"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Monday, July 05, 2021

Copyrights and Digital Tokens: NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens, e.g. in Digital Art) and Fungible Tokens (e.g. Cryptocurrency)

Fungible and non-fungible "tokens" have emerged as new forms of digital assets first popularized by cryptocurrency (fungible, i.e. interchangeable tokens) and followed by non-interchangeable NFTs, Non-Fungible Tokens, e.g. in digital art.

As written at the BBC in What are NFTs and why are some worth millions?

"Digital tokens can be thought of as certificates of ownership for virtual or physical assets."

Cryptocurrency is controversial. "Caveat Emptor!" (Buyer Beware!).

As for the newly emergent NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), it is important to recognize that they are separate from copyrights. As explained at the Wikipedia:

 "A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable.[1] NFTs can be used to represent items such as photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files.... NFTs are tracked on blockchains to provide the owner with a proof of ownership that is separate from copyright." ....

"The unique identity and ownership of an NFT is verifiable via the blockchain ledger. Ownership of the NFT is often associated with a license to use the underlying digital asset, but generally does not confer copyright to the buyer: some agreements only grant a license for personal, non-commercial use, while other licenses also allow commercial use of the underlying digital asset."

 Harrison Jordan at TechCrunch in "No, NFTs aren't copyrights", writes:

"[T]he reality of NFT ownership is much more complicated than one might imagine. As a new crypto asset class, NFTs appear to exist almost unbound by current regulatory systems. But when combined with art, there are overlaps to consider. Understanding the legal pitfalls of the contemporary NFT ecosystem is the first step in unlocking its potential....

The NFT purchaser owns nothing more than a unique hash on the blockchain with a transactional record and a hyperlink to the file of the artwork."

Digital tokens represent brave, new digital AND legal worlds and it probably behoves us all to keep informed about them.


Thursday, July 01, 2021

The Exploitation of College Student-Athletes Limited by the U.S. Supreme Court, Leading to a Landmark Change by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Regarding Permissible Player Compensation

At the New York Times in Supreme Court Backs Payments to Student-Athletes in N.C.A.A. Case, Adam Liptak and Alan Blinder write that:

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled ... that the N.C.A.A. could not bar relatively modest payments to student-athletes ... [in] a college sports system that generates huge sums for schools but provides little or no compensation to the players.

In a concurring opinion to the Court's unanimous 9-0 decision, Justice Kavanaugh said it best (National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston):

Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their  workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.

The regrettable exploitation of college student-athletes has been a topic at LawPundit for the last 10 years, as we have loudly challenged the notion that colleges and universities can forcibly impose an "obey or not play" "amateur status" on their student-athletes to subsequently deny them various kinds of compensation for their efforts.

See some of our postings about sports and the NCAA generally.

We quote here from a previous posting of ours as follows:

[C]ollege athletes are being exploited to the hilt [while] coaches ... command princely salaries so high that the highest paid government employee in most every state is a head college sports coach. So writes Matthew Michaels in Business Insider,The highest-paid public employee in most states is a college football or basketball coach, according to a new report from ESPN.”)

The NCAA has now begun to see the writing on the wall, not only because of the Supreme Court decision cited above, but also because of impending State laws impacting player compensation. Alan Blinder has the story at the New York Times in College Athletes May Earn Money From Their Fame, N.C.A.A. Rules. As Blinder writes:National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston

The N.C.A.A. agreed ... to allow college athletes across the country to capitalize off their fame for the first time. The decision will allow students from coast to coast to strike endorsement deals, profit off their social media accounts, sell autographs and otherwise make money from their names, images and likenesses, potentially directing millions of dollars to college athletes every year....

The [Division I Board of Directors] acted less than 12 hours before state laws designed to challenge the N.C.A.A.’s generations-old rules were scheduled to begin taking effect from Alabama to Oregon.