Collectors should factor in the value that additional rights confer

Part 4 in a series about the “Origins & Ancestries” art drop and what it means for the Web3 art ecosystem.

There are a number of groundbreaking aspects to the upcoming “Origins & Ancestries: Genesis” art drop on Hundreds of digital artworks by some of the top artists in the Caribbean. All on chain. All with added utility. Nearly all optimized for gorgeous display as large wall art in a digital or physical frame.

But there is another dimension, too: Many have an Amberfi Limited Commercial NFT License. And some have an Amberfi Unlimited Commercial NFT License — an open license in many respects, but with a key difference: not everyone in the public sphere has the same rights to it that the holder does. 

What do commercial rights get you? Expanded rights that come with your NFT.

Origins logo

I’d venture to say that most people don’t give licenses a second thought when it comes to the NFTs they buy. But the rights that come with your NFT are hugely consequential.

"Summer Daze," a beautiful NFT artwork being sold on a platform where the license is "All rights reserved."
“Summer Daze,” a beautiful NFT artwork being sold on a platform where the license is “All rights reserved.”

The vast majority of NFTs are silent on the issue of rights. Or, the rights are severely constrained and limited to personal use. For example, Visual Art 4 Impact, the art photography NFTs show that recently exhibited in Bologna, Italy, has one thing in common for all participating creatives: all rights are reserved for the seller.

Well, that’s a drag. Because copyright law is overly broad, and you need to look at court precedents — set when someone sues another party — to determine what exactly you’re allowed to do with the intellectual property you purchased. Are you allowed to display it in a public gallery? In a metaverse? In the lobby of your office? Quite possibly no.



General Licenses

General LicenseThe first thing to know is that, unlike the majority of NFTs released into the space, both buyer and seller know exactly which rights are being transferred with the sale of each NFT in the “Origins & Ancestries” drop — as well as every other digital collectible that will be sold in the Expressions marketplace. Our partner, Amberfi, worked with the renowned New York law firm Klaris Law to craft a set of NFT licenses that many consider the best in the sector.

The licenses don’t just throw a bunch of legalese into the fine print and leave it to you to figure out. They come with real-world use cases. Most works will be released under a General License, granting the holder all sorts of rights regarding what they can do with their NFT asset — it’s definitely not “all rights reserved” to the seller. The collector has the right to display the work on his or her own site, for personal use in online games, in social media, in art frames at home or at work, in virtual galleries, in metaverses, in publications, Discords, and lots more. 

Limited Commercial Licenses

Limited-CommercialHere are the rights you’re granted under the Limited Commercial NFT License.

You can use the NFT and accompanying artwork or media file you acquire for personal use as well as for the following commercial uses:

Here are some of the uses permitted for NFTs with Limited Commercial Licenses. You can use the work:

      • to incorporate into merchandise such as wall prints, T-shirts, mugs, mousepads, etc., provided that the combined revenues do not exceed $10,000 and the total production run does not exceed 1,000 items

      • for non-commercial public display or performance for personal use in online games, on your social media channels, on your personal website, in virtual galleries, in metaverses, or in your personal presentations

      • for non-commercial editorial use

    justin croes art
    Two of the works by Justin Reinir Croes that will be released under a Limited Commercial License in the “Origins & Ancestries” art drop.

    Specifically, the license spells out the uses that an entrepreneurial-minded collector might have in mind:

    • To sell physical prints of the Work, provided that the total revenue collected does not exceed ten thousand US dollars (US$10,000) in the aggregate;
    • To display to public gatherings, provided that the amount charged does not exceed ten thousand US dollars (US$10,000) in the aggregate; and
    • To manufacture, distribute and sell merchandise up to a total combined production of one thousand (1,000) items (“Merchandise”), as well as in connection with the promotion and advertising solely of such Merchandise, provided that the total revenue for the sale of such Merchandise, in the aggregate, shall not exceed ten thousand US dollars (US$10,000).

    The bottom line is that if you acquire a cool-looking artwork that you think others would want to buy as part of a T-shirt, hoodie, cap/hat, water bottle, backpack, mousepad, drinkware, whatever, you’re free to tap into the dozens of third-party services that let you do so, and you’ll have the license on the blockchain spelling out your right to do so. Some of the better-known custom T-shirt companies include Cafe Press, Zazzle, Vistaprint, Threadsy, Custom Ink, Broken Arrow Wear and dozens of other vendors. Just be sure to credit the creator on the platform and on your site!

    Unlimited Commercial Licenses

    Two of the NFT artworks by La Ninfaaa being released under an Unlimited Commercial License.

    Unlimited Commercial When you go to any NFT detail page in the upcoming “Origins & Ancestries” collection, you’ll see its NFT license. A smaller subset of these works come with an Unlmited Commercial License.

    Again, the main page spells out some of the use cases. You can use the artwork attached to the NFT:

      • for commercial purposes

      • to remix, including inclusion in AI artworks

      • to incorporate into movies, videos, video games, album covers or other forms of media

      • for personal use and other purposes

    Here, you can use the underlying artwork for virtually any purpose. There’s no limit to the total production run if you plan on creating physical items or fashion accessories. You can create derivative works. And you can team up with an AI program to really go to town.

    Three of the works by Jamaican pixel artist Karly that will be released under a Limited Commercial License in the "Origins & Ancestries" art drop.
    Three of the works by Jamaican pixel artist Karly that will be released under a Limited Commercial License in the “Origins & Ancestries” art drop.

    Unlimited Commercial vs CC0

    One year ago the braintrust of the NFT project Moonbirds received blowback after they declared — after the mint — that all Moonbirds NFTs were now deemed to be under a CC0 license. At the time, founder Kevin Rose, an otherwise thoughtful fellow, tweeted this bit of nonsense:

    “In this new future, true ownership is dictated by what is recorded on-chain, the way it should be, not by a record housed by a government or corporate entity.”

    Well, no. That’s not how the law works, and never will be.

    “So what exactly is the point of owning an #NFT under a CC0 license compared to say, having it right click and saved on your PC?” tweeted famed NFT collector Pranksy.


    While there are benefits to using a CC0 license in some cases, many creatives don’t understand that choosing CC0 means you’re placing your artwork into the public domain and you therefore forfeit any control over it.

    Anyone can take it and exploit it, even if they never bought the NFT.

    To take an extreme example, someone can right-click-save your work and use it in a Nazi propaganda movie or emblazon it on a T-shirt above a Nazi swastika or white power symbol.

    With Unlimited Commercial, you still control your intellectual property, but you’re making it available to the buyer or buyers to remix it, build upon it, make derivative works or use it commercially — as long as it doesn’t violate the license (including an anti-hate provision). It’s very close to a venerable old Creative Commons BY license … which we’d like to see more of in the space rather than the All Rights Reserved license or Your Guess Is As Good As Mine license.

    Look for the “Origins & Ancestries: Genesis” art drop, coming soon!

    At top: Three works by Curaçao artist Isabel Berenos that will be released under an Amberfi Limited Commercial License in the “Origins & Ancestries: Genesis” art drop.

    In our series

    An experiment in blockchain art

    Why digital wall art could be the next big thing

    Why collect digital art

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