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Help! He stole my bag… the intellectual property rights.
As of today, a blockchain entrepreneur whose MetaBirkins NFTs look uncannily like ultra-expensive ones current The Birkin bag will go head-to-head in court with luxury designer Hermès. The case could create a precedent for digital assets and copyright law in a flourishing world of cryptocurrencies, metaverses, and all that other stuff her nephew still likes.
How do you solve a problem like NFT?
Mason Rothschild debuted MetaBirkin NFT, digital images of furry bags sporting designs like the Mona Lisa, zebra skin, and smiley faces, in 2021. And despite not being able to physically carry your phone, wallet, or compact, one of the most expensive MetaBirkins costs 100 ethereum, which is over $160,000 and comparable to some real Birkin bags. Hermès sues Rothschild for trademark infringement. His defense: The First Amendment and artistic expression.
Like many aspects of the internet and digital currencies, NFTs are not heavily regulated. The guidelines that do exist are influenced by previous federal laws, but there is no solid framework. Experts hope that the Birkin case will generate a greater understanding of these types of legal battles, which are likely to become more common:
- One of the first NFT-related intellectual property rights cases was between Miramax and Oscar-winning director Quinten Tarantino. The grindhouse insider had teamed up with the Secret Network to sell NFTs of his original handwritten script to pulp fiction, but the film studio, which owns the rights to the film, claimed that it violated copyright law. It was eventually settled out of court (with Miramax likely offering Tarantino something worth more than Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase) and further auctions for the NFTs were cancelled.
- Nike is currently suing online sneaker resale marketplace StockX for counterfeiting and misleading advertising because the virtual shoes on its platform feature the brand’s iconic swoosh. However, in this case, each NFT is tied to a physical item, which means that if you buy one of the NFTs, you technically also own the actual sneakers, even if you don’t already have them on. StockX argues that it’s a quick way to verify ownership for sellers looking to sell shoes quickly.
“[The Birkin case] it will give us more guidance on what to do with NFTs,” said Thomas Brooke, an attorney at Holland & Knight, The Wall Street Journal. “With any new technology, courts often have to apply existing law and figure out what works.”
It’s about the music: Although the NFT market may seem like a crazy fad and complicated version of the schoolyard Pokemon operations, there are benefits to adopting blockchain technology. In the music industry, even if a song is streamed many times on Spotify, much of that revenue goes to record labels and publishers. Many independent artists have started selling their songs as NFTs as a way for fans to directly support them. It’s the futuristic version of throwing a dollar into a busker’s guitar case.