NFTs and the legal challenges of ownership: Who owns digital art?

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have become the latest buzzword in the world of digital art. These tokens are digital certificates that prove the ownership of a particular piece of art or collectible. With the rise of cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology that underpins it, NFTs have taken digital art ownership to the next level. However, the legal challenges of ownership remain a contentious issue. Who owns digital art? Let’s explore.

The Basics of NFTs

NFTs are unique digital assets that can’t be replicated. They’re often used to prove ownership of digital art, collectibles or any other unique digital asset. Each NFT is created on a blockchain, which is a decentralized digital ledger that records transactions. In simple terms, an NFT represents the ownership of a specific asset or artwork.

When you buy an NFT, you’re buying the ownership rights to a particular piece of digital art. This ownership can be traded, sold or transferred just like any other asset, but the ownership rights remain with the NFT owner. NFTs are bought and sold using cryptocurrency and transactions are recorded on the blockchain.

Why NFTs Matter for Digital Art

Before NFTs, digital art was considered to be easily replicable, which made ownership irrelevant. However, the rise of NFTs has changed that. With an NFT, digital art can now be considered valuable, since ownership can be proven and transferred.

This has major implications for artists and the art market. Previously, artists had little incentive to create digital art because it could be easily stolen and replicated. With NFTs, artists can now claim ownership of their digital artwork, which can then be sold on the open market just like physical art.

Legal Challenges of NFT Ownership

Despite the many benefits of NFTs for digital art ownership, there are several legal challenges that have arisen. One of the main challenges is determining who owns the copyright to the artwork.

In the traditional art world, the artist retains the copyright to their work, and they can choose to sell it or license it to someone else. In the digital world, the lines are a bit blurred. When an artist creates a piece of digital art, they may not necessarily own the entire copyright to that work.

For example, if an artist creates a work using images or music that they don’t own, there may be copyright issues associated with that work. The same goes for digital art that incorporates trademarks or other intellectual property.

Another challenge is determining how ownership rights are transferred in the case of a dispute. With physical art, ownership is easily proved through bills of sale and other documents. With NFTs, ownership is recorded on the blockchain, which can be difficult to interpret in the event of a dispute.

There have already been cases of NFTs being stolen and then resold, and it’s unclear how ownership rights will be determined in these cases. Because blockchain is a decentralized database, there’s also the challenge of determining which legal jurisdiction has authority in the event of a dispute.

Finally, there’s the issue of valuation. While NFTs have given digital art value in the marketplace, it’s still unclear how to value these assets. Without a proven history of NFT sales, it’s difficult to determine the fair market value of a particular piece of digital art.


1. Do I own the copyright to a piece of digital art if I buy the NFT?

No, you own the ownership rights to that piece of art, but you may not own the copyright. The copyright ownership would depend on the agreements made between the artist and the buyer at the time of sale.

2. How are ownership disputes resolved in the case of an NFT sale?

This is still an open question, as there haven’t been many legal cases involving NFT ownership disputes yet. It’s likely that courts will look to the agreements made between the parties at the time of sale, as well as the blockchain transaction records.

3. How are NFTs priced?

NFTs can be priced in a number of ways. Some NFTs are sold at auction, while others are sold for a fixed price. The price will depend on factors such as the rarity of the digital art, the reputation of the artist, and the demand for the art.


NFTs have the potential to revolutionize digital art ownership, but there are still many legal challenges to be overcome. Determining copyright ownership, resolving ownership disputes, and valuing NFTs will be key issues in the coming years as NFTs become more mainstream. As with any new technology, it’s important to stay informed and stay aware of legal challenges as they arise.

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