Creating, or minting, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), involves calculating the hash of a digital file and creating a token containing that hash on a blockchain such that only someone knowing the private key of a wallet can create transactions transferring that token. These can, but are not required to, also form a contract of copyright ownership. Technically anyone with access to the file can create an NFT. An example of non-copyright NFT is the Hermitage Museum offering NFTs of their works, for example Leonardo da Vinci's "Madonna Litta,"
There have been legal questions regarding the right of someone to mint an NFT. Quentin Tarantino has been sued about creating NFTs of Pulp Fiction, and a doctor is in trouble for creating one of an x-ray of a victim of terrorism.
What laws restrict the creation of NFTs? The two most obvious are:
- Copyright law. Copyright restricts the right to create derivative works, but is an NFT an derivative? Hashes are generated from the original work, but other inputs would give the same hash. However it is currently impossible to do so intentionally, called finding a hash collision. It is similar to the creation of a hash involved with distributing files via the bittorrent network, and I think this has never been found to create a derivative work despite significant effort put into criminalising this activity.
- Data protection law. In particular reference to the doctor's NFT of the patient, it seems that the sharing of the image in clearly a data protection issue, but this is separate from creating the NFT. For data protection law to restrict NFTs it would have to allow the public sharing on an image, but not the minting of an NFT.