Is copyright expiration the next goldmine for NFTs?

Although non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are most commonly known as digital art, they exist in many other forms and are much more than art.

In the creative industry, NFTs have been used by musicians such as Kings of Leon to release their latest album. In the sports industry, NFTs are created to record highlights of major sporting events such as the NBA. In the consumer products industry, Nike, Gucci and many others sell their digital branded products in the form of NFTs. Many more real-world applications of NFTs still need to be explored and one of them is the digital publishing industry.

The game-changing implications of publishing and promoting books with NFT have already been widely discussed by many. For example, the Independent Authors Alliance helps independent authors promote their latest books using NFTs. Other related items for the fan club, such as character cards, are also turned into NFTs. Tezos Farmation, a project built on the Tezos network, even takes the full text of George Orwell’s Animal Farm book and cuts it into 10,000 pieces to use as titles for NFTs.

NFTs created from existing books are normally copyrighted. However, in the case of Tezos Farmation, the copyright had already expired. The text of the book can be used free of charge by any party. This raises a very interesting question: how can NFTs preserve copyrights and royalties for books whose copyrights have expired?

The NFT application in the publishing industry has so far mainly focused on books that still have royalties and within the life of their copyrights. But there are authors whose work has long survived both their mortal existence and that of their copyright; Can NFTs provide their estates with a way to extend the life of the book and its royalties?

The journey from copyright to the public domain

Copyright laws are complex and vary widely around the world. Although few countries offer any copyright protection in accordance with international conventions, most jurisdictions assume that copyright is protected for the lifetime of the author plus a minimum of 25 years after authorship. dead.

In the European Union, copyright is protected for 70 years after the death of the last living author. It’s the same in the United States, except that books originally published between 1927 and 1978 are copyrighted.

for 95 years after first publication. No matter how long the copyright protection lasts, given enough time, it will all end up in the public domain for free.

When famous literature enters the public domain, the future value of the work is essentially reduced to zero. However, there often remains a disconnected community that inherently values ​​the work.

Estates holding copyrights that are about to fall into the public domain have a unique opportunity to create a tangible asset in the form of NFTs from the intangible goodwill embedded in the disconnected community.

A good example would be Winnie-the-Pooh, a fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear created by English author AA Milne and English illustrator EH Shepard loved by fans around the world. The first collection of stories about the character was created in 1926. After nearly 96 years, the copyrights had expired and the book entered the public domain on January 1, 2022. The domain holding the copyright will not receive any future value from Winnie-le-Pooh even though the commercial value of such a world-famous cartoon character will remain high for a long time.

Just before copyright expiration, the controlling domain has a window of opportunity where no one else is legally allowed to do anything with the works. Had the domain spent the time connecting fans interested in NFTs, building or collaborating with a project that resonates with them, and launching the NFT collection before the copyright term expired, the result would have been very different. There could have been a much longer copyright life for Winne-the-Pooh.

Related: Experts explain how music NFTs will improve the connection between creators and fans

Extend the value of an expiring copyright

Currently, publishers have no incentive to collaborate with the estate of copyright holders who are about to enter the public domain because the work will soon be free. A certificate of authenticity represented by a negotiable NFT could constitute an incentive for such collaborations.

Once the copyright has expired and the work has entered the public domain, NFTs will carry the royalty further into the digital world. Royalties can be generated through sales on the NFT marketplace on the blockchain, or through even more complex smart contracts created for specific use cases for first edition, limited edition, or signed vintage copies.

Estates holding expiring copyrights have credibility, which is a valuable asset in the world of NFT, and they have nothing to lose. They are in the box to capitalize on their current ownership and the potential of a digital community.

Beloved characters and the worlds they inhabit can provide a solid foundation not only for NFTs that can extend copyrights, but also for expanding creativity through mediums like literature, games, the metaverse , charity, education and many more to come.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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