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NFT Copyright & Infringement: Do You Really Own Your NFTs?

By September 7, 2022NFTs

NFT Copyright Explained - AIO BotThere are so many things to understand and learn when it comes to non-fungible tokens. From blockchains to wallets, from minting to trading, buying to selling, and royalties to NFT copyright. But, by far, we have to admit that copyright in a virtual world is the most confusing part.

When you buy an NFT, do you really own it? If you’re parading your PFP NFTs online, is it really yours to do whatever you want with them? Can you reproduce it, use it commercially, and make money out of it? In short, knowing exactly how far you can go with utilizing your NFT is a HUGE deal. 

So, how does copyright work in a non-fungible world? Let’s find out!


First, to understand NFT copyright we have to go back to the basics: the definition. When a person first creates a non-fungible token – aka minting – that person creates a digital item with a tracking ID. This ID, called Token ID, allows people to track the asset and attribute ownership. It also allows you to view the transaction history dating all the way back to the minting!

When a person BUYS this NFT, they obtain ownership of the Token ID – an alphanumeric code on the blockchain. In other words, you are the proud owner of the 42-character string in your crypto wallet. However, the art itself – whatever the type – is not actually stored on the blockchain.

This means that you purchased what can only be described as a certificate that proves ownership. But, technically you have no right to do anything other than hold or trade it.

And thus, NFT copyright ultimately refers to the underlying copyright of the work existing off-chain! 

NFT Copyright 1 - AIO Bot

How Do I Know If I Own NFT Copyright?

Understanding NFT copyright shouldn’t really be confusing if you think of it this way. Imagine you bought a copy of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. Paying money for a copy of the book doesn’t mean you have the right to reproduce more copies of the book and sell them!

And, the same applies to NFTs! Therefore, if you buy an NFT of a monkey, you can’t print it out and sell it without the monkey’s creator’s permission!


The only way you could have complete NFT copyright is if the creator of an NFT signs a contract that says so. In the world of non-fungible tokens, this means: only if the smart contract says so. Something that has led to a lot of fake and counterfeit NFTs!


NFT_Copyright 3 - AIO BotCryptoPunks

One of the biggest examples of NFT copyright and infringement is the Larva Labs debacle of 2021! Back in July of 2021, Larva Labs created the CryptoPunk project of 10,000 unique pixel characters. However, there seemed to be an issue with the coding that forced them to release the V2 version of the collection. After that, holders of the V1 revamped their Punks and started selling them!

So, now there were two sets of CryptoPunks that were exactly the same! This ultimately did not sit well with Larva Labs and they submitted a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown request. Starting with the NFT platform Foundation for the online display of a CryptoPunk by Ryder Ripps.

Bored Ape Yacht Club & CryptoKitties

NFT_Copyright - AIO BotOther projects like the ever-so-popular Bored Ape Yacht Club gave certain commercial permissions to their holders. This includes developing derivative products from their apes! And, CryptoKitties have also taken their own approach to NFT copyright. They gave their holders limited permission to commercialize their NTs to create merch earnings capped at $100K per year. And, restrictions on “using the art to market or sell third-party products” and “modifying the art.”

In a nutshell, the lines of NFT copyright are still pretty vague and we don’t know how far they go. However, with the evolutions and progression of the NFT industry, we’re pretty sure we’ll find out soon. But, in the meantime, make sure to check your smart contract and stay out of trouble!