As the NFT space has matured, so too have the creators behind some of the biggest projects. The newest class of NFTs like goblintown.wtf and Dead Freaks Resurrection are changing up the game by utilizing a new form of licensing known as CC0. But what IS CC0? And is it actually better for NFTs? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of CC0 Licensing so you can make an informed decision when choosing your next project.
What Is CC0?
While new to the NFT market, CC0 itself isn’t new. As part of the Creative Commons Toolkit, the CC0 license is considered a “no copyright reserved” or “no rights reserved” style of licensing. For the average person, this means that anyone has the right to do basically whatever they want with the intellectual property, without having to worry about copyright issues or lawsuits. It essentially designates that the creator has waived all rights and the object of the license is effectively in the public domain.
So How Does CC0 Apply to NFTs?
On the surface, CC0 seems like a great match for NFTs. Creators and artists behind many of the top NFT collections are typically huge proponents of decentralization and open source concepts. NFTs themselves are usually registered on a blockchain like Ethereum or Polygon , and the artwork is often stored on IPFS to create a more distributed system of storage. These are all philosophically in line with the ideas behind CC0.
In fact, CC0 has a lot of benefits for NFT creators and artists. Let’s take a look at what is probably the most important one: decentralization.
CC0, NFTs, and Decentralization
When it comes to licensing, CC0 is tailor-made for decentralization and DAOs in particular. Every member of a community has equal rights to do whatever they want with the intellectual property. In most cases, that includes not only your NFTs, but also the brand itself. Want to make a game based on the IP and utilize NFTs from the collection as characters? Fair use. Want to create a new collection of NFTs based on the existing collection but with funny mustaches? Yup, fair use. The possibilities are endless. With CC0, you can do almost anything you want with the IP and it falls within fair use, so you won’t have to worry about DMCA issues or OpenSea banning your collection.
This can be great for the development of a brand when you have a strong community of creatives all involved as individuals working towards various goals that push the brand forward. But what if you don’t? Now let’s take some time to consider the potential pitfalls that CC0 projects face when it comes to creating a successful brand.
Decentralization Isn’t Always a Good Thing
I could write an entire article on the downsides of DAOs in the NFT space (and probably will). While decentralization is great at face value and works well for things where you don’t want intermediaries, it can be a nightmare under different circumstances. With NFTs in particular, decentralized development or having a DAO at the center of the project can be a death knell in a lot of ways. CC0 as a license only exacerbates these negatives by empowering anyone to take control of the public image of a brand.
Why is that bad? Well, to be honest, most NFT collectors are idiots and have no idea how to grow or develop a brand. In fact, some may actively take an approach that is negative or detrimental to the brand. With BAYC, we saw a lot of accusations that they included Nazi and racist imagery, which they have vehemently denied. But what if someone does it intentionally and openly? What if someone takes your CC0 NFT brand and turns it into a series of pornographic images? What if you want to build a family-friendly brand but someone wants to put your Cool Cat on a brand of cannabis?
When it comes to CC0, all of these are fair use, and you have no real recourse to stop someone from doing whatever they want with the brand, or in some cases, even the NFTs you personally own. In this case, entrusting the ability to utilize the brand for anything and everything might not always be in the best interest of the community. In fact, it might be the worst possible outcome, so tread lightly here.
Is CC0 Good for NFTs?
This is only my personal opinion, but I would argue that CC0 as it stands is bad for most NFT collections. Part of what allows brands to grow and gain a strong following is consistency in their image. That means that if a brand is family-friendly, it stays family-friendly. If a brand is focused on edgy men’s grooming, it sticks to edgy men’s grooming. With CC0 NFT Collections, this consistency of branding cannot exist, and your family-friendly cartoon avatars might end up being the new face of revenge porn. It just doesn’t allow for a cohesive experience for users in a way that I think leads to success.
Could it work for a few outliers? Yeah, probably. But I don’t think it will work for the majority of the industry. There are too many variables at play, and a significant chance that a bad actor (or someone who is simply an idiot) might do something that harms the brand as a whole. If it were up to me, I’d want someone with the background and knowledge necessary to make the brand a success at the helm. But hey, I’m just one guy.
What do you think? Do you want more collections to go the CC0 route? Would you prefer that your collections focus on decentralization and DAOs? Let us know your thoughts!