a16z: Why does cc0 make NFT creators go further?


Strategies for building brands, communities, and content through IP vary widely among NFT projects. Some projects maintain more or less standard intellectual property protection; others simply give NFT owners the right to innovate on the relevant intellectual property; still others go further, opting to remove copyright and other intellectual property altogether Protect.

Opening up creative works to the public domain also opens doors for a variety of new uses. Earlier this year, an estimated 400,000 pre-1923 recordings, along with the famous "Winnie the Pooh," began to be released. (That's Winnie the Pooh in hyphenated form, not the newer, shirt-clad version of 1961 still owned by Disney). With most of A.A. Milne's characters in the 1926 book "Winnie the Pooh" now revealed, we're starting to see creative adaptations and expressions that Milne probably never expected or intended to do. In fact, an older version of the honey-loving bear has been adapted into a horror movie, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey...Winnie and Piglet are villains.

Capture product memory points

Strategies for building brands, communities, and content through IP vary widely among NFT projects. Some projects maintain more or less standard intellectual property protection; others simply give NFT owners the right to innovate on the relevant intellectual property; still others go further, opting to remove copyright and other intellectual property altogether Protect.

Publishing digital works through the "Creative Commons Zero" ("cc0") license, a rights waiver tool released by the Creative Commons non-profit organization in 2009, creators can knowingly choose "not to reserve rights." This option allows anyone to make derivative works and profit from these efforts without fear of legal consequences. There is still a lot of confusion among the public about copyrights that apply to NFTs, so nothing said here should be taken as legal, financial, tax, or investment advice (but check out this article for copyright loopholes in NFTs, and the creation of how the owner can take steps to ensure the owner's rights:

The use of cc0 in NFTs is promoted by the Nouns project launched in the summer of 2021. Many other projects soon followed, for example: A Common Place, Anonymice, Blitmap, Chain Runners, Cryptoadz, CryptoTeddies, Goblintown, Gradis, Loot, mfers, Mirakai, Shields, and Terrarium Club are all cc0 projects and there are many Many derivatives are created by them.

Meanwhile, popular pseudonym crypto artist X_COPY put their iconic 1-of-1 NFT artwork "Right-click and Save As Guy" under a cc0 license in January this year, while This is only a month after it sold the piece. This cc0 designation has led to the emergence of a large number of derivatives.

                                                                     "Right-click Save As Guy" by XCOPY (left) / XCOPY original derivative (right)


The following Monday, XCOPY decided to go even further, announcing his intention to “go all in” and apply cc0 to “all his existing art.” "We haven't really seen a summer of cc0, but I believe it's coming..." said the artist, alluding to a possible growth period similar to 2020's "Summer of DeFi" when decentralization Facilitated finance attracts more followers.

Why have so many NFT creators embarked on the "copyright-free" path?

One of the reasons can simply be to “culture” to facilitate the expansion of the original project to bring about a more vibrant and engaged community. This makes particular sense in the context of cryptocurrencies, where open sharing, finding and building community, is part of the core philosophy of many.

Creative works live and die because of their cultural relevance. While NFTs may allow provable ownership of any digital item regardless of licensing issues, cc0 also enables "meme capabilities" by actively, rather than passively, inviting the creation of derivative works. When new spinoffs are created and shared, attention flows to the original, strengthening its place in the collective consciousness. This in turn motivates more explanations, creating a flywheel effect where every additional derivative adds to the value of the original, similar to platform network effects, where as more users join, the platform changes for users be more valuable.

In other words, the cc0 license makes it easier for creators to "grab the made meme".

      "Catch the meme for Production Season 1 - Card 2"


However, the proliferation of cc0 throughout the digital space is just the beginning, and real-world physical products are also utilizing cc0 NFT assets. The iconic square-frame glasses seen on each new NounsDAO NFT (slogan: "One pair a day, never change") have been made into true face-wearing luxury sunglasses by the Nouns Vision project. Blitmap has seen their pixel art being freely depicted on shoes, clothes and hats, all from different entities. This is in stark contrast to the more traditional intellectual property model, where a single owner typically controls creation, licensing and production.

The Blitmap flag cap actually has multiple cc0 levels: the entity "blitcap" (level 3) is a derivative of the feature in the cc0 Chain Runners series (level 2), which uses the "flag" of the cc0 Blitmap (level 1) "The original, this sign is actually Blitmap's sign number 84, one of several in the Blitmap collection that is used as a feature in other independent collections. (“Dom Rose,” token #1, is another popular choice.) These tributes allude to Blitmap’s influence as the leader of cc0, one of the first major NFT projects to announce its public domain intentions. And the references continue to proliferate, for example, the new series "Citizens of Tajigen" launched last week includes a version of the Blitcap feature.

Derivatives of this type are a win-win for everyone, not just for original authors, but especially for projects that use NFT assets to build new brands. Derivatives borrow some brand awareness from the source project; then, when people are independently aware of derivatives, there is a renewed interest in the original project. If you see someone on the street wearing Nouns glasses (or in a Super Bowl commercial), you might be tempted to buy a pair of your own, but you might also be interested in buying the original NounsDAO NFT or other related derivatives . In fact, the second author of this article first discovered Blitmap through Chain Runners, and while Blits was far beyond his reach, he ended up buying a couple of "Flipmap" derivatives.

                       Physical Blitmap Logo Hat (1), Chain Runners #780 ft. Blitmap Hat trait (2) and the Blitmap Original「Logo #87」(3)

open source as co-creation


Part of the power of NFTs comes from the inherent composability of the technology, as they are built on smart contract technology. Many smart contracts are explicitly designed as building blocks that can be combined or stacked with each other to create richer applications.

The term "money Legos" was also coined to describe the combination of decentralized finance ("DeFi") smart contracts, interconnected to form new financial use cases. (For example, yield aggregator Yearn interacts with the likes of MakerDAO’s stablecoin $DAI and exchange liquidity provider Curve, simply by calling public functions on their smart contracts.) From the same composability perspective, NFTs and Its underlying smart contracts can serve as a base layer where culture and creativity can be recombined and interconnected.

And cc0 allows all of this to happen with the express permission of the original author - thus giving the NFT enthusiast community a literal empowerment to build new layers of value wherever and whenever they want.

Game concept from HyperLoot (Loot Project spin-off) showing multiple cc0 projects as playable characters in a fictional game

Comparable to the wider open source, especially the rise of Linux. When the Internet was very new, Microsoft controlled most of the operating system market with its closed operating system, Windows. But Linux (and its creator, Linus Torvalds) advocates a community-first spirit, open source code for everyone to use, modify, and distribute without restrictions. This (among other things) led developers around the world to collaborate and create new software for Linux -- from web servers to databases and everything in between. As people (and companies) continue to create world-class open source software, Linux's value proposition is strengthened, ultimately driving explosive growth and further innovation across the industry. According to market analysis firm Truelist, Linux today has a market share of more than 96.3% of the top 1 million web servers and 85% of smartphones.

With cc0 licensing starting to empower NFT community builders in a similar fashion, one might hope for a long-term innovation trajectory here as well. Based on Logic Lego provided by punk4156, anonymous co-founder of NounsDAO: Combining cc0 with NFTs "turns adversarial games into cooperative ones". This is important on several levels: First, decentralized systems ranging from open source to encryption are about trust and coordination between strangers, so providing opportunities for collaboration is critical. Second, this incentive to collaborate is particularly effective in the context of NFTs, as giving people ownership of their digital assets enables them to internalize the results of co-creation through the value generated by their assets and contributions — in turn incentivizing them to first To participate in co-creation.

permission to create

If the cc0 project is similar to an individual's open source "application" or "platform", then NFT artwork, metaverse, and smart contracts provide the "user interface", and the underlying blockchain (e.g., Ethereum) is the "operating system". However, for these applications to reach Linux-like potential, more supporting infrastructure services need to be created and readily available so that people can maximize the synthetic opportunities created by cc0.

These services are already starting to take shape. For example, the "superstructure" Zora protocol and OpenSea's open source Seaport protocol enable open, permissionless marketplaces to be established for trading NFTs. Recently, a pixel art rendering engine was released to the Ethereum blockchain entirely on-chain, and it has been integrated into projects such as OKPC and ICE64. Each successive application facilitates "out-of-the-box" blockchain capabilities, driving new applications to build from these now richer, enhanced building blocks.

While the growth of web3 developers is at an all-time high and expanding rapidly, the total is still a small fraction of the total number of active software developers worldwide. However, as more developers enter the space, aspiring NFT projects may find more creative and infrastructure LEGOs to provide the foundation for the cc0 project and others.

                                                                              Electric Capital Developer Report (2021), p. 122

Composability is the key to growth. Since these digital assets are built on a common standard on an interoperable infrastructure, it is easy for users to plug their assets into a variety of different platforms. An example of this scalability in practice is the Loot project, one of the first to demonstrate the evolution of decentralized co-creation, world-building, and more in NFTs. We share this example also because it is clearly understated or even “incomplete” aesthetically, leaving more room for community imagination to co-create.

For context, Loot begins with a series of loot pack NFTs, each of which consists of a simple black-on-white list of eight "adventure items" (such as "Katana, Divine Robe, Great Helm, Wool Sash, Divine Slippers, Chain Gloves, Amulet, Golden Ring”). These loot packs are released for free by original creator Dom Hofmann as a starting point for community building.

Several projects have indeed begun fleshing out everything from metaphorical world building (lore) to physical world building (game development) in a short period of time, with creators from all sides contributing many spinoffs to the collective "Lootverse" Taste. They've made games (Realms & The Crypt); characters (Genesis Project, Hyperloot, and Loot Explorers); storytelling projects (Banners and OpenQuill); and even level infrastructure (The Rift).

How does cc0 and composability apply here? Because users own and control the underlying loot pack (a primitive that makes sense in many different gaming and storytelling contexts), they can use these core assets anywhere, just by connecting their cryptocurrency wallet. This has allowed them to work on numerous spin-off projects, including projects like Genesis Adventurers, whose special characters are featured in many others, which essentially enable a decentralized franchise that doesn't belong to any one entity.

When will the summer of cc0 come?

As mentioned above, NFT projects can adopt many strategies when developing and establishing their IP. When it comes to cc0, it's the word "reality" that matters. Licensing is not an Aladdin magic lamp that can easily turn any project into a sensation - expecting the public domain to suddenly make something unparalleled is a fantasy. Just like open source software, cc0 works best for potential NFTs that can empower the ecosystem.

Many of the most successful cc0 projects to date have succeeded by introducing intellectual property that can be used flexibly in a range of different contexts. The Nouns brand is as intuitive for beer commercials as it is for physical glasses; Loot Bags are the starting props for a big adventure; and Goblintown's art style looks just as good on dwarves, zombies and grumpy owls as it does on Val Kilmer.

There is reason to believe that the ideal cc0 NFT project creates value-added opportunities for builders, both vertically, by stacking new content and functionality directly on top of the original cc0 assets (eg games built on the Loot ecosystem, etc.) , and horizontally, helping spread the branding of the original cc0 project (such as various Goblintown derivatives, etc.) by introducing different but related intellectual property.

Because cc0 NFT projects typically receive ongoing royalties from secondary sales, third-party extensions and derivatives can be a source of revenue by driving increased demand for the original cc0 asset, allowing business models around cc0 NFT projects to directly derive from these activities benefit from it.

In addition, cc0 can reduce commercial disputes. The obsession with copyright may lead some "rebellious" brands to ignore the authorization to force the launch of derivatives, or even "bypass" the original version. As Robbie Broome, head of the cc0 project A Common Place, explains: "By handing over the intellectual property to cc0 instead of 'protecting' it, it avoids a bad repeat of the next step. For example, if UrbanOutfitters wanted to put my design in On a t-shirt, instead of hiring someone on their team to design something that looks like it, they can just use the actual piece.” Sometimes, adopting cc0 can effectively turn competition into collaboration.

Additionally, the cc0 project can greatly benefit from community recognition of the value and contributions of core assets. Community cohesion and engagement are critical here. On the basis of the examples already mentioned above. While developers can in principle create adventure games around whatever themes and item concepts they want, the choice of many to develop around the Loot bag reflects the community cohesion in the Lootverse. Meanwhile, Blitmap spin-off project Flipmap shared a portion of their earnings with original Blitmap artists in recognition of the project’s centrality to the community, a move that could promote a healthy culture in the cc0 project ecosystem. As cc0 project commentator NiftyPins points out, "It's a smart move that pays homage to the people who built the foundations of their universe. It also provides an environment for many of OG Blitmap's artists to speak their minds."

However, cc0 is not a solution that the entire crypto world has fallen for - for example, NFTs built around already established brands may prefer to opt for a more restrictive license to protect their existing intellectual property and Enhance exclusivity. Also, while cc0 has similarities to those strategies where owners specifically commercialize NFT-related IP (like à la Bored Ape Yacht Club), the key difference is that cc0 holders have no right to prevent others from using the same IP . This makes it more difficult for holders to build a commercial brand on cc0 assets, or to grant specific rights to partners, but the rights introduced are still in the hands of the holder, and they can still choose IPs (such as backstory or spinoffs) that are completely under their control. Taste).

Decentralization and open development are core elements of blockchain technology and the broader ethos of cryptocurrency. This makes it very natural for cryptocurrency projects to build around the cc0 content model - which is built on a foundation of creative consensus and several pioneering open source pioneers - and may represent one of the purest manifestations of open source philosophy to date.

Like the initiators of open source software projects, NFT creators who choose cc0 must decide their role in forming the surrounding ecosystem. Some cc0 project leaders, like the creators of Chain Runners, continue to build on the original cc0 assets, actively building an environment on which spin-off projects can stand. In contrast, Dom Hofmann stepped down from Loot and left the community to take care of it. (Dom is said to be working on other cc0 NFT projects as part of supporting the development of companies like Blitmap). Other creators have opted out entirely, such as someone who recently went by the pseudonym sartoshi announcing his withdrawal from the cc0 project mfers he developed, and quit the NFT space entirely, releasing a final version, aptly named "The End of Sartoshi", Then deleted his Twitter account. The smart contracts for the mfers project are now controlled by the multi-signature wallets of seven mfer community members.

Regardless of the level of continued participation of the original author, the cc0 license enables a strong community to co-create in a way that provides value to all members. As the NFT space continues to grow and mature, hopefully more organized infrastructure and design patterns will support the efforts of these creatives. There may also be innovations in frameworks around value capture, as is the case with open source software. (For example, we might envision a version of the "Sleepycat license" that requires proprietary software products to pay license fees when embedding certain open source components). As creators continue to advance the space, they are developing and experimenting with new rights and licensing models that are gradually emerging in the crypto world, ideas that far exceed the scale of applications today. But in any case, cc0 provides a way for NFT creators to start projects-that is, let these projects explore the infinite possibilities of existence themselves.

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