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I know this is old news, but I've been trying to wrap my head around this for two years... On March 11, 2021, Beeple sold an Etherium-based NFT of "Everydays - The First 5,000 Days" for roughly $69 million. But I'm struggling to understand what exactly was and wasn't sold An article on The Verge posted that same day states, "The auction’s winner doesn’t get much: a digital file, mostly, plus some vague rights to present the image."

I understand the NFT Beeple minted is unique and can't be duplicated, but if its correct that the intellectual property rights to the underlying artworks, or even just the collage, were not part of the conveyance in this NFT, then couldn't Beeple just mint additional NFT's for the exact same or similar collages?

Was this NFT, just the digital art equivalent of having a verifiably authentic print of an original artwork, with (at best) an air of assumption that its uniqueness and value will be maintained by the artist choosing not to "print" more copies of it?

This feels like a such an obvious Emperor has no Clothes situation, that I'm wondering, are there any significant errors in my understanding here? Is this typical of NFT's or do the tokens commonly include more significant IP rights to the underlying work?

I noticed some similarity to this question, but it's really just asking about the existince of safeguards against digital forgery, which feels quite a bit different.

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An NFT at its core is a token from a smart contract that follows the ERC-721 standard. (NFTs don't have to follow the standard exactly)

Depending on the contract's specific logic, the NFT image/data can be set and changed by the owner whenever they would like. Some NFT smart contracts set the values in the constructor and don't allow the NFT metadata to be altered after the contract is deployed.

If the logic doesn't allow the NFT's metadata to be changed, then for that specific contract/NFT collection, that artwork would be the only one.

However, there is nothing stopping the owner of the collection, or anyone else for that matter, from creating a new ERC-721 contract that uses the same metadata.

For example, without considering the legality, I could write a smart contract that deploys a 1/1 NFT with the exact artwork that Beeple's uses. I would then be able to hold an NFT that is almost identical to the one sold for millions. There are key differences though, my NFT will have a different contract address, a different deployer, and if the contract functions aren't identical, a different abi.

This scenario is very similar to if I forged a famous and expensive painting. (Except when it comes to blockchain, anyone with access to the internet can tell that mine is a clear fake). I may possess the same art, but it doesn't truly hold the same value. (value given to objects by a mutual agreement amongst humans, the same concept applies to currency).

Also, in your specific case, Beeple would lose reputation and his current and future artwork wouldn't be as valuable if he were to do that. Same thing as if a company created a limited amount of something with a certain value, and then decided to expand the total supply. I.e. Designer clothes, cars, watches, sneakers. If Nissan started mass producing Nissan Skyline R34 GTR Nurs, then the price of them would probably drop.

Owning an NFT doesn't give you any special rights outside of those given to you by the creators of the collection. NFT creators have tried to bring utility to their collections in various ways. Some collections use their tokens, to represent physical objects, as event tickets, or even to denote governance rights. Milady has private chat groups and Minecraft servers. Bored ape holders are given intellectual property rights to their images, and exclusive access to in-person and online events. These examples may seem silly and non-important to you, but everyday new collections come out with new ideas to entice people to become holders.

Here and here are some lists of NFT collections with some sort of utility.

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    I was hoping for a few more responses, but your thoughtful answer is appreciated and "Accepted"! :) You largely confirmed everything I was thinking and I'm even more convinced that, despite all the comparisons to the world of traditional high-end art collecting, this purchase would fail the traditional economic rationale. Sep 25, 2023 at 20:14
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    The most valuable pieces of fine art are 1. handmade physical productions, 2. from dead artists; which insures each piece will remain unique and is the essential foundation of ultra-high valuations. Even if it's well understood that Beeple (currently) doesn't want to dilute the value of his NFT's, in reality, he (or eventually his heirs), could do so at any time. Even after 5, 50, or 500 years, an NFT without ownership rights to the underlying work, will still contend with the possibility of limitless dilution. Sep 25, 2023 at 21:14
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    @retriever123 I agree with you, but at least in the case of NFTs, it is very easy to prove which one is the original as opposed to counterfeit paintings that require an expert to analyze before being able to confirm their authenticity. You can also buy prints/copies of famous paintings for a fraction of the original's value, which is a plausible similarity to how NFTs could be priced.
    – Rohan Nero
    Sep 25, 2023 at 21:41

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