Picasso, Magritte, Chagall: big names in art warn about NFTs

In a column published on Wednesday, a collective of artists warns against the non-respect of copyright in the field of digital art.

While the NFT market is experiencing a period of slowdown in 2022, it experienced a period of strong growth in 2021, with a transaction amount of 17.6 billion dollars. In the field of art, NFTs are beginning to make a name for themselves, but they do not escape the question of copyright, recalls a collective of artists in a grandstand published this Wednesday.

As a reminder, an NFT (“Non Fungible Token” or non-fungible token) is a digital title, issued by a blockchain (mainly Ethereum), and associated with a digital asset (photo, video, etc.). Each NFT is unique and cannot be reproduced. NFTs are used in art, the luxury sector or for trading cards in sports.

Several “thousands” of withdrawals of works on OpenSea

Among the signatories of this forum, there is in particular ADAGP, the society of authors in the graphic and plastic arts, which represents more than 200,000 artists and helps them in particular to manage the question of copyright.

“We are not against the phenomenon of NFTs, which provide a useful technological response to artists who wish to sell digital works. On the other hand, as the market is not sufficiently regulated and structured, we want to recall the legal framework and call for the responsibility of the creators of NFT, who, when they wish to use the work of another artist, must necessarily request authorization to do so: these are the very principles of copyright”, explains Thierry Maillard, director of ADAGP.

The association considers in particular to have faced a large number of cases of NFT linked to pre-existing works by known artists “created in a wild way”. The company explains that it has notably made several “thousands” of withdrawals of works on the NFT OpenSea exchange platform over the last six months, in particular NFTs which use certain works by artists that ADAGP represents, such as Chagall, Magritte or Miró or even Picasso.

“If we obtain the delisting of works from the OpenSea platform quite easily, this does not make the NFTs disappear from the blockchain, so that they can still be the subject of transactions. We work with the public authorities, and in particular the Ministry of Culture, so that the delisting is more advanced, and that we can in particular ‘burn’ definitively the NFTs which are counterfeits or proven fakes. These unauthorized NFTs must no longer be able to circulate” , explains Thierry Maillard.

In January, the OpenSea platform notably admitted that 80% of the images transformed into “NFT” on its platform were fake or stolen.

The artist collective refers in particular to international rules on copyright, which appear in particular in the Berne Convention (1886) or in the WIPO Treaty (1996). “In the absence of authorization from the rights holder, it is legally an infringement which can give rise to civil and / or criminal proceedings”, recalls the collective.

With regard to the artists it represents, it has “fortunately noted only fraudulent NFT uploads but no sales reaching significant amounts, which would involve legal proceedings”, explains ADAGP.

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Picasso, Magritte, Chagall: big names in art warn about NFTs

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