Although non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are more commonly known as digital art, they exist in many other forms and represent much more than just art.
In the creative industry, musicians like Kings of Leon have used NFT to release their latest album. In the sports industry, NFTs are created to record the highlights of major sporting events, such as the NBA. In the consumer products industry, Nike, Gucci and many others sell their digitally branded products in the form of NFTs. Many more real world applications of NFTs remain to be explored and one of them is the digital publishing industry.
Many have already discussed at length the revolutionary implications of publishing and promoting books with NFTs. For example, the Alliance of Independent Authors is helping independent authors promote their latest books through NFTs. Other associated items for the fan club, such as character cards, also convert to NFTs. Tezos Farmation, a project built on the Tezos network, even uses the full text of George Orwell’s Animal Farm book and breaks it into 10,000 pieces to use as titles for NFTs.
NFTs created from existing books are typically subject to copyright. However, in the case of Tezos Farmation, the copyright had already expired. The text of the book can be used by any party for free. This triggers a very interesting question: How can NFTs preserve copyrights and royalties on books with expired copyrights?
The application of NFT in the publishing industry so far is mainly focused on books that still have royalties and are within the copyright lifespan. But, there are authors whose work endures far beyond their mortal existence and their copyright; Can NFTs provide their estates with a means to extend the life of the book and their royalties?
Copyright’s journey to the public domain
Copyright laws are complex and vary widely around the world. Although few countries do not offer copyright protection in accordance with international conventions, most jurisdictions work on the premise that copyright is protected for the lifetime of the author plus a minimum of 25 years after the death of the author. she.
In the European Union, copyright is protected for 70 years after the death of the last living author. It’s the same in the United States, except that books originally published between 1927 and 1978 are protected for 95 years after first publication. No matter how long copyrights are protected, given enough time, anything will end up free in the public domain.
When celebrated literature enters the public domain, the future value of the work is essentially reduced to zero. However, there is often left a disconnected community that intrinsically values the work.
States that own copyrights that are about to fall into the public domain have a unique opportunity to create a tangible asset in the form of NFTs from the intangible goodwill embedded in the offline community.
A good example would be Winnie-the-Pooh, a fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear created by English author A. A. Milne and English illustrator E. H. Shepard that is loved by fans all over the world. The first collection of stories about the character was created in 1926. After nearly 96 years, the copyright expired and the book entered the public domain on January 1, 2022. The estate that owns the copyright will not receive no future value of Winnie-the-Pooh, even though the commercial value of such a world-famous cartoon character will remain high for a long time to come.
Just before copyright expiration, the controlling estate has the window of opportunity where no one else has a legal right to do anything with the works. If the estate had spent time connecting fans interested in NFTs, building or collaborating on a project that resonates with them, and releasing the NFT collection before the end of the copyright period, the outcome would have been very different. There could have been a much longer copyright shelf life for Winne-the-Pooh.
Related: Experts Explain How Music NFTs Will Improve The Connection Between Creators And Fans
Extend the value of an expiring copyright
Currently, publishers have no incentive to contribute to the estate of copyright holders that are about to enter the public domain because the work will soon be free. A certificate of authenticity represented by a tradable NFT could provide an incentive for such collaborations.