The CC0 Party Is Growing: a16z’s “Can’t Be Evil” License Drops

BY Jex Exmundo

August 31, 2022

The Alpha:

  • Venture capital firm a16z’s crypto arm just dropped a set of free, public NFT licenses eligible for any NFT creator to use.
  • The licenses are designed to aid creators in protecting or freeing the intellectual property rights of their projects.
  • Additionally, the “Can’t Be Evil” licenses hope to help NFT holders understand what they can and can’t do with NFTs bearing these licenses.

Why it matters:

In the last few months, several high-profile NFT projects went CC0. The movement, dubbed “CC0 summer” by NFT community members on Twitter, was headlined by Moonbirds’ shift to this new licensing agreement. The reason? As mentioned by Proof Founder Kevin Rose in his announcement of the news, it is the hope that opening up Moonbirds’ IP rights would “[empower] anyone with the ability to creatively remix work for commercial purposes. [CC0] is a promise by the creator of a work that the work itself can become a credibly neutral platform — without restraint or the fear of restriction or creative limitations.”

But what does this have to do with a16z’s gesture, exactly? For starters, the venture capital firm contributed a substantial portion of Proof’s $50-million raise. With the investment, a16z has shown complete alignment with Proof’s goal of utilizing CC0 as a means to empower creators and collectors alike. But how, exactly?

What’s next:

With a16z’s “Can’t Be Evil” licenses, NFT creators and collectors alike may finally be able to skip the legal literacy required to plan what they hope to do with their newly created — or acquired — NFTs. As mentioned in a16z’s blog post, U.S. copyright laws can be prohibitively restrictive. Upon purchasing any piece of art, whether physical or digital, no copyrights are automatically granted. This means that without proper conferral of rights to the new owner of a piece of art, that new owner might not even have the right even to display their shiny new artwork. The “Can’t Be Evil” licenses want to change all of that, which could signify an evolution of CC0 — enforced on the blockchain via smart contracts accessible via GitHub.

Embedding these rights into NFTs via smart contract ensures that licenses can’t simply be changed after the fact. Thieves won’t automatically gain the rights to NFTs with the “Can’t Be Evil” licenses baked into their smart contracts, either. As per a16z’s blog post, “[the] licenses aim to minimize the burden of theft on NFT holders by ensuring that the licensed rights don’t pass to anyone who illegally acquires their NFT.”

So does this mean that every new NFT creator should jump at the chance to integrate the new licenses into their upcoming projects? Not quite. With this move, a16z hopes to foster deeper consideration amongst users on the legal end of the NFT spectrum. “We hope this set [of licenses] is a starting point for fostering a trustless NFT licensing ecosystem and encouraging greater standardization as the space grows,” they said. Let’s hope they’re right.

But wait! There’s more:

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