‘Wave of litigation’ to hit NFT space as copyright issues abound

Ownership is one of the most critical aspects of nonfungible tokens (NFT). They are a representation of the evolution of execution and ownership of art, content, music, in-game assets, etc., since they are digital assets with distinctive identities that are verifiable on a blockchain network.

However, they have also created a new dimension of discussion about the interaction and grey area around copyright, intellectual property (IP) and trademark laws.

In a recent highly publicized fiasco in the cryptoverse, crypto decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) Spice DAO was mocked for believing that the ownership of a copy of the unpublished manuscript of the film Dune granted them its copyrights as well. The DAO intended to produce an “original animated series” inspired by the book to be sold to a streaming service for which it would require copyrights. The book was won at a Christie’s auction in November last year for over $3 million.

In this case, copyright laws dictate that the copyright is valid throughout the lifetime of the creators and even 70 years after their death which entails that the DAO cannot make the animated series without the permission of the living co-creator, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Cointelegraph discussed this incident with Andrew Rossow, a technology attorney and Ohio law professor, who said:

“The Spice DAO and Dune fiasco was a landmark in its own right that sends a very powerful message to everyone involved in the NFT space — creator or owner. The $3-million mistake that was made proved that intellectual property’s dominion in digital fine art is essential to its success and longevity.”

While it might not be a secret that the ownership of an NFT doesn’t necessarily mean that the underlying copyright of the work has been transferred to the owner, it doesn’t seem evident to all market participants. Rossow explained that copyright law affords six “bundles of rights” or exclusive rights to a creator, which collectively establish their copyright. The first four rights are…

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