Can NFTs Be Copyrighted? Who Really Owns The Rights To Minted Digital Art?



If you’ve bought an NFT – or you’re thinking about buying one – you might have concerns about your rights when it comes to making copies of your digital artwork. Here’s what’s up:


NFT, or “Non-Fungible Token,” designates a token as being exclusive to the person who produced, acquired, or purchased it. However, since it is a digital token, it may be duplicated.

Nevertheless, the owner has proof that they are the owner of that token since the ownership of that token is recorded in a ledger, often the Ethereum blockchain.

Can NFTs Be Copyrighted? Who Really Owns The Rights To Minted Digital Art?
  • Save

NFTs may represent just about anything, although they are most often created using the URL of some kind of digital material.

While anybody may still see and enjoy the artwork, the idea is that those who purchase the NFT get “ownership” of it.

However, how does copyrighting function in this case? Is copyright possible for NFTs?

Can An NFT Be Copyrighted?

Purchasing an NFT does not provide ownership of any copyrights other than the token itself. Owning an NFT does not, by itself, confer the right to disseminate or publish the work without the owner’s consent. This is especially true if the artist didn’t provide their initial consent for the NFT.

This indicates that those who do not own the NFT are still able to access it, and the rightsholder is free to continue to use it, sell it, or distribute it in any other way to whoever they please.

Purchasing an NFT is, in many respects, far more analogous to purchasing a limited-edition poster or a copy of a book that has been personally signed.

It is special and one-of-a-kind to you, but it does not imply that the original work is now legally considered to be your property. You won’t get any privileges from it that others already have; all it does is make your relationship with it a little bit more special.

As was to be expected, the NFT gold rush has resulted in an increase in the number of spammers and infringers. They are only obtaining digital URLs and other forms of digital stuff in order to issue NFTs that are based on them.

This is a possibility due to the fact that anybody is able to construct an NFT for any subject. The one significant disadvantage is that an NFT that is not produced by the original artist will have a lower market value.

What Is NFT “Minting”?

To create an NFT from your digital artwork, it first needs to be minted. Tokenizing an artwork, or producing NFTs from it, is referred to as “minting” an artwork.

In order to start the blockchain transaction and publish your artwork as an NFT on a marketplace, you will need to pay “gas costs.” Following this, you continue to have all commercial rights to the NFT’s supporting artwork.

That implies that you may still sell reproductions of your work, anything made from it, or even licence it. The only rights that collectors have are the rights to sell, trade, and transfer the specific NFT they purchased.

This implies they cannot produce copies of the NFT, charge a fee to access it, sell any products derived from it, or otherwise make money off of it.

Issues With NFTs And Copyright Laws

Making and selling NFTs based on the intellectual property you don’t own is very likely a violation, particularly in light of the fact that auction sites that sell NFTs utilise the original artwork.

This is the reason why NFT auction sites have hurriedly developed DMCA procedures for eliminating illegal NFTs.

It’s not obvious if that will be sufficient, however, since many websites deliberately encourage users to tokenize information that they don’t control. Other marketplaces are less concerning in this regard since they only accept confirmed works.

There wasn’t much of a problem to think about with the first NFTs purchases. Artists are permitted to produce and market derivative works based on their original works. There isn’t much of a justification for the courts to get involved as long as consumers were fully aware of how virtually worthless the NFTs are.

Have There Been Copyright Claims On An NFT Before?

Some NFT producers have also attempted to capitalise on fashion trends. Hermès, a leading name in high fashion, sued NFT designer Mason Rothschild in January 2022 for using images of bags that were very similar to Hermès’s renowned Birkin bag.

Even Rothschild’s collection’s name, “MetaBirkins,” makes it evident that he was influenced by Hermès’ style.

The business filed a case with the Southern District Court of New York, and Rothschild defended himself by claiming that the First Amendment’s protection of free expression protects him.

A month later, a group of crypto and NFT supporters faced criticism for trying to produce a minted NFT collection of cards from Magic: The Gathering cards, which is held by Wizards of the Coast.

These people may have loved the game and possessed the cards they intended to mint, but they certainly didn’t understand their legal obligations.

As you may have guessed, this flagrant plagiarism of another person’s work is unlawful, and MTG’s attorneys quickly intervened to put a stop to this endeavour.

They informed this group of admirers through email that they had believed the initiative would be lawful, which was their error.

Will Copyrighting Have An Impact On NFTs Moving Forward?

NFTs are an intriguing innovation that has been made possible by blockchain technology, which paves the way for exciting new opportunities.

Because buyers and sellers can transact with each other directly, non-fungible tokens have the potential to completely democratise certain markets, such as the art market, the real estate market, and the wine collection market. This would eliminate the need for auction houses to verify the authenticity of works of art.

On the other hand, there are considerable obstacles in the road, such as the problems with copyright and the legal grey areas that were mentioned before.

A great number of observers have also voiced their worries about the environmental damage that is brought on by NFTs, in addition to the technical danger of link pertinence, which is when an NFT links to an off-chain digital asset that does not already exist.

Jake McEvoy

Jake is a professional copywriter, journalist, and life-long fan of technology. He covers news and user guides for KnowYourMobile.

Keep Reading

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap