A16Z launched open source NFT licenses “Can’t be evil”.

The “a16z crypto” project launched open source licenses called “Can’t Be Evil”, inspired by the work of Creative Commons and designed specifically for NFT collections.

a16z crypto, is a venture capital fund that invests in startups related to the cryptocurrency and web3 industry. Currently, they have announced a $4.5 billion fund which brings the total fund raised to over $7.7 billion USD.

Many of us agree that the third era of the Internet has arrived, since from 1990 to 2005 it was all about open, decentralized protocols that accumulated users and developers.

The second era of the Internet, which was approximately between 2005 and 2020, saw the creation of 100% centralized and isolated services, where the beneficiaries were none other than a handful of large technology companies (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, among others).

From 2021 for many, the third era of the Internet has begun, with the innovation and technology of the web3, which besides being decentralized is also governed by the community, as it happened in the first era, but now with the creation of advanced and modern functionalities that emerged precisely in the second era.

As a consequence of this new era of the Internet together with web3, NFTs, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, among many other services, the limits of traditional legal frameworks have been tested, as several laws and rights have become obsolete in the face of technological innovations and advances.

a16z crypto wants to provide solutions to this fast growing ecosystem and that is why it launched a set of licenses, specifically designed for non fungible tokens or NFTs. Many CC0 (no rights reserved) projects have been created in the NFT industry. For its part, Creative Commons (CC), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting access to and sharing of culture by developing free legal instruments to facilitate the use and creativity of knowledge, was the motivation for a16z crypto for NFT projects to stop dispensing with licenses altogether or using existing ones that add more ambiguity than they can really help.

The goal of a16z is to address copyright vulnerabilities that have generated significant confusion around NFT licenses and have also created legal problems.

To help the NFT ecosystem they have launched free public licenses called “Can’t Be Evil”, designed exclusively for non-fungible tokens and help the community to:

  • Protect (or release) intellectual property rights to NFT creators.

  • Provide holders of TFNs with a foundation of rights that are unwaivable, enforceable and easy to understand.

  • Helping creators, owners and communities to unlock the full creative and economic potential of their projects with a clear understanding of intellectual property.

In order to achieve effective licensing, a16z crypto has found that early stage projects do not have access to legal recourse and have therefore worked with leading intellectual property lawyers in the web space3 to achieve six types of enforceable NFT licenses available to all.

Cases to which these licenses for NFTs may be applied

Many people are buying NFTs to own avatars, NFT artwork or non-fungible tokens that provide exclusivity and benefits for acquiring them. However, many users may not be informed of what they are actually getting, as generally when buying an NFT nowadays, you are buying a TokenID stored on the blockchain, along with the metadata of a content file (PNG, MP3, GIF, among many more), which may or may not be stored outside the blockchain. This creates confusion regarding the actual rights of buyers of NFTs in most cases.

For example, in the United States, copyright law does not automatically grant purchasers of artwork (physical or digital) the right to reproduce, adapt or publicly display that work. If or if a license or assignment of the NFT creator’s copyright is required, otherwise, the buyer will not be able to exercise any of the rights it would have to obtain by purchasing the asset (such as reproduction, adaptation and public display of the asset).

The licenses created so far have granted personalized rights to holders, but they are not effectively enforced in all NFTs projects. In addition, these licenses are typically held off the blockchain, creating the latent risk that licenses can be changed in ways that NFT holders do not expect or agree to.

Ideally, standard licenses specific to NFTs could be tracked and enforced on the blockchain to provide users with certainty that they will always be so and save creators some of the burden and expense of creating their own licensing regimes.

Here are the six licenses launched by a16z crypto:

Can’t Be Evil” licenses describe in specific ways the purchaser’s rights with respect to the NFT they purchased. For example, if the rights are exclusive, only the buyer can choose how their NFT is used and the creator waives all licensing rights.

If the idea of the project is to include commercial rights, it will allow the buyer to use the NFT for commercial purposes. If the buyer is allowed to modify, adapt and create derivatives of the acquired NFT, he will be able to change the appearance of an NFT or use it in different contexts.

The six licenses can be found on the GitHub official a16z crypto. They will also make the rights granted irrevocable in order to prevent creators from cheating their buyers by changing a license to a more restrictive one in the future. However, as can be seen in the image above there are some necessary exceptions such as terminating the license if the purchaser of the NFT breaches the rule or uses the non-fungible token for hate speech.

Moreover, by making licenses easily and freely available, the goal of a16z crypto will be to democratize access to them and encourage standardization across the web industry3 and adoption of the NFT ecosystem to generate benefits for creators, owners and the entire community.


We are seeing how the web3 industry and the entire ecosystem that surrounds it is generating more and more solutions and technological innovations that fit both the present and the future of the industry.

With these new licenses promoted by a16z crypto, NFT projects that adopt these new ways of providing legal rights to their communities and buyers can be more trusted.

Furthermore, hopefully in the future we can see that NFT platforms automatically recognize these licensing rights associated with a project and that projects use this new tool created for example to:Automatically generate royalties to both original creators and current NFT holders and that these benefits inspire an increase in licensed works that contribute to the NFT ecosystem to be fairer, more efficient, and above all, generate more creative spaces.

Written by Rodrigo Catalan (TW: @RodrigoCatalanB) for NFT Express.