Bain News Service, Publisher. Car Racer?. , ca. 1915. [Between and Ca. 1920] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2014707114/.

They are not trademarks or copyrights – caveat emptor!

We’ve all heard about Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) being sold recently. Some have even gone as far to say that and NFT is an “alternative to copyright”. Creators and buyers alike will want to be careful – an NFT is itself a digital asset that records ownership of an asset and is meant to provide evidence of authenticity. In this respect it is like the title to your car – it is not the car itself, but it is the record that you bought it, and has indicia of authenticity from the issuing authority. such as the state you live in.

The NFT version of authenticity is that the ownership is tied to the artist and the blockchain registry where it is recorded. And, because NFTs are recorded on a blockchain, a single NFT can’t be duplicated. Many think that this exclusive form of ownership is ownership of the work itself, but that is not necessarily the case. When you buy an NFT, that transaction is recorded on the blockchain. We trust the blockchain because it is a distributed ledger and its entries are immutable. But what ownership is conveyed by the NFT can vary considerably.

Unlike fungible tokens such as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, NFTs cannot be traded for another identical token. Some well known NFTs authenticate digital art, collectibles such as digital trading cards, and other content (primarily video clips), which exist in common digital media formats.

However, an NFT does not Copyright ownership make! Even if an NFT is sold, the copyright in the work itself, whether it is physical or digital, belongs to the author. Unless, the terms of the NFT include copyright licenses or transfers, the author of the work retains all copyrights.

If you are considering buying or selling NFTs be sure to consult with a copyright attorney to be sure that your rights are preserved and that you can continue to enforce your copyright.

Examples of NFTs:

Top Shot, the NBA’s NFT Marketplace https://nbatopshot.com/

Cryptokitties

https://www.cryptokitties.co/

Rarible – buy and sell NFTs

https://rarible.com/