NFTs – Copyrights? Trademarks?

Regarding NFTs Alex Hallatt poses an interesting question when she comments:

The thing that upsets me most is the copyright notice. Selling an artwork does not mean you sell the copyright. Unless you say that you are doing so.

I must admit that being an old Luddite I am outta my depth with this cryptocurrency-NFT thing. Which is why I have no idea who to assign copyrights to when showing artwork.

I have noticed that from Scott Adams to Daryl Cagle to Jose Delbo no copyright notices have been attached to any art being sold as NFTs. So the new owners of the NFTs will own it much as companies own stuff created under work-for-hire contracts?

Now obviously Wonder Woman is copyright DC Comics and if someone bought 40 Wonder Woman images they couldn’t publish it as a book without DC’s permission. But could someone buying 40 NFT images from the owner, say Scott Adams, publish those as a book? After all they apparently have a legal right of ownership to those images.

But notice that the “Dilbert” NFTs don’t have the comics title attached to them. I’m guessing the owners of the currency don’t receive trademark rights with the purchase.

Then there’s Matt Kindt. From IGN:

Fans of Matt Kindt’s critically acclaimed sci-fi comic MIND MGMT will be happy to know Kindt is returning to the series in 2021. However, there’s a big catch. MIND MGMT: The Artifact isn’t being released by traditional means, but will instead be sold at auction as an NFT (or non-fungible token). Only one lucky bidder will have the privilege of actually owning and reading this new story.

Notice that while Matt supposedly sells the copyright to this work, he retains the MIND MGMT trademark. So the new owner can publish the comic but not cover titled MIND MGMT. Yes? No?

Says Matt in that IGN link:

“I have no intention of ever publishing MIND MGMT: The Artifact in a traditional way,” said Kindt in a statement. “The highest bidder for the auction will determine what happens next. Will they share it online? Will they read it with family and friends? Will it be erased? Does the value of an idea come from the owning of it? Or the sharing of it? That’s up to the one who possesses it. I don’t entirely know what happens next.”

I don’t think anyone knows. And DC and Marvel and others who control copyrights and trademarks are warning artists not to use their characters to mint NFTs for their personal profits.

The National Cartoonists Society hosted Julie Sigwart all about NFTs. Again, I’m an old dinosaur whose head was swimming five minutes into the presentation, so I don’t know if they covered copyrights and trademarked material in the videos.