Published on August 4, 2022
What is a CC0 NFT?
A CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) NFT is open-source intellectual property — can be used by anyone for commercial purposes.
7 min read
As Web3 develops and comes into its own, NFTs increasingly appear to be a significant key to unlocking this new future. With decentralization and transparency as the goals, NFTs and their functionality create authentic ownership in the digital world with verified receipts and transaction history on the immutable blockchain.
However, not all NFTs are created to lock in ownership. Some projects are now expanding the vocabulary of the NFT world in an effort to truly build lasting communities and redefine what it means to be a digital creator of any kind, from artists to virtual land developers.
While there are many different categories of NFT, one type of increasing importance are CC0 NFTs, or Creative Commons Zero NFTs. To understand what this means, it is necessary to explore how NFT licenses work.
As more NFT projects enter the market, including high market value IPs such as Bored Ape Yacht Club and Cryptopunks, the question of commercial usage tends to come up frequently. When a collector purchases a Bored Ape, for example, what exactly are they allowed to do with it?
In a legal sense, most creators have only a few options. One option — the owner/artist/creator can give up their rights to their artwork or creation, and allow free use to the public. In this case, they are also giving up potential profits earned from the usage of this imagery.
Another choice is to copyright the creation. While this can benefit the creator immensely in the long run, it does limit some growth potential. For example, a viral meme can spread like wildfire, while a copyrighted story or character has to do most of the leg work to stand out from the pack. It is a more difficult road to take, especially in changing market conditions where established IP dominates everything. The little guy needs to fight to have their new creation stand out.
In addition to the two cases of ownership above, there are a multitude of variations that offer different types of rights to creators and collectors. For example, Bored Ape Yacht Club may be the most prestigious and successful NFT project to date; however, owners of individual Apes only possess the intellectual property of their own personal Ape. The logo of the Yuga Labs-owned BAYC and other brand identifiers (with the highest recognition factor) cannot be used. This means that while Seth Green may be able to greenlight a sitcom starring his Ape, less famous collectors will have a much harder time successfully profiting from their own Ape in any meaningful way.
Some forms of NFT licensing, like BAYC’s effort to allow commercialization of individually owned NFTs, do open the door to broader utility and functionality for holders. However, these projects are still bound within the strictures of other copyright concerns for the brand or creator of the NFT. Enter CC0. CC0 NFTs are here to rewrite the rules completely.
What Is a CC0 NFT?
Simply put, CC0 NFTs are NFT collections or NFT projects designed from the ground up to be fully public domain.
It seems counterintuitive from most of the talk in the Web3 space, which often hypes the importance of intellectual property for blockchain projects in the NFT space. However, there are strengths to this alternative approach.
What does CC0 public domain entail?
CC0 public domain is a legal status that removes all copyright claims. As stated by the nonprofit Creative Commons, dedicated to sharing free legal tools and advice, applying Creative Commons Zero to a work means that the creator or person associated with it is officially waiving their rights to said work worldwide. From this point forward, the created work can be copied, shared, performed, displayed, or even sold, all without permission. It also importantly states that the original creator is also no longer liable for how the work is utilized.
What Makes a CC0 NFT?
In the NFT space, a CC0 NFT means that every creation in that NFT collection, DAO, metaverse, or ecosystem is free for any member or interested party to utilize, share, or build on. This means anyone can commercialize these digital assets in any way they desire. It truly is as simple as that.
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What Can You Do with a CC0 NFT?
All of this still does not address the question of why NFT projects would go with CC0 NFTs in the first place.
NFT Community Building
It’s not easy to build a flourishing NFT community. Social media tools such as Discord and Twitter can help get momentum for a project or collection, but engagement is the key metric. Many projects take this to mean their roadmap has to be airtight, or their PFP undeniable. Unfortunately, creating lofty promises at the beginning of an NFT project can often lead to its downfall. There are too many projects for all to succeed, and once trust is lost, it can be difficult to regain. After all, there are plenty of other fish on Ethereum.
However, with CC0 NFTs, there is a built-in appeal. The barrier to entry is immediately lowered, and many will approach a CC0 NFT project without fear of scammers or rugpulls. Already on a philosophical level, these more open projects are not as reliant on top-secret roadmap plans or unachievable functionality goals. Instead, the goals are reoriented toward exploration, creativity, and fun. This removes hierarchy from the equation and seems more in line with the Web3 ethos.
Derivative & Simultaneous Development
Another factor to consider, especially for creators thinking of starting a CC0 NFT collection, is that the brand name can spread much faster this way. Instead of having development bottlenecks, the community can take the CC0 NFTs and build in many different directions simultaneously.
While the profit will not be direct, the NFTs have a much better chance of finding their place in the overall ecosystem. One holder might create art, while another builds a game. Perhaps the CC0 NFTs can flourish in both, or it’s discovered they fit better in one specific space. In addition, CC0 NFTs can exponentially decrease the time it takes for a project to develop and reach maturity.
Finally, CC0 NFTs allow for much easier integration into metaverse ecosystems. Let’s say the next big metaverse pops off, and you want to bring in your PFP to act as your avatar. If that PFP NFT is non-CC0, that may not be possible. If your PFP, skin, or item is under Creative Commons Zero, then there’s a much higher chance it can accompany you anywhere in the ever-expanding metaverse.
Popular CC0 NFTs
There is already a strong crop of popular CC0 NFT projects.
The artist Gremplin realized the NFT space was blowing up, so he created a huge variety of CC0 NFTs out of pixel art. Many Toadz holders have benefited from derivative projects that spun off from CrypToadz, and this diverse community helped increase the overall price floor.
mfers launched in 2021, utilizing a popular style of meme art familiar to the internet-literate. Created by the Web3 influencer sartoshi, mfers already fosters a positive, entertaining community, without the pretension of other projects.
Terraforms CC0 NFTs give holders the chance to own a small piece of a massive virtual world being collaboratively constructed on the Ethereum blockchain.
Nouns are a unique project that releases a new NFT daily — and promise to do so indefinitely. Governed by the NounsDAO, this community is highly desirable for many despite all the NFTs being CC0 NFTs. It truly shows the appeal a DAO can hold.
Like Nouns, Blitmap also emphasize collectivity, as these simple pixel CC0 NFTs allow holders to collaborate on an epic, ongoing science fiction story.
The future is wide open!
These are only a few of the current CC0 NFT projects. It’s a ripe arena for development, and a smart one to keep your eye on. CC0 NFTs just might lead the way to a truly decentralized and open Web3.