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The Lowdown on CC0 NFTs

The Lowdown on CC0 NFTs


03 Nov 2022

Exclusivity is one of the things that make investing in NFTS promising. And thanks to smart contracts, creators can receive royalty payments as their NFT creations pass from one hand to another in the secondary market.

In this sense, investing in NFTS is far more complex than buying and selling crypto. Creative Commons Zero (CC0) wants to change that dynamic.

An Overview of Copyright Laws and NFT Copyrights

Copyright laws differ per country but follow the same principle: a creator exercises ownership of their work and the right to use and earn from it exclusively. Copyright has a validity period, after which the property becomes a public domain.

Intellectual property (IP) rights no longer protect public domain property. Anyone can use them for anything, including commercial purposes.

What Does Copyright Look Like in The NFT Space?

IP rights in NFT projects are not as clear-cut as tangible assets. In many cases, NFT authors the asset creator hold the copyright, not the NFT holders.

Let’s take for example Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet NFT which sold for over $2.9 million. While the NFT has a new owner, the copyright remains with Dorsey. The new owners can’t use the NFT for exclusive deals and commercial projects.

On the upside, the buyers can still bag a huge profit from speculative investment.

Limited Copyright in NFT

However, there are cases when NFT holders have limited copyrights of the NFTs they buy. Some owners are allowed to create merchandise and stamp their NFT artwork on goods.

Yuga Labs released the IP rights for its CryptoPunks and Meebits in August. This action allowed holders to use the characters for creative and commercial purposes.

That’s the exception rather than the rule. At the end of the day, the main ways that NFT holders earn from their NFTs are flipping and staking. Whatever the perks are to the holders, everyone else is barred from using the NFTs.

With CC0, all that’s about to change.

What is CC0?

Creative Commons Zero or CC0 is a Creative Commons license that allows educators, writers, artists, musicians, and scientists to waive interest in their work. When a piece of work has a CC0 license, it’s as good as a public domain.

This means anyone can freely build upon or enhance their work without worrying about copyright law. They can display, modify, perform, and distribute the work without asking for permission.

More importantly, people can use CC0 works for commercial purposes and anyone can earn from them.

The Argument For NFT CC0s

At first, CC0 runs counter to an NFT’s promise of exclusivity, but CC0 supporters maintain that this is the much better route.

According to them, unlimited access to an NFT will add value. In contrast to NFTs protected by copyrights, CC0 NFTs have a wider reach. People can make spinoff projects and derivative artwork, which all pay homage to the original NFT and raise its value.

Additionally, many claim that the CC0 license is more aligned with the Web3 ethos. The ability to share something, build upon it, and make it accessible to everyone is what Web3 is all about. And there are NFT projects that back these assumptions.

What Are Some of The Most Popular CC0 NFTs?


Nouns is one of the most famous CC0 NFT projects, and despite its “no rights reserved” label, it’s still a force to be reckoned with. As of November 2021, the Noun DAO has amassed around $64 million worth of ETH from NFT sales.

Sales from derivative projects are another story. Thanks to its CC0 license, anyone can create derivative works, which have generated millions of dollars in trade volume. In addition, people have used the Nouns brand and characters to create their books, toys, movies, and merch, which have expanded Nouns’ reach exponentially.


Another NFT collection under CC0 is CrypToadz, a collection of 6969 toad-like creatures. Sales have reached around $170 million worth of ETH. And despite its CC0 license, it was one of the top 15 most traded collections in OpenSea.

Disadvantages of CC0 NFTs

Not everyone’s a fan of CC0 NFTs. There is a myriad of objections from critics, but most people lament the loss of exclusivity and ethical concerns.

Loss of Exclusivity

Let’s take Moonbirds for example. Last August, founder Kevin Rose announced that Moonbirds and Oddities, its companion collection, will be moving to a CC0 license. In a tweet, Rose said that anyone can use the Moonbirds or Oddities artwork in any way they see fit.

While a lot of NFT holders welcomed the change, some protested the switch. According to one owner, the CC0 license is no different from saving the artwork on their PC. Some argued that NFT holders should have been consulted first.

After all, many holders bought the NFTs for exclusivity. There were even others who had to pull out of licensing deals because they no longer have exclusive rights over their NFTs.

Ethical Concerns

Another downside NFT enthusiasts see is the rise of derivative works that don’t align with the original project’s principles.

Since there’s no copyright protection, creators and holders couldn’t stop people from using their artwork with harmful content. Some groups might use an NFT artwork to send messages that incite violence and discrimination. Legal remedy, in these cases, is limited.

If this kind of derivative NFT goes viral, then it might damage the goodwill and reputation of the original creators. In contrast, ironclad copyright lets authors control the narrative.

Suffice it to say these advantages and drawbacks are two sides of the same coin. So if you’re looking to mint or flip a CC0 NFT, weigh the pros and cons to check if it’s congruent with your project goal.

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