Virtual Art and Non-fungible Tokens

71 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2021 Last revised: 1 Jun 2021

See all articles by Joshua Fairfield

Joshua Fairfield

Washington and Lee University - School of Law

Lawrence J. Trautman

Prairie View A&M University - College of Business

Date Written: April 11, 2021

Abstract

Fueled in part by the wealth recently created from digital currencies, major art dealers such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s have embraced the sale of non-fungible tokens attached to unique digital works of art. What are non-fungible tokens, how is this related to the blockchain and what do we know about this ancient market for digital art? It now appears that digital art can be added to the growing list of uses for blockchain technology now becoming a part of modern life.

This article proceeds in seven parts. First, we discuss the new and explosive market for digital art. Second, we explore the evolution of the digital world and virtual property. Third, is an explanation and historical account of the blockchain and virtual currencies. Fourth, we explore non-fungible tokens. Fifth, we look briefly at unresolved issues impacting the law of NFTs and provide potential solutions. Sixth, we present a few thoughts about the future of digital property. And last, we conclude.

This dramatic extension of blockchain and other digital technology to the world of art and music represents a new and exciting platform for creative expression. We believe this paper is a valuable addition to the literature by providing a readable introduction and overview of what is now known about the likely impact of blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens to music and art. This important development should have a significant impact on the future of innovation and property law.

Keywords: art, Beeple, bitcoin, blockchain, Christie’s, collectibles, copyright, crypto asset, cryptocurrencies, digital art, ethereum, music business and publishing, nonfungible tokens (NFTs), online payment systems, property, Second Life, Sotheby’s, synthetic worlds, virtual property, virtual real estate

JEL Classification: G14, G12, K11, K12

Suggested Citation

Fairfield, Joshua and Trautman, Lawrence J., Virtual Art and Non-fungible Tokens (April 11, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3814087 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3814087

Joshua Fairfield

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States

Lawrence J. Trautman (Contact Author)

Prairie View A&M University - College of Business ( email )

Prairie View, TX
United States

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