NFT Copyright, CC0, and IP Rights – Explained

NFT Copyright, CC0, and IP Rights – Explained

by Corporate Trash

3/8/2022

In the Web3 space, NFT copyright is one of the biggest criteria for those researching new projects. When you purchase an NFT, what rights do you have to the media you purchased? Transparency of ownership on the blockchain is one thing, but buyers may not know how they are able to use the NFT media in other applications, whether it be commercial or otherwise.

Many look for projects which can be utilized as their own intellectual property (IP), so they can commercialize and monetize their NFT. But there are many different NFT copyright models out there, from no rights to full rights to use your NFT however you like.

But as more projects arise, we have seen many diversify into public domain — otherwise known as CC0, or the “no copyright reserved” option in the Creative Commons toolkit.

A Creative Commons license is a public copyright license that enable free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. While these copyrights were created in a time without NFTs, they do includes NFTs and the work attached to them.

Below is a spectrum of the various types of Creative Commons licenses. At the top is the most open, public domain, otherwise known as CC0. At the bottom of the spectrum, both commercial usage and modification is prohibited.

All NFT projects fall somewhere on this spectrum, and many with commercial use allowed don’t necessarily also allow the NFT to be modified.

Creative Commons License Types NFT Projects
By Foter CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the biggest projects to first offer commercial rights to their holders was Bored Ape Yacht Club. Holders are granted unlimited commercial rights to their specific ape (and/or mutant ape) and can keep the profits generated from it. For this project specifically, this also includes derivatives of the NFT.

“When you purchase an NFT, you own the underlying Bored Ape, the Art, completely, along with any extensions that you choose to create or use,” the Bored Ape Yacht Club terms and conditions state. “Yuga Labs LLC grants you an unlimited, worldwide license to use, copy, and display the purchased Art for the purpose of creating derivative works based upon the Art.”

A project like Jenkins the Valet is one of the most successful examples of applying the IP from Bored Ape Yacht Club. The Bored Ape “Jenkins” was signed by a real-life talent agency (CAA). Its innovative NFT project has made it possible for hundreds of apes to appear in a community-driven book, and also gain royalties from their ape’s usage in the book.

The popular NFT project World of Women also gives commercial rights to their holders. They explicitly state that any usage including hatred or intolerance is prohibited. One community member created a hard cider using their WoW artwork. This is an example of how NFT IP can be utilized across a wide variety of sectors and products.

One of the latest big NFT projects Invisible Friends also allows commercial usage to holders, however it doesn’t allow holders to profit off of derivatives they create. Just like many of the other projects that allow commercial use, if you sell or gift your NFT to somebody else, the rights go along with it.

However, not all NFT projects are created with the same copyright.

The most liberal way of all to allow others to use the IP of NFT projects is public domain. When an NFT project chooses public domain — also known as “no rights reserved” or CC0, anyone can use any NFT in the collection for commercial use or otherwise, without the need for attribution.

Many say that the benefit of this is that it is in alignment with the spirit of Web3. Web3’s core tenets are transparency and openness. With public domain, it allows new people to the space to discover NFTs and immediately benefit from being able to use the IP how they see fit.

While some may see this as diluting the project’s IP due to wide access, many believe just the opposite. By its very nature, public domain is permissionless — something that crypto enthusiasts and NFT collectors embrace at its core.

Public domain allows creators to add onto NFT project art, modify it, and even right-click-save it to use it in anyway (literally!). The true value lies in owning the NFT and allowing the community to collectively uplift it however they want, which in turns increases demand and market value.

Some popular NFT projects embracing CC0 public domain are:

The CC0 license is what allows projects like the mfer chicks to exist and be sold on NFT marketplaces, despite using very similar art for the collection. One project visualized what it may look like to create a game using assets from a variety of CC0 NFT projects.

The number of NFT projects has increased drastically within the last year. What was once a somewhat open space with only a few new projects is now inundated with new projects every hour. When collectors are deciding between buying project A or project B, one criteria they may consider is how they are able to use the art within the NFT.

Commercial usage allows for someone with a unique NFT to use its IP to build a brand. We’ve seen this with many of the Elite Apes used in Punks Comics, especially Kiki. Public domain also allows this, but anyone can do it without limits — not just the holder. This means anyone can compete to monetize the same IP.

We may see more projects go the public domain route as the NFT spaces continues to evolve at a rapid pace. It will be up to the community to ultimately decide which NFT copyright type will be right for them, the longevity, and the value of the project.