street art

Common copyright issues within the NFT landscape

Amberfi engaged the services of Lance Koonce of a leading Web3 intellectual law firm, Klaris, to answer questions from members of the community.  

Have a question about digital collectibles and the law? Let us know and your question may be answered in a future column. Ask the Attorney appears on Wednesdays in Amberfi.


Q: What are some of the most common copyright issues you’ve seen within Web3 or NFTs in general?


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A: The most common issue we regularly encounter centers on the issue, “Does the person who wants to sell a digital asset have all of the necessary copyright interests they need in the content that they’re selling in order to be able to sell it and to give rights to someone who’s buying it?”


To break that down, step one to consider is: Do you have what you need if you’re creating an NFT in terms of ownership rights?


That can get pretty complicated, especially when it comes down to big companies with portfolios of IP content that want to license them on the Internet at a hefty sales price. You’ve got to make sure you have the right copyrights on that content. Our law firm spends a lot of time addressing that kind of business-to-business copyright licensing in the Web3 space.


And then probably even more importantly is this question: What rights do you actually want to license when you do sell a digital asset?


That can range from giving up all the rights in the piece of content, to the other end of the spectrum where you give up a very, very small sliver of rights to the person buying it. Just the right to display the image somewhere, such as on social media, is a question that’s often asked.


The third factor that often comes into play is copyright infringement, which is other people selling assets that use IP without permission. We see that frequently in Web3, from both bad actors but also from individuals who don’t understand the basics of copyright law.


Q. Any other legal issues? Say, with royalties or NFT collectors not even knowing how to use their NFTs? Many marketplaces are completely silent regarding licensing rights.


That’s true. Many times on NFT marketplaces creators don’t even have the ability to include copyright information about their intellectual property as part of the NFT.


That brings us to the fourth issue we regularly confront. What are the terms attached to an NFT sale? Where is the copyright information or the rights information  found? What are the terms under which a sale happens?


The issue is that in the NFT world, the terms can get disconnected from that token somewhat easily. I think it’s becoming clearer all the time that there need to be  some standards and ways in which this is done so that the rights are clear to everyone — what’s being sold, what’s being bought, and what the terms are.


I’m very happy to see Amberfi providing these copyright licensing deliverables via the that we have created together. This way marketplaces can easily link to these copyright licenses set out by the artists and the rights will be attached forever through the blockchain.


Image at top: Street mural in Cartagena, Colombia. Photo by JD Lasica – but only the artist can mint it as an NFT.


Editor’s note: This is another in a series about NFTs and the law. Check out our blog for additional articles on the subject that will appear each week.


Disclaimer: The information provided on this Web page does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information and content on this page are for general informational purposes only. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter, and you should not act nor refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction.

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