Intellectual Property and NFTs: A Grey Area

Published April 26th, 2021 - 06:00 GMT
Intellectual Property and NFTs: A Grey Area
Even though NFTs are soaring in popularity, it is important to know where they stand in terms of intellectual property.

The world is already living in a time when new innovations in technology are being used to revolutionize the world as we know it. Some of which are imposing a threat to intellectual property as more people have access to copy and manipulate information in a faster and cheaper manner. And now with NFTs gaining popularity more than ever before, what does that mean for intellectual property? 

So many things around us are slowly becoming digital. And therefore it does not come as a surprise that so many people are making use of the digital world. Many artists are now creating digital artwork, such as drawings and music albums, that are connected to NFTs and are selling them. However, even though NFTs are soaring in popularity, it is important to know where they stand in terms of intellectual property. Sellers and buyers should be sure of the transactions being made, as once they are recorded on blockchain, no changes can be made on NFT files.

“There’s no going back, you can’t make changes. You can put out a second token but that existing NFT is going to be out there and so you need to appreciate and be mindful of any potential risks with this,” - Nelson Rosario, one of the founders of US Smolinski Rosario Law.

But once a transaction is made, who will own the copyrights? Although there has not been an official ruling or law to tell who has the copyrights, when talking about artwork, the copyright usually remains in the hands of the artists. As a buyer, you own the work of art but not the copyright itself. But whether or not this will remain the case, no one can really tell. 

While NFTs are still not regulated, there are several things that one should keep in mind when it comes to intellectual property. For instance, with the confidentiality that comes with blockchain, it might be difficult to trace if something was resold and thus the copyright owner might not be able to track any changes or manipulation to their artwork. However, that might not be the only grey area there is. If we look at things from the opposite angle, we can see that the copyright owner might also be faced with liabilities if their work included something that is owned by someone else. Which comes to show that perhaps the most feasible and legally safe way to deal with NFTs is to sell products that you own complete intellectual property rights to. 

The area between NFTs and intellectual property is still a grey one. But with more people moving towards NFT, it is important that clear legal rules are set in order to preserve the copyrights of everyone involved and make it a seamless process. 


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