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Are NFTs and Crypto Art Protected by Copyright?
Are NFTs and Crypto Art Protected by Copyright?

The short answer is yes; NFTs are protected by copyright law. Read more!

Lauren avatar
Written by Lauren
Updated over a week ago


As NFTs and the world of cryptoart continue to grow, unveiling new rising stars and unmatched digital artwork daily, the legal questions surrounding their copyright protections also grow.

While copyright law has existed for centuries, NFTs and copyright challenges and opportunities are a new phenomenon. Understanding how NFT and copyright fit together in the same sentence is important. Like any other original art or creative expression, NFTs and cryptoart are generally protected by copyright law.

Disclaimer: These Guidelines and Policies are not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Reliance on this guide does not form an attorney-client relationship. These Guidelines and Policies primarily characterize and rely on United States law unless stated otherwise. There is no guarantee as to the accuracy of the information herein. If you have a legal question about your legal rights, you should contact an attorney and not any members of the SuperRare team.

What Is a “Copyright?”

Regarding art, a copyright is a legal right granted to authors and artists for “original works of authorship.” In general, copyrights can be obtained for all sorts of works, from paintings and drawings to sculptures, poems, lyrics, and sounds! Basically, anything considered digital art can be copyrighted. Copyright protection allows artists to market, exploit, and protect their creative efforts. A copyright owner has the right to prevent the unauthorized reproduction, display, distribution, and performance of original works of art. On the other hand, only the copyright owner can authorize such uses.

Are NFTs Protected by Copyright?

The short answer is yes; NFTs are protected by copyright law. Copyright law protects original authorship works, including digital works such as NFTs and crypto art. However, copyright protection only applies to the original expression of an idea, not the idea itself. This means that while the copyright holder of an NFT can prevent others from copying their work, they cannot prevent others from creating similar works.

If I Buy an NFT Do I Own the Copyright?

Ownership of a copyright is separate and distinct from ownership of any material object or digital asset (in which the work is embodied or embedded). What that means is that whether it’s a tangible painting or an NFT, the creator typically owns the copyright even after a sale.

According to SuperRare’s Terms of Service, artists do not lose copyright protection over works when they are sold on the SuperRare marketplace unless the parties expressly agree in writing to convey a copyright interest as part of the transfer. As further explained in our Terms of Service, collectors only have a property interest in lawfully purchased NFTs but do not have a copyright interest in the underlying artworks. The artist reserves all exclusive copyrights to the underlying copyrights.

Can Artists Make Commercial Use of SuperRare Artworks After They Sell?

As the copyright owners of their creations, SuperRare artists possess the sole authority to utilize their artworks commercially and all other exclusive rights granted by copyright law, even after selling their pieces on the SuperRare platform.

As a result, artists are granted the freedom to promote, produce, and license the artwork underlying minted NFTs. However, artists are not permitted to sell other digital works or NFTs if an identical work is sold or listed for sale on the SuperRare marketplace.

Can Collectors Make Commercial Use of SuperRare Artworks After They Sell?

Collectors have the exclusive right to sell, trade, or transfer their SuperRare items. However, they may NOT make “commercial use” of the underlying work.

For example, collectors may not sell copies of the work they’ve purchased or mint additional NFTs based on the work. In addition, they may not sell access to the work, sell derivative works embodying the work, or otherwise commercially exploit the work. As detailed further in our Terms of Service, collectors receive a limited license only to display artworks underlying SuperRare items legally owned and properly obtained.

Artists Can Only Mint Original, Authorized, and Non-Infringing Works

SuperRare can only maintain its standing as the premier platform for fine digital art if collectors continue to have high confidence in the integrity of the marketplace. Collectors should (and can!) be confident that every item on the SuperRare marketplace is an original and lawfully minted creation that does not infringe on the intellectual property rights of others.

As an Artist, you can improve your own reputation and add value to the SuperRare community by following these guidelines:

  1. Mint only original, non-infringing works that you actually and personally created

  2. Mint only works that you have the legal authority to mint (i.e., you are the owner of the copyright, and you have not transferred the copyright to another)

  3. Refrain from minting stolen, knock-off, or infringing content

  4. Refrain from minting content created by other SuperRare Artists unless expressly permitted

  5. If your work incorporates unoriginal content, make sure that either the appropriated content is in the public domain or you have a valid “fair use” defense

It’s also important to note that artists are responsible for making sure their own art doesn’t have any infringing content before minting to protect their own reputations and ensure the integrity of the marketplace. While SuperRare has no power to prevent an infringing work from being minted, it can take down infringing works, revoke minting privileges, or otherwise restrict the use of the SuperRare platform, particularly when an artist posts infringing content or violates the Guidelines. This is true regardless of whether or not a “fair use” exception may apply.

NFT Copyright Issues and Infringement

To ensure the uniqueness of each SuperRare NFT, artists are not allowed to mint multiple NFTs for the same work. This is to maintain the rarity and value of digital art and protect the artist’s reputation. Violating this rule may result in penalties, including suspension of minting privileges and account deletion.

SuperRare Labs respects intellectual property rights and will promptly investigate any copyright infringement claims. Pixura will use reasonable efforts to investigate such notices of alleged infringement and will take appropriate action under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and SuperRare’s terms. Collectors assume the risk of the NFT being taken down due to a valid DMCA notice.

For more details about the rules for minting works on the SuperRare platform, check out our Terms of Service page.

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