NFT Ownership and Copyrights

21 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2022 Last revised: 28 Aug 2022

See all articles by Michael D. Murray

Michael D. Murray

University of Kentucky, J. David Rosenberg College of Law

Date Written: July 2, 2022


This Article is written by Professor Michael D. Murray, the author of A Short and Happy Guide to Copyright Law (West 2d ed. 2022), and the principle investigator of the Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, NFTs, and the Metaverse Law Project at the University of Kentucky Rosenberg College of Law.

The Article discusses NFTs, smart contracts, how works are registered and verified on a blockchain (i.e., "tokenized") by an NFT, and what rights NFTs convey and do not convey. It compares the rights of copyright owners to NFT owners who do not purchase the copyright to the underlying work tokenized by the NFT. It discusses the thorny problem of resale or display of digital works when you don’t own the copyright to the works. Recent cases such as Miramax v. Tarantino and Spice DAO's attempts to tokenize Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune book are discussed, along with CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Damien Hirst's The Currency, and other NFT projects.

Keywords: NFT, non-fungible tokens, tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, copyright, derivative works, right of display, first sale doctrine, digital artworks, art

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K3, K30, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Murray, Michael D., NFT Ownership and Copyrights (July 2, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Michael D. Murray (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky, J. David Rosenberg College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States
219-299-9777 (Phone)
859-323-1061 (Fax)


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