Published on: 4 March 2022

NFT and copyright

A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a unique code that links to a digital work or good. It can be considered an irreplaceable digital certificate of ownership. A Non-Fungible Token is a unique resource that cannot be exchanged one for one. It can be used for completely digital objects, but also for physical objects such as: Tweets, tickets, trainers or art. A token can be anything, the value lies in what it represents. The value of an NFT mainly stems from the fact that it is unique; there is no other NFT that refers to the same object.


After creation or purchase, the NFTs are stored on a blockchain. A blockchain is a public register in which transactions are stored without the possibility of being altered. This can include the exchange of data, but also payments with a digital currency. These blocks of information are stored without the intervention of a third party. The buyer of an NFT is the only one who has control over a code on a blockchain that refers to that specific digital object.

Although an NFT, like Bitcoin, uses a blockchain, they are different. The main difference is that an NFT is irreplaceable and non-exchangeable, whereas a Bitcoin can be exchanged for another Bitcoin.

Ownership after buying an NFT

As the owner of an NFT, you thus have the digital key to a unique piece of blockchain. So a digital certificate of ownership is purchased. However, this does not mean that someone also owns the copyright or copyrights. So if someone buys the first tweet of a well-known person, the buyer cannot, for example, decide that this tweet must be taken offline. Thus, if an NFT of an image is purchased, it cannot prevent others from downloading and further distributing that image. Basically, an NFT is nothing more than a proof of ownership.

NFT and copyright

A work is covered by copyright if it has its own personal character and bears the personal stamp of the author. The copyright owner retains the exclusive right to determine who, under what conditions, may copy (reproduce) and publish (disclose) the work. If an NFT is bought, the person acquires the economic ownership of the NFT but not the copyright on the work. An NFT is therefore not a ‘work’ within the meaning of copyright. The copyright remains with the original creator.

Copyright infringement

When you buy an NFT, you do not automatically own the copyright to the work. It is therefore conceivable that you take a photograph of a well-known person from the Internet and put it on an NFT and sell it. The photographer of this photo and the person photographed have probably not agreed to this, while they have the right as copyright holders under the Copyright Act to reproduce their work. NFTs therefore make it easier to infringe someone’s copyright.

Buyers of NFTs should therefore be aware that no legal and copyright ownership is provided with the purchase. A buyer of a Non-Fungible Token only obtains a unique digital copy.

More on intellectual property

Do you have questions about Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) and intellectual property? Contact one of our specialists today.

Fruytier Lawyers in Business
Fruytier Lawyers in Business

Articles by Fruytier Lawyers in Business

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