NFT Copyright Laws That You Must Certainly Know

PersonOutlineIconUPYO.comCalendarTodayIcon September 11, 2022AccessTimeIcon 6 Mins Read
PersonOutlineIconUPYO.comCalendarTodayIcon September 11, 2022AccessTimeIcon Mins Read
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Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) first attracted the public’s attention in March 2021, when Beeple sold his collage art for $69 million at Christie’s. Since then, the use of these units for storing digital content has skyrocketed.

nft copyright infringement

Despite their popularity, most people are ill-informed about NFT. In fact, the general public lacks information about NFT copyright. Although copyright issues are pretty straightforward when dealing with a physical asset, it gets a little confused when NFTs are concerned.

This article will examine the general NFT copyright ownership, NFT copyright laws, and NFT copyright transfer.

Copyright laws for NFTs

When discussing copyright laws for NFTs, one must duly note that laws vary from country to country. Hence, it is extremely tricky to define a definite set of copyright laws for NFTs. While most individuals want to generate and trade NFTs, they must understand how copyright and IP rules for NFT copyright laws work in general. (done)

Copyright laws open a pandora box of associated topics, such as NFT copyright ownership, NFT copyright transfer, NFT copyright infringement, etc. But before delving into these complex issues, it is best to comprehend the basics of NFT and how it is created, minted, and traded.

Firstly NFT or non-fungible tokens are unique or one-of-its-kind tokens stored on a blockchain that cannot be replaced. Since the rise of NFT’s popularity in 2021, the public has wondered what can be purchased as NFT and what is entailed.

To understand the NFT copyright laws, you must first understand what copyright law is at its basic level.

nft copyright laws

In simple terms, copyright is nothing but the right to copy. It refers to the legal rights owned by the owner/creator of intellectual property. This means that the only people with the exclusive right to replicate the work are the original designers of the items or products and anyone they permit.

Hence, copyright law grants original creators the exclusive right pertaining to their further use and the right to duplicate their creations for a specific period. Once the copyright period completes, the product becomes available to the public domain.

Note: Copyright rules differ from nation to nation, and what appears to be a foolproof license may not be so outside of the place of origin.

One must consider two scenarios whenever applying copyright laws to NFT:

  • When the creator of the original work and the designer of the NFT work are the same individual.
  • When the creator of the original work is not the same person who created the NFT.

In the first scenario, the attribution of rights will be agreed upon in acceptable terms and outlined in a smart contract on the platform. The contract specifies what rights the NFT buyer can anticipate from the creator.

The agreed-upon rights are often associated with the NFT and not the original underlying work.

Consider Christie’s contracts, in which the buyer of the NFT received sole ownership of the NFT as well as the authority to keep, trade, and transfer it. They may not, however, mean that the buyer can claim the copyrights (IP rights) of the artist’s original creation on which the NFT is based.

Therefore, a buyer does not acquire rights to the original work unless the contract agrees otherwise.

nft copyright

In the second scenario, the NFT creator profits by uploading the original work to the blockchain and minting NFT for trading. If the platform and the NFT creator are authorized, they’ll get the rights to the NFT outlined in the contract.

The NFT minting process requires the Non-fungible tokens to be signed by the submitter. This is analogous to an artist’s authorization (signature) on a painting. This is typically done to connect the non-fungible token to its originator.

Furthermore, intellectual property infringement is dangerous if the minter is not authorized. This removes the minted NFT from the platform for infringement, and the NFT buyer receives nothing.

Thus following the two scenarios mentioned above, remember:

  • Buying an NFT does not entitle the buyer to the underlying physical asset, copyright, or any other rights.
  • You must be aware of the terms and conditions in the smart contract.
  • The physical asset underlies the NFT remains exclusive to the original owner unless the owner confers it.

Furthermore, please remember that there are currently issues with NFT trading, such as piracy and other intellectual property violations.

Is NFT copyrighted?

Yes, although intangible, copyright laws do extend and cover NFTs. Anyone who builds an NFT based on someone else’s work should obtain permission from the copyright holder (original creator).

Copyright law establishes a “bundle of rights” exclusive to a work’s copyright owner. These rights include copying, developing derivatives, distributing copies, performing publicly, and showing publicly.

For example, a musician would require permission to sample or remix someone else’s music to sell it as their own. A breach of these exclusive rights would constitute copyright infringement in the absence of a defense such as fair use.

Who owns the copyright of an NFT?

As discussed above, the copyright of an NFT is owned by the NFT creator or NFT buyer once the NFT is traded.

Usually, when buying an NFT, the buyer must verify the NFT and the smart contract contents to ensure license and copyrights are included.

How does NFT copyright work?

Copyright for NFTs works the same as it does for other assets in the real world. Usually, the original creator of the NFT retains ownership and license of their creation. This helps them gain royalties for their work whenever it gets sold on the secondary market (subjected to terms and conditions).

Thus, NFT copyrights give exclusive rights to the NFT creator, wherein they hold ownership and enjoy the rights over the asset. They are free to sell the asset and reap benefits such as royalties, and they are free to confer the right to the buyer in the smart contract.

nft copyright ownership

Under copyright law, the original owner holds the ultimate authority to create an NFT based on the original work. Thus, an unauthorized copy of the work is viewed as copyright infringement and may be treated as an offense against the work.

Overall, the exclusive rights enjoyed by the original owner of the work cover –

  • Reproduction
  • Lending and rental rights
  • Publication
  • Public performance
  • Communication to the public,
  • Adaptation
  • Authorization to perform any of the above

To conclude, NFT copyright is similar to other general copyright laws. However, since NFTs are pretty much new and evolving, the rights are deemed to undergo modifications.

Do you own copyright when buying an NFT?

No, buying an NFT does not confer copyright ownership over the collectible. If you have read the above sections, it is clear that creators of NFTs, such as digital art, retain copyright ownership over their work. This helps them in getting royalties over secondary sales.

However, it all depends on the smart contract and the original creator; if they provide copyright ownership, you will indeed own the rights.

To conclude, you may not receive copyrights over NFTs automatically, but you can discuss the same with the original creator.


The NFT buyer should understand that purchasing an NFT confers ownership of the specific NFT version of a work. And it does not entitle the buyer/purchaser to the copyright, underlying physical copy, or any other rights. Thus, buyers must be well informed about their rights under detailed smart contracts. There are currently issues with NFT trading, such as piracy and other intellectual property violations.

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