A16z’s ‘Can’t Be Evil’ NFT Licenses Aimed to Prompt Standardization in Web3

Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto venture, a16z, is stepping up its NFT efforts, particularly in NFT ownership and copyright.

A16z has published free, public “Can’t Be Evil” licenses that outline non-fungible tokens (NFT) copyright licensing inspired by Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization focused on providing a legal framework for creativity.

With these guidelines, the company aims to address the existing issues around NFT ownership and copyrights, put them into a framework that is available and understandable to everyone, and “encourage standardization across the web3 industry.” Miles Jennings, General Counsel and Head of Decentralization at a16z, explained.

“There’s currently significant ambiguity and legal risk across the NFT ecosystem, a lack of standardization makes it difficult for NFT purchasers to know what rights they’re getting, and creating customized licenses is expensive. All of this acts as a drag on the industry,” Jennings shared.

The licenses guide offers six types of rights: Exclusive Commercial Rights, Non-Exclusive Commercial Rights, Non-Exclusive Commercial Rights & Termination for Hate Speech, Personal Use License, Personal Use License with Termination for Hate Speech, CCO 1.0 Universal and describes possible actions that can be taken within these sections. 

Source: a16z

A16z clarifies that these licenses might not be right for every project and that they are subject to change and modification.

But they are also “irrevocable by creators.”

“The licenses make the rights they provide irrevocable, aiming to prevent creators from potentially misleading buyers by swapping out a license for a more restrictive one in the future,” the document reads.

The open source licenses, created in partnership with the law firms Latham & Watkins LLP and DLA Piper LLP, are based on US copyright law.

Projects can reference a license, all of which are available on GitHub, into a smart contract directly.

NFT creators and owners have been suffering from the ambiguity and lack of legal framework surrounding digital collectibles. 

In June, two members of the US Senate requested the US Patent and Trademark Office to conduct a study regarding NFTs and IP rights. Meanwhile, the High Court of Justice in the UK, in its first, recognized NFTs as property in an NFT theft case in May, prompting further discussions around digital collectibles’ legal status.

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