Everyone is wild about nonfungible tokens (NFTs). The first half of 2021 alone saw NFTs from Andy Warhol, NFTs of the code for the World Wide Web, the first-ever Tweet and, of course, the famous $69 million NFT sale of Beeple’s “Everydays.” Whether this explosive rise of NFTs is a flash in the pan or the future of art and beyond is a hot topic of conversation. An emerging theme from that conversation is whether NFTs have a copyright problem. Copyright is engaged throughout the NFT process, but there is nothing inherent in an NFT itself to ensure that copyright rules are respected (or even considered).
The story of blockchain development in the cryptocurrency space is one of struggle against centralization and regulation. Cryptocurrency maximalists envision a “democratized” financial system, free from legislative control. NTFs grew out of this space and share some of this tendency to decouple from established institutions. With this decoupling of NFTs and copyright law, significant problems arise that affect both the purchasers of NFTs and the artists that create them.
Harsch Khandelwal is the CEO at Ureeqa, a blockchain-based platform for protecting, managing and monetizing creative work. Harsch is an engineering gold medalist from the University of Waterloo and an Ivey scholar from the Richard Ivey School of Business. Over the past 20 years, he has built and managed companies in diverse industries, including technology, real estate and private equity.
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