You have heard a lot about NFTs in the past few days than you have sung the national anthem of your country. Kindly note that the content of this post is merely a mirage of thoughts I've been mulling on lately. Recently, I had a conversation with an acquaintance of mine and one of the points of discussion was NFTs and how it fits into IP.
For Starters, I'll clarify a few things.
IP: Intellectual Property, and this basically refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce, while Intellectual property rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.
NFTs, on the other hand, is known as ‘Non-fungible tokens”. They are entirely unique and are one-of-a-kind tokens that cannot be interchanged with something else. “Non-fungible” more or less means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. For example, a bitcoin is fungible — trade one for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing.
Now, this is interesting because IP has its rules that govern the eligibility of a work and one major element/factor to consider is “Novelty” or as others will say “Originality”
A piece of Artwork, signature, sculpture etc naturally enjoys IP rights in the form of Copyright. These items are fixed in a form of course and copyright vests on them. However, when you convert these items into NFTs, what you have is a piece of Artwork that has been, more or less, re-written or represented as a token, with the help of technology innovation (I hear BlockChain, hmm perhaps).
The point is that this artwork referenced above has been reproduced in another form (being NFT). Meanwhile one of the economic rights given via Copyright Protection is the exclusive right of the author of a work to reproduce, distribute and exploit their work for economic purposes as they wish.
This further begs the question to what extent does the modification of the Artwork into NFTs fit into the IP meaning of Originality/Novelty? Or better still is it enough for NFT makers to obtain a license to reproduce from the authors/Owners of the work?
These are the questions I hope to provide answers to, soon.
Also, if you have got any concerns regarding this subject matter, kindly make them known via the comment section. This will help to properly navigate the research to fill the loopholes.