NFTs and Intellectual Property Rights

The term “non-fungible token“, or “NFT” in a more accessible language, refers to a certain category of digital goods whose existence is strictly related to blockchain platforms.

What’s so special about this type of goods?

  1. The digital form : NFTs are a category of goods that do not enjoy a tangible existence, they “exist” only in the digital environment, on a certain type of platforms. With this feature, NFTs can be used to represent a variety of digital content, such as photos, videos, audio files, or any other type of digital file.
  2. The ”non-fungible” feature : This assumes that NFTs have unique properties, they cannot be replicated or replaced with something similar. It is important to note that NFTs should not be confused with cryptocurrencies. NFTs can be traded exactly like cryptocurrencies but we should not assume that they are the same thing. A bitcoin is worth the same as any other bitcoin.We cannot say the same about a work of art in digital format, it is unique and valuable through this feature.

What does it mean to own an NFT from the perspective of intellectual property rights and what are the aspects that we need to consider when we want to buy an NFT?

Owning an NFT means that we can prove that we have a genuine digital asset. It basically means that we have a kind of certificate of authenticity that certifies that we own a certain digital asset. Thus, many NFT buyers simply buy them for the sake of ownership, in which case we can assimilate an NFT with any other art object or collector’s item.

Another extremely important aspect in this context is that the acquisition of an NFT does not confer on us an exclusive right over the property in question. Let’s say we buy an NFT that comes in the form of a work of art (in digital format, of course), when we buy the NFT,  what we are actually buying  are some rights in connection with the work of art in question, not the work of art itself. The work of art and the NFT associated with it being two different issues.

What differentiates us, when we purchase an NFT, from a person who owns a simple copy of the work in question?

The format in which the work is transferred to us by its author. Through the NFT we have a digital certificate attesting that the work was transmitted by its author to us, as owners of the NFT. Through the NFT we have a digital certificate attesting that the work was transmitted by its author to us, as owners of the NFT.

The creator of the work from which an NFT originates will still own the rights to the original creation. Unless these rights are explicitly stated in an NFT, the purchaser does not implicitly receive ownership. Also, once we buy an NFT, we are the sole owner of that digital asset until we decide to sell it. The most common storage method is the digital wallet (eg Metamask, Trustwallet, etc.).