CryptoPunks Copyright: What Are The Legal Experts Saying?

In 2021, I wrote an article called “CryptoPunks Copyright: What’s All The Fuss About?” to discuss a debate happening in the Web3 community regarding the copyright-ability of CryptoPunks. Since then, several lawyers and professors have shared their insights. Below is a synopsis of (and links to) five pieces that I believe add important context and show the evolution of thought on this topic from the legal perspective.

“[i]ndividuals do not purchase NFTs to own a ‘digital deed’ divorced from any other asset: they buy them precisely so that they can exclusively own the content associated with the NFT.” – Hermes International v. Rothschild, F.3d , 2023 WL 1458126 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 2, 2023) [1]

CryptoPunks Copyright

Summary of the Summary Judgment Victory Won by Yuga Labs

Justin Fredericks
Art House
Posted: April 23, 2023

This thread outlines a landmark legal victory for Yuga Labs, emphasizing its significant impact on the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and the broader NFT space. The court’s decision affirmed Yuga Labs’ ownership of BAYC trademarks, recognized NFTs as goods under trademark law, and underscored the connection between NFTs and their associated brands and creative content. This ruling, rejecting the defendants’ fair use defense and making a nuanced distinction between NFTs and their content, marks a pivotal moment in defining the legal landscape for NFTs and intellectual property within the Web3 and CryptoPunks community.

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Reflections on BAYC’s Revolutionary NFT License

Jeremy Goldman
Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz
Date Written: January 31, 2023

This article examines Yuga Labs’ innovative approach in granting commercial IP rights to NFT holders of their Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), CryptoPunks, and Meebits collections. It clarifies Yuga Labs’ copyright ownership of BAYC artwork while granting NFT holders ownership of the digital art and a broad commercial license. The piece aims to demystify the complex relationship between IP rights and NFTs, highlighting the significant implications of Yuga’s unique licensing strategy for the NFT community.

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Bored Apes & Monkey Selfies: Copyright & PFP NFTs

Alfred ‘Dave’ Steiner
Meister & Steiner
Date Written: May 21, 2022

This paper introduces the concept of Profile Picture Projects (PFPs) in the NFT space, highlighting their dominance both aesthetically and economically. It describes PFPs as a new artistic medium, allowing for creative variation within a template on a large scale and enabling creators to generate a significant number of semi-fungible assets. The focus of the article shifts to explore the unique copyright implications of PFPs, offering a working definition and delving into the cultural, aesthetic, and economic facets that define this emerging medium in the Web3 and CryptoPunks landscape and the NFT community.

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Are CryptoPunks Copyrightable?

Brian L. Frye
University of Kentucky – College of Law
Date Written: February 8, 2022

This paper addresses the copyright ambiguity of Larva Labs’s CryptoPunks. Scrutinizing the contention between CryptoPunks NFT owners, who assume ownership or usage rights of associated images, and Larva Labs’s claim to comprehensive copyrights. Highlighting the murky legal waters of copyright in the NFT realm, the author questions the enforceability of these rights, especially given Larva Labs’s hesitation in pursuing infringement claims, underscoring potential challenges and opportunities within the broader NFT market.

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The Cryptic Case of the CryptoPunks Licenses: The Mystery Over the Licenses for CryptoPunks NFTs

Edward Lee
Chicago-Kent College of Law – Illinois Institute of Technology
Date Written: December 6, 2021

The paper dives into the unresolved legal complexities surrounding Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks, the top-grossing NFT collection. Despite the collection’s prominence in the CryptoArt world, a clear content license for the use of CryptoPunks artwork remains undefined. The piece explores the implications of Larva Labs’ informal adoption of an NFT License in 2019, a decision not yet reflected in their official Terms and Conditions.

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CryptoPunks Copyright Resources