An Infringement Case of an NFT Digital Work "A Fat Tiger is Getting Vaccine"

February 29, 2024

Case Brief

Shenzhen Qice Diechu Culture and Creativity Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Qice) has been authorized by the cartoonist MA Qianli to enjoy exclusive property rights of works on his series of works "I am not a fat Tiger." Qice discovered that on a platform operated by Hangzhou Yuanyuzhou Technology Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Yuanyuzhou), its user created and published the NFT digital work "A fat tiger is getting the vaccine," which was identical to the illustration work posted by MA Qianli on Weibo, and even still bore the corresponding Weibo watermark. Qice then initiated a lawsuit in Hangzhou Internet Court on the grounds that Yuanyuzhou infringed on its information network dissemination rights. The first-instance court held that NFT digital work transaction conforms to the characteristics of the Information Network Dissemination Act. In view of transaction mode, technical features, platform controlling capability, profit mode, etc., the platform involved should have established an effective IP examination mechanism. Therefore, the first-instance court confirmed the infringement of Yuanyuzhou. Yuanyuzhou was unsatisfied and instituted an appeal. The Intermediate People's Court of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, held in the second instance that the upload and release stage of NFT digital works involves the Information Network Dissemination Act, and as a form of digital collection, the technology used for NFT digital works can be more effective in avoiding the risk of repeated copying in the subsequent circulation. Based on the factors that network service of NFT digital work transaction is accompanied by generation and transfer of corresponding property rights and interests, and possible infringement consequences and the like, the service providers should review the legitimacy of the source of NFT digital works and confirm that the creator of an NFT digital work has appropriate rights. In this case, Yuanyuzhou did not fulfill the corresponding duty of care, so the appeal was rejected, and the original judgment was upheld.

Typical Significance

This case is a typical case relating to the responsibility of NFT digital work transaction platforms. The judgment actively explores the legal attributes of NFT digital works with blockchain as the underlying core technology, act definition under a transaction mode, attributes and responsibility determination of transaction platforms, and other aspects. This case has inspiring significance for building a new ecology of open, transparent, credible, and traceable on-chain digital works and promoting the development of the digital industry.

(Case source: the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China)