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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Can't be Evil NFT Licenses?

Admit I do not entirely understand, reconsidering: 

The Can’t Be Evil NFT Licenses  Formerly from A16xcryprom,  Andreessen 

by Miles Jennings and Chris Dixon, August 31, 2022

Two decades ago, the newly formed Creative Commons (CC) released its first set of free, public licenses, enabling creators to open up aspects of their copyrighted work to the public for sharing, remixing, and reuse beyond the default “all rights reserved” notice. Today more than two billion CC-licensed works exist — among them the popular xkcd webcomics by Randall Munroe; user-generated content sites like Flickr; open access to digital images of public-domain artworks displayed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; the online science journal PLOS One; and educational resources like Khan Academy and Wikipedia.

A key feature of the Creative Commons model is levels of permissions granted by the original creators or copyright holders — whether for adaptations, derivatives, commercial use, and so on — with CC0 being the most permissive as it essentially dedicates the copyrights to the public domain. Previous copyright licensing regimes were overly restrictive for many creators, and couldn’t keep pace with what the internet and then-new digital technologies made possible. This limited creators and the larger community from participating in shared “culture and knowledge production,” a movement that is only growing in importance today. 

Now that web3 innovations are testing the limits of traditional legal frameworks, it’s time for a new set of licenses, designed specifically for non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. The recent wave of CC0 (no-rights reserved) NFT projects, for example, has spotlighted the Creative Common’s most permissive agreement, but prominent creators (including record-smashing graphic artist Beeple) have used some form of CC license for years, while other NFT projects choose different customized terms. However, many NFT projects omit licenses altogether, or draft licenses that create more ambiguity than they resolve. Some copyright vulnerabilities have led to significant confusion around NFT licenses, and a number of other legal problems. 

To help address these issues, we’re releasing a set of free, public “Can’t Be Evil” Licenses, designed specifically for NFTs and inspired by the work of Creative Commons. The licenses are freely available for use by the community, and serve three goals: (1) to help NFT creators protect (or release) their intellectual property (IP) rights; (2) to grant NFT holders a baseline of rights that are irrevocable, enforceable, and easy to understand; and (3) to help creators, holders, and their communities unleash the creative and economic potential of their projects with a clear understanding of the IP framework in which they can work. Since most early-stage projects don’t have access to legal resources, we worked with some of the foremost IP lawyers in the web3 space to design six types of broadly applicable NFT licenses and make them available for all. 

The case for NFT-specific licenses

Many people buy NFTs to own an avatar, an artwork, or any number of other creative outputs — but the reality is they usually can’t be sure of what they’re getting. When you buy an NFT today, you’re usually purchasing a tokenID (stored on a blockchain), along with metadata that “points” or refers to some other content file (typically stored off-chain, though there are examples of fully on-chain artwork). This fact causes confusion regarding rights of NFT buyers in the vast majority of cases.

US copyright laws do not automatically grant buyers of artwork (both traditional and digital works) the right to reproduce, adapt, or even publicly display the artwork. Without a license or assignment of the copyright from the NFT creator, the buyer cannot exercise any of the rights under copyright (such as reproduction, adaptation, and public display) except through copyright exceptions such as “fair use” which are narrow and uncertain. 

Licenses allow creators to grant holders additional rights, but to date, licenses aren’t applied consistently across projects. Many projects launch without licenses, or with custom licenses that create more ambiguity than they resolve. Licenses (and other documentation of what buyers are legally allowed to do with their NFTs) are often kept off-chain, where they could be changed in ways holders don’t expect. 

These issues are compounded by the fact that copyrights are notoriously difficult to transfer. Even a savvy buyer has no way to inspect an infinite bundle of rights and know which ones a previous owner may have already given away. 

Standardized NFT-specific licenses should ideally be tracked and enforced on the blockchain to provide more certainty for users. Better licensing frameworks have the potential to make high quality licenses more readily available, clear up ambiguity around ownership, and save creators some of the burden (and expense) of creating their own licensing regimes. 

Applying the “Can’t Be Evil” principle to NFT licenses: .... 

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