Royalties and Rights: What NFTs Change for Creators

Artists are often in search of better ways to monetise their productions, which is usually the last thing they tend to make money from. In the digitally united world, there’s a bit of a disconnect between the creators and the content they create, namely the tricky nature of royalties and rights.

Money for Old Rope

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) give creators the opportunity to offer their works in interactive, versatile digital packages. For example, at a buyer level, an NFT could be a piece of art and also represent a lifetime ticket, a subscription, VIP access, and so on for as long as they own it.

Conversely, the artist who created the NFT can have the token programmed to send a percentage of every sale it goes through. Or, a musician could release their music as an Audio NFT, allowing them to take control over their revenue streams; the technology also lets them connect with their fans through the many nuanced interactions that can be programmed into an NFT.

Artists and musicians can struggle to earn revenue for their works directly, in many cases they aim to earn revenue primarily from other sources such as merchandise, Patreon subscribers (in which they usually work extra to provide tier rewards), Spotify plays etc.

The problem is that most of these methods have a lot of costs, take up valuable time, take a percentage of fees, or simply just do not pay what the artists deserve. It’s no secret that Spotify underpays its artists, one million plays will net a musician around $4000, whereas with an NFT artists can set their price tag and place it up on a marketplace or handle distribution themselves.

The Digital Heist

It’s no surprise that some of the biggest household names in the world such as Disney who have ripped off artists in the past, or fashion label Zara who stole an artist’s works for their own products.

Zara’s Response — Image Credit: @tuesdaybassen

Zara’s carefully worded reply to the artist is the same tired and dishonest response that artists have been putting up with throughout history, and whilst the line between art theft, and it’s simply not good enough. But this is simply the nature of copyright laws, especially with the internet being the no.1 place for artists to showcase their work. In the United States, for example, artworks are protected by copyright laws when they are affixed in a tangible form, such as a painting, drawing or sculpture.

In the instance of music, the U.S. Copyright Office states that copyright protection begins the moment your music is ‘created’, which it defines as when music and/or lyrics are recorded, set to paper, or otherwise “fixed in a tangible form,”. Though regardless of methodology, unless an artist actually takes their work through the correct legal process of having their works copyrighted, there will still be those who download and redistribute songs, granting the creator no royalties for their works.

Furthermore, other musicians tend to cover or sample tracks they’ve heard, it’s a grey area that is common practice in the music industry, and in many cases it can be almost impossible to track down these permissionless infringements unless it’s a popular song. Presumably, artists are happy to inspire and influence others, but if someone else is stealing limelight and revenue from your creation without your expressed permission, it’s going to sting.

Right Click > Save Image As….

At present, the art world is enamoured with the promise on offer with NFTs, they are a game-changer for creatives of all shapes and sizes as they redefine ownership on the internet. Perhaps for the first time ever, a creator can send their work out into the world in the form of an NFT, knowing that it is unique and provably authentic, with a whole new way to earn royalties from every future sale of the piece.

Earning revenue as an artist of any kind is a multi-faceted topic as there are many ways a creator can earn money. Prior to blockchain technology and NFTs, any piece of work uploaded to the world wide web is easily copied, replicated, downloaded and redistributed.

As a result, artists have to wrestle with their work being stolen, used for free, with barely even a mention of their name as a credit. So instead, they’re forced to take to Patreon, advertising, sponsorships and any other revenue streams available, simply because it’s quite hard to prove their work has been copied, despite how blatant the theft is.

Seemingly NFTs hold promise in resolving a lot of these issues, but it’s worth noting the technology has already drawn in scammers looking to capitalise on the buzz, and it could be sometime before this very new technology reaches maturity.

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