchain records the transaction, but how do you prove that the seller had the right to sell the digital asset in the first place? It's a bit like buying a car — you wouldn't hand over your money without seeing the title, right?

Enforcement Across Borders

Then there's the issue of enforcing copyright law across borders. The internet is global, and so are NFTs. If a copyright violation occurs, which country's laws apply? It's a complex issue, and one without a clear answer yet.

Infringement Detection

Finally, there's the challenge of detecting copyright violations in the first place. With millions of digital assets being created and traded as NFTs, how do you keep track of it all? It's a daunting task, and one that's almost impossible without automated systems.

So, as you can see, the legal landscape around NFTs and copyright issues is still evolving. It's a fascinating space to watch, and one that's sure to have a significant impact on the world of digital assets.

Now, you might be asking, "Why should I care about NFTs and copyright issues?" Well, whether you're an artist, a collector, or just a casual observer, the stakes are high, and here's why.

Protecting Creators

First and foremost, copyright law protects creators. Artists put a tremendous amount of work into their creations, and they deserve to be rewarded for it. When someone else comes along and sells an NFT of their work without permission, it's not only unfair — it's illegal. So, understanding copyright law can help creators protect their rights and their income.

Maintaining Trust in the Market

Next up, copyright law plays a crucial role in maintaining trust in the NFT market. Imagine buying an NFT, only to find out later that it's a copy of someone else's work. Not only have you wasted your money, but you've also supported copyright infringement. That's not a good look for anyone involved, and it can seriously hurt the market as a whole.

Setting Precedents for Future Technologies

Finally, the way we handle NFTs and copyright issues today will set precedents for future technologies. We're in uncharted territory here, and the decisions we make now could have a major impact on how copyright law evolves in the digital age. That's something we should all care about.

In short, copyright law is more than just a set of rules — it's a vital part of the digital ecosystem. And as NFTs continue to grow in popularity, understanding these laws will become more and more important.

If you're interested in learning more about NFTs and how to protect your digital assets, check out the workshop called 'Sell Your Creations As NFTs' by Tom Glendinning. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights on how to create and sell your own NFTs, while ensuring that your digital creations are protected under copyright law.