Last week DC Comics sent a letter to freelancers saying the company is exploring the market for nonfungible token (NFT) collectibles that use blockchain tokens. The company owns characters such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
The DC Comics letter warns that artists can’t sell art that features their intellectual property (IP). Earlier this month, 87-year-old artist José Delbo collaborated with another artist, @Hackatao, to sell NFTs featuring Wonder Woman that pulled in $1.85 million. Delbo worked on the Wonder Woman comics for five years, starting in 1976, commencing with issue 222. In other words, he was not the original creator of the character. And even if he were, DC Comics would have claimed IP ownership.
The Wonder Woman items sold were three variations of the same image. One of them only had a single edition which sold for more than $136,000. The other two had 153 and 360 copies, respectively.
A key takeaway is that NFT buyers need to be confident that the seller of any NFT has the right to mint the token. In this case, there’s a need to connect the real world to the digital world. It will be interesting to see what happens with these NFTs. Will DC Comics claim the proceeds? Given these NFTs already exist and blockchains are immutable, they can’t really be removed. That said, on MakersPlace, the forum where the NFTs were sold, it might be possible to get the marketplace to add some disclaimer.
In the early days of Youtube, people consistently uploaded copyrighted music and the company had a whole team of people removing them. Now the copyright system is automated.
Another question is whether NFTs might mean artists could also earn ongoing income related to the characters they create even if they work for large rights holders. That’s because NFTs can enable rights holders and marketplaces to earn a cut of future resale transactions.
Here’s what DC Comics said of its plans in the letter. “DC Comics is exploring opportunities to enter the market for the distribution and sale of original DC digital art with NFTs including both new art created specifically for the NFT market, as well as original digital art rendered for DC’s comic book publications.” We’ve requested confirmation that the letter is legitimate but didn’t receive a response in time for publication.
In the meantime, during the last 30 days, the volumes of NFT collectibles sold at the top ten destinations (according to CryptoSlam) was $475 million, of which almost $300 million was NBA Top Shot. But MakersPlace is not part of the list, and we understand that MakersPlace supported Christie’s $69 million Beeple NFT auction. That’s the third-highest art sale for a living artist.