Popular NFT project Moonbirds will switch to a CC0 license, putting its artwork in the public domain.
As with other CC0 projects, it means that the artwork can be freely used, remixed, and commercialized.
Moonbirds is one of 2022’s most successful NFT projects, yielding more than half a billion dollars’ worth of trading volume in a matter of months. Buying one will cost you at least $29,000 worth of ETH as of this writing. But its creators have now decided that you won’t have to own a Moonbird to use its imagery.
Proof—the Web3 startup behind the Proof Collective NFT group and Moonbirds—announced that it will transition Moonbirds and the recent Oddities NFT collections to a CC0, or Creative Commons Zero, license.
Effectively, it means that no rights are reserved by the creators, and it puts the artwork into the public domain. As a result, anyone can use the Moonbirds or Oddities artwork and likenesses to create and sell derivative projects, merchandise, apparel—anything.
Proof co-founder Kevin Rose, tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist, posted a Twitter thread with the news today, starting off by noting his co-creation of social platform Digg in 2004. The Web2 veteran said that Digg’s pioneering features were quickly mimicked and iterated upon by competing platforms.
“The default gut reaction is to protect what you’ve created,” wrote Rose. “But Web3 is a chance to reboot and reexamine everything back to first principles. A chance to say that others don’t have to fail for us to win. A chance to be more inclusive and open to all.”
Like other CC0 projects, Moonbirds will rely on the provenance of the Ethereum blockchain to prove that the NFTs are the original creations. “The authenticity of Moonbirds will not come from lawyers enforcing trademarks,” Rose wrote, “but rather from the proven provenance and single source of truth of smart contracts.”
Proof’s announcement comes just days after pseudonymous crypto artist XCOPY tweeted that they would also open up all of their previous artwork to public domain.
XCOPY makes a very different kind of NFT artwork than Moonbirds—their specialty is single-edition digital illustrations that have sold for millions of dollars apiece. XCOPY had previously put their “Right Click, Save As Guy” artwork—which sold for nearly $7.1 million worth of ETH in December 2021—into the public domain.
On Monday, XCOPY wrote that their “summer.jpg” artwork would also be given CC0 status… along with everything else they made that’s not a collaboration.
“We haven’t really seen a CC0 summer yet, but I believe it’s coming,” XCOPY wrote, “I’m going to go ‘all in’ and apply CC0 [to] all my existing art.”
Proof and XCOPY are the latest major Ethereum NFT creators to tap into the growing CC0 movement, but they aren’t alone. Nouns, a novel NFT project that auctions a single NFT per day and gives owners voting rights to a valuable DAO treasury, is arguably the best-known CC0 project in the space.
Nouns’ imagery, including the boxy “Noun glasses,” can be used for all manner of derivative NFT projects—and it has, if Lil’ Nouns, 3D Nouns, and NounPunks are any indication. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and we’re seeing the Nouns aesthetic spread into merchandise and other avenues as the one-year anniversary of its launch approaches.
In fact, the Nouns glasses were featured in a Bud Light commercial during the last Super Bowl. The Bud Light brand owns a Nouns NFT and participates in DAO votes, but it didn’t have to own the NFT to use the glasses in the commercial. That might be an unexpected twist, but it aligns well with the decentralized, open-source ethos of the Web3 movement.
“You don’t need copyright anymore,” Nouns co-creator 4156 told Decrypt last November. “In the same way that academic citations make the original paper more important, citation of Nouns in whatever form they come in—at least, this is our thesis—will make the originals more important and more valuable.”
In other words, in the view of 4156 and many other CC0 advocates, the growing use and proliferation of the IP should accrue value back to the original NFT creations, rather than take away from them. In fact, the goal is to spread the imagery far and wide, like memes.
But there are NFT owners that potentially benefit from that open-source IP expansion.
“CC0+NFT does for media what Bitcoin did for currency: it transforms an adversarial game into a co-operative one,” 4156 tweeted in May, as noted by an extensive a16z Crypto explainer of the CC0 movement published on Wednesday.
It’s a grand experiment, and with Nouns, it’s only been a year. On the other hand, Nouns imagery has already gotten exposure during a Super Bowl broadcast. And beyond openly enabling and encouraging derivative works, the Nouns DAO continually uses its vast treasury to fund projects that help further expand and spread the IP.
The Nouns auction and DAO model is unique, but there are many other CC0 projects out there, including Goblintown, CrypToadz, Mfers, Anonymice, and Blitmap. Loot is another well-known example of the concept, as the NFT lists of fantasy gear can be used as the basis for all sorts of projects—including games and narrative products.
Unlike those projects, Moonbirds didn’t start as a CC0 project: it’s opening up to the public, regardless of what the thousands of NFT owners think. Rose, for his part, appears to be at peace with the idea of handing over the keys to… well, anyone and everyone.
“We can’t change our minds,” he tweeted. “We’re rooting for you and can’t wait to help promote and support all your creative endeavors.”
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