Following the recent announcements from XCOPY and Moonbirds. Creative Commons Zero or CC0 became a trending topic. However, not everyone understands what CC0 is, let alone why so many people, especially those who are deep in the Web3 and NFT spaces, are concerned about it.
Before delving into the topic of CC0, it is vital to establish a common ground first. In this case, the common ground is intellectual property or IP rights, especially to an abstract property, whether physical or digital painting, music, design, etc.
The IP rights are typically given to the artist who created the artwork; it happens by default since it is a part of the creation process. So, let’s say, for instance, that Person A created a digital artwork. Person A’s IP rights to that artwork are valid for as long as Person A is alive, plus an additional 70 years after he dies.
However, in some cases, an artwork’s creator may waive his IP rights to his creation. That is what happened with XCOPY and PROOF Collective’s Moonbirds NFT project. Both were thrust under the spotlight recently when they individually decided to move their IPs to the cc0 public license. And this brings us to the million-dollar question: What Is CC0?
What Is CC0?
Creative Commons Zero or CC0 rights means the creator of a project reserves no IP rights to his creation. Anyone can practically use a creation with a CC0 license since it is in the public domain without worrying about getting sued for copyright infringement.
The two best examples of significant works with cc0 are Disney’s Winnie the Pooh and the Mona Lisa. You’ve probably noticed Mona Lisa’s face plastered on many things, from T-shirts to keychains. Manufacturers of such can use her face without getting into trouble with the law because of its CC0 license.
And just recently, a filmmaker was able to create a horror movie using Disney’s beloved characters, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, as serial killers. He had the creative freedom to use the characters in the film “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” because the characters have a CC0 license.
Using some well-known characters on merchandise or film is understandable, but where do NFTs figure in the issue of CC0?
Some people generally understand that when you mint an NFT, all you will get is the digital image. However, there is more to it than that. There are different rights related to owning an NFT.
For example, holders of World of Women (WoW), Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), CryptoPunks, and Meebits NFTs own the IP rights to their respective NFTs. They can use their NFTs however they want, but the license only applies to the NFTs they own individually.
Such is not the case with Doodles and VeeFriends NFT collections, whose IP rights are owned by their creators. And then there’s CoolCats and CloneX NFTs, whose holders own limited IP rights to their individual NFTs.
The above are examples of the most common IP rights related to NFTs. Nevertheless, lately, CC0 NFTs have been making the waves, thanks to the sudden movement in the XCOPY and Moonbirds realm.
What Is a CC0 NFT?
Unlike the examples of IP rights we covered in the previous section, a CC0 NFT is digital content where its creator has relinquished the IP rights. Simply put, anyone can reproduce a CC0 NFT, even non-NFT holders of a collection, as long as it has a CC0 license.
So, now that Moonbirds NFTs have moved to CC0 public license, even those who don’t have Moonbirds NFTs can start creating commercial goods using the Moonbirds characters with no legal repercussions. Moreover, with a CC0 NFT, the original creator is not required to be attributed should anyone wish to use his creation.
Why Use cc0?
Many have discovered more than meets the eye when using a cc0 license. Plain and simple, it is more likely to increase people’s awareness of an NFT project’s brand. How so?
Those NFTs out there for the world to see and unrestricted by copyright can freely propagate and, as mentioned previously, increase people’s awareness of a project. As a result, the NFT project’s value would increase. Moreover, using a CC0 license saves an NFT creator from logistical and legal problems when dealing with IP theft since, technically, there is “nothing to steal.”
Some of today’s famous NFT projects are starting to use a CC0 license. Goblintown, one of 2022’s emerging top projects, gives full CC0 rights to its artwork. Hence, it is not surprising that copycats of the project have spread like wildfire. In only a matter of days, derivatives of Goblintown took over OpenSea’s volume chart, making up 43.7% of the total trade volume on the platform on June 2, 2022.
Why does Goblintown have such a pull on people? Apart from the cultural significance that this unique NFT project has somehow achieved in the NFT ecosystem, it’s the CC0 license that appeals to most NFT enthusiasts.
It has also been proven that a CC0 copyright can play out well. Consider the Nouns NFT project, among the first to experiment with Creative Commons Zero. Members of the community voted on different proposals in the Nouns DAO regarding using NFTs in the community.
Afterward, community members approved several projects that saw Nouns NFTs in partnership with Budweiser. However, that’s not all. Nouns NFT holders put out a documentary, created a Nouns coffee brand, and donated money in support of Ukrainian refugees, all thanks to the cc0 copyright. As a result, the Nouns DAO treasury accumulated Ξ 26,270, or nearly $45 million.
In May, one of the Nouns’ founders, Punk4156, a long-time advocate for the benefits of cc0, even took to Twitter to express his feelings about it.
The Nouns NFT project’s undeniable success poses an utterly convincing argument for the benefits of CC0 licensing.
The Pros and Cons of CC0 NFTs
Suffice it to say, the pros and cons of CC0 would depend on the goals of a creator or NFT holder for his NFTs. Essentially, it’s all a matter of how one views the subject.
If you own a CC0 NFT, you have every right to commercialize the artwork any way you want. You are not restricted within a particular zone. You don’t even have to ask permission from the project owner or artist to use the NFT.
The downside is that anyone else can use it, too. Let’s say you purchased an NFT with CC0 copyright for Ξ 500. Such is an investment for and in itself. Nevertheless, because the NFT’s IP is in the public domain, anyone can right-click and save the same NFT and use it whichever way he pleases. And you know what? He will have as much right to it as you do. Imagine that! For most of his life, a total stranger unfamiliar with that NFT collection could use its branding for his own business.
On the part of the project owners, having a CC0 license means they will have no control over their branding. That’s because practically anyone, even a young child who knows how to right-click and save, can use the creation in any way deemed fit.
By comparison, having full commercial IP rights allow only the holder (the same one who purchased the NFT) of the NFT to use it any way he wants. It opens an entire range of options for licensing the IP to others.
As mentioned earlier in this article, one NFT project that offers commercial IP rights to its holders is BAYC. Many apes have already licensed their NFT IP for films, TV shows, music videos, and fashion. Such is the freedom that comes with owning full IP rights.
Can We Assume a cc0 Summer?
The short answer is, perhaps. This year has seen many CC0 NFT projects shooting up in popularity. Thanks to CC0 licensing, many game developers, artists, and collectors enjoy the liberty of using their NFTs in whichever way they want.
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned how prolific digital artist XCOPY decided to shift to cc0 for all his NFTs. It means holders will receive the IP rights to each piece of XCOPY’s artworks; thus, it could inspire many emerging artists and projects.
What about the Moonbirds NFT project? Earlier this month, PROOF Collective, the brains behind the Moonbirds NFT project, announced that the license for Moonbirds became CC0. It caused an uproar among holders because the popular project revoked each holder’s commercial rights to the NFTs.
Moreover, the team immediately received backlash from community members. Why? Because the shift to CC0 went against the initial promises that the Moonbirds team made to minters.
Do Moonbirds NFT holders have the right to impale team Moonbirds and Kevin Rose, PROOF Collective’s founder, because of this sudden move? Simply put, no. Despite the community’s disapproval, the team’s decision is legal. How?
Per Moonbirds’ terms of service, NFT holders are subject to whatever the project’s creators decide in the context of commercial rights regarding the image of the NFTs. Plain and simple, the creators of Moonbirds could legally adjust the license without the community’s consent.
In conclusion, we will probably see an influx of CC0 NFT projects soon. The new trend eases NFT distribution by allowing NFT holders to use their digital assets as they please. Even top artists were convinced to embrace the change, too, given that some of the most successful projects on the market today offer CC0 collectibles.
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