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How Do NFT Copyrights Work?

Does buying an NFT mean I own the copyright? In most cases, no – not unless a transfer of NFT copyrights is explicitly declared by the original creator.

When you buy an NFT, you’re basically buying a token on the blockchain that signifies ownership over an asset. But owning something is not the same as owning the copyrights for it – because physically (or digitally) owning something does not mean that you own the intellectual property it contains.

For example, if you buy a physical artwork from an artist, you can do whatever you want with the physical piece – put it on your wall, resell it, destroy it, etc. What you cannot do, is copy the design of the piece and make more to sell as your own work, because then you would be stealing someone else’s intellectual property and profiting from it.

Under the Berne Convention, copyright protections for a work exist the moment it is created. 179 countries across the world have harmonised and mutually recognised copyright laws under the Berne Convention, and its copyright protections cover works that are represented by NFTs. 

Just as buying a physical artwork from an artist doesn’t automatically grant you copyrights, buying an NFT artwork doesn’t automatically grant you copyrights either. In order to obtain NFT copyrights, an agreement must be made between the buyer and creator of the NFT. On most marketplaces, this involves contacting the NFT creator directly and hoping that they are willing to transfer copyrights without charging a fortune. Negotiating can take some time and may not always result in success. 

Fortunately, there’s a simpler way to transfer NFT copyrights – by including permissions in the NFT metadata

Transfer NFT Copyrights on Mintable

When minting an NFT on the Mintable platform, creators are given the option to transfer and specify copyright permissions in the item’s metadata.. 

An item listing on the Mintable NFT marketplace shows buyers if copyrights are transferred with the purchase of the NFT (as shown above). No additional actions or fees are required from the buyer for copyright transfers – it’s all included in the NFT purchase itself. Buyers can also see the item metadata in the listing, which will show the terms of copyright licensing. If there are no specific terms in the item metadata, it means that the buyer will receive the full copyrights to that NFT.

As an NFT creator, whether you transfer copyrights to buyers is entirely up to you. In many cases, creators will choose not to transfer copyrights if they want to make use of their intellectual property in the future, or ensure that the pieces they sell remain unique. For some NFTs such as collectibles, scarcity is what gives it value. Nobody would buy a collectible NFT if they knew that anyone who owned it could legally make more of it, thus diluting the collection and decreasing the value of everything in it. 

Why should I transfer copyrights to my work?

You can transfer NFT copyrights if you feel that your NFT would provide more value to buyers when it can be used for their own projects.  

For example, that professional photograph you took of your dog may be beautiful on its own, but perhaps it is more desirable to a web designer making a veterinarian’s website, than it is to someone looking for wall art. In this case, offering copyright transfers could help you make a quicker sale at a higher price. Many artists make money by selling their simpler works as stock images for other people to use. 

Even with more complex and original creations, consider how you intend for buyers to interact with your work. That original artwork that took you weeks to complete may be somebody else’s ideal album art. They may not necessarily want to buy it to display in their home, but might be willing to pay a little more if they could use it as a cover for their latest EP.

Whatever your NFT is, consider if copyright transfers will add value or not. Making appropriate choices about copyrights is an important component of creating good NFTs.

4 COMMENTS

  1. If the creator of an NFT feels that it is or may become valuable, the NFT should be registered with the US Copyright Office, which gives two additional advantages. Attorney fees can be awarded and statutory damages can be awarded without having to prove actual damages resulting from infringement. Transferring a copyright of an NFT to a buyer online does not provide all the protection that registration with the US Copyright does.

    • Hi Paul! For a case like this, its best to contact the creator directly and get permissions more comprehensively in writing. While the copyright transfer is already recorded in the NFT metadata, it may be safer to have specific terms laid out to prevent any IP disputes in the future.

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