NFTs Impact on Copyright: A Practical Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. What are NFTs?
  2. How do NFTs affect copyright?
  3. NFT and digital art
  4. Legal implications of NFTs
  5. How to protect your copyright when selling NFTs
  6. Tips for buying NFTs without infringing copyright
  7. Real-world examples of NFTs and copyright
  8. NFT marketplaces and copyright

Are you curious about the buzz around Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) lately? Well, you're not alone. As these digital assets continue to rise in popularity, so do the questions surrounding their impact on copyright and intellectual property. In this easy-to-follow guide, you'll find the answers you need. So, let's dive into the world of NFTs and explore their implications on copyright.

What are NFTs?

NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, are unique types of digital assets. Imagine owning a one-of-a-kind baseball card. That's essentially what an NFT is, but in the digital world. They're stored on a blockchain, which is like a massive digital ledger, and that helps prove who owns what.

Now, you might be wondering: What makes NFTs different from other digital stuff you own? Well, let's say you have a digital music file. Sure, it's yours. But it's not unique. Anyone can download the same song. But if that song was an NFT, it would be like owning the original master recording. Pretty cool, right?

But here's the kicker: NFTs are causing some serious ripples in the world of copyright and intellectual property. How? Well, that's where the fun begins. Hang tight, and I'll guide you through the impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property.

Let's start with a simple analogy. Picture a novel. If you buy a copy, you own that specific book, but you don't own the story. The author does. Now, think of NFTs as a unique digital book. You own that 'book,' but the 'story' still belongs to the creator. And that's where things can get a little tricky.

Remember, understanding the impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property isn't just about knowing what NFTs are. It's also about understanding the broader picture: how they interact with the world of digital art, their legal implications, and how you can navigate this new landscape as a buyer or a seller. So, let's keep going!

Now that we've got a grip on what NFTs are, let's look at how they shake things up in the world of copyright. Remember our book analogy? Well, it's key to understanding the impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property.

When you buy an NFT, you're not buying the copyright or intellectual property rights to the work. Instead, you're buying a unique digital certificate of ownership. Think of it like buying an autographed poster. You own the poster, but you can't make copies and sell them. That's a big no-no in the copyright world.

Here's the tricky part: The internet is filled with copies. And in some cases, people are turning digital copies of art, memes, and even tweets into NFTs and selling them. But just because something is on the internet doesn't mean it's free to use. And that's where copyright law comes in.

Copyright law protects original works of authorship. It's like a legal shield that stops others from using, copying, or selling an artist's work without their permission. So, even though NFTs are sold, the copyright remains with the original creator unless they explicitly transfer it. That's why it's important to understand the impact of NFTs on copyright.

So, there you have it. NFTs and copyright is a complex mix. But don't worry, we'll delve deeper into this, especially when we talk about NFTs and digital art, legal implications, and how to protect your copyright when selling or buying NFTs. Stay tuned!

NFT and digital art

The digital art world is one place where the impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property really stands out. It's like the wild west of the art world—exciting, but sometimes a little lawless. Let's explore this further.

Consider this: you're an artist who creates a stunning digital painting. You decide to mint it as an NFT and sell it. The buyer now owns the NFT, but remember, they don't own the copyright. This means they can't print that artwork on T-shirts or use it in an ad campaign. They essentially own a digital bragging right.

But what happens when someone takes your digital painting, mints it as an NFT, and sells it without your knowledge? That's where things get messy. In the eyes of copyright law, this is a big no-no. But the decentralized nature of blockchain technology makes it difficult to enforce these laws.

The key point here is that owning an NFT does not grant you the copyright or intellectual property rights to the digital art associated with it. While NFTs have opened new avenues for artists to monetize their work, they've also raised new challenges around copyright infringement.

It's an exciting, but complex, new frontier for artists and collectors alike. And, as we'll see in the next section, it's not just the art world grappling with these issues. But hey, who said the future of art would be boring?

Let's shift our focus to the nitty-gritty: the legal implications of NFTs. The impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property law is a hot topic that's sparking some serious debate. And it's not hard to see why.

Consider an NFT of a tweet, for instance. Just because you own an NFT of a tweet doesn't mean you own the tweet itself. You can't delete it, edit it, or control its distribution. What you own is a unique piece of code on the blockchain that verifies you as the owner of that NFT. It's akin to owning a collector's item, not the actual content or intellectual property.

But here's where it gets complex: what if the tweet contains copyrighted content, like a quote from a book or a photo taken by someone else? By minting that tweet as an NFT, are you infringing on the original creator's copyright? It's a grey area that is yet to be definitively addressed by the law.

Another legal implication to consider is the right of publicity. Let's say you mint an NFT of a celebrity's tweet. Does that infringe on their right of publicity, which allows them to control the commercial use of their name, image, and likeness? It's another complex question without a clear answer yet.

These are just some examples of how NFTs are stirring up questions around copyright and intellectual property law. As the technology and its adoption evolves, so too will the legal landscape. For now, it's a space to watch with interest and caution.

So, you're an artist or creator looking to dive into the NFT space. The impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property rights can seem daunting, right? But don't worry, there are ways to protect your work.

First off, it's important to remember that selling an NFT doesn't necessarily mean you're selling the copyright to your work. Unless specified, the buyer is purchasing a token that verifies ownership of a unique digital asset, not the copyright to the asset itself. So, when minting your NFT, make sure to be explicit about what rights the buyer is and isn't getting.

Here's a handy tip: consider including a link to a license agreement in the metadata of your NFT. This agreement can lay out in clear terms what the buyer is allowed to do with the digital asset. Can they print it? Sell it on? Use it in promotional material? The clearer you are, the better.

Also, keep in mind that once your work is out there as an NFT, it can be hard to control how it's used. This is where registering your work with the copyright office comes in handy. While copyright is automatic, registering it gives you more legal power to combat infringement.

Remember, the world of NFTs is a bit like the Wild West right now when it comes to copyright and intellectual property. But with some careful thought and planning, you can navigate it to your advantage.

On the buyer's side, the impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property can also be a bit confusing. You might be thinking, "I bought the NFT, so I can do whatever I want with it, right?" Not necessarily. Here are some tips to keep you on the right side of copyright law when buying NFTs.

First, always check the specifics of what you're buying. The NFT might represent ownership of a digital asset, but it usually doesn't include the copyright. This means you can't just use the asset however you please. To avoid any potential legal hiccups, make sure you're clear on what rights you are and aren't getting before you buy.

Second, just because an NFT is listed for sale, doesn't mean the seller has the right to sell it. There have been instances of people minting NFTs of art that they don't own the copyright to. So do your homework, and if something seems fishy, it probably is.

Lastly, remember that each NFT marketplace will have its own terms of service. Some may offer more protection to buyers than others, so it's worth reading the fine print.

In a nutshell, buying NFTs without infringing copyright is all about doing your research and understanding what you're getting into. Stay informed, and you'll be able to navigate the NFT space with confidence.

Now that we've talked about the impact of NFTs on copyright, let's look at some real-world examples that illustrate this complex relationship.

One of the most famous cases is the $69 million sale of Beeple's digital artwork, "Everydays: The First 5000 Days," as an NFT on Christie's auction house. The buyer owns the artwork, but they don't own the copyright. Beeple still retains the copyright and can reproduce the image. This example highlights that owning an NFT doesn't necessarily mean owning the copyright.

Another interesting case is the Nyan Cat NFT. The creator sold the Nyan Cat GIF as an NFT, but that doesn’t mean the buyer now owns the Nyan Cat character. The creator still holds the copyright and can continue to create and sell more Nyan Cat items. This example again underlines the difference between owning an NFT and owning the copyright.

Finally, let's consider a case that shows the darker side of NFTs and copyright. Some artists have found their work minted as NFTs and sold without their permission. This is a clear infringement of copyright. The artist remains the copyright holder, even if their work is sold as an NFT by someone else. This example shows the potential for abuse in the NFT marketplace.

These cases illustrate the varied and sometimes confusing impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property. They also underline the importance of understanding the rights associated with an NFT before buying or selling.

Let's shift our focus to NFT marketplaces and how they handle copyright. These platforms play a vital role in the world of NFTs, acting as intermediaries between buyers and sellers. But what about the copyright? Who is responsible if an NFT infringes on someone else's intellectual property rights?

Most NFT marketplaces, like OpenSea or Rarible, have terms and conditions that sellers must agree to. Usually, these terms state that by minting an NFT, you assert that you have all necessary rights to the content. Essentially, this means that if you're not the copyright owner, you shouldn't be selling the NFT.

However, enforcement can be tricky. As we've seen with the real-world examples, copyright infringement can and does happen. This is where the responsibility of the NFT marketplaces comes into the picture. Some marketplaces have procedures in place to deal with copyright claims, but it's a challenging issue to tackle.

For instance, if someone uploads a famous painting as an NFT, should the marketplace allow it? What if it's a meme that's been shared millions of times? These are not easy questions to answer, and they highlight the complex relationship between NFTs, copyright, and intellectual property.

So, while NFT marketplaces have a role to play in mitigating the impact of NFTs on copyright and intellectual property, it's a challenging task. It's a developing situation that we'll need to watch closely as the world of NFTs continues to evolve.

If you want to learn more about NFTs and their role in the creative world, especially in relation to copyright, don't miss the 'Intro to NFTs' workshop by Andrea Orejarena. This workshop will provide you with essential information on NFTs and how they can impact copyright, helping you navigate the new digital art landscape with confidence.