Want to find out more about NFT lawyers? The $25bn NFT world continues to defy cynics who said in 2021 that it was just a bubble. In March 2022, an NFT work by digital artist Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) sold for US$69m. This makes him the third-most valuable living artist in the world.
Below we explore how NFT lawyers fit into the expanding new world of NFTs. We look into the legal basis for NFTs. And we review some of the safest NFT lawyers out there, whose expertise and experience in blockchain and related fields make them a safe pair of hands for the thorny issues of the new NFT legal landscape.
Best NFT Lawyers 2022 – Top 5 List
- Dilendorf Law Firm – Top NFT lawyers based in New York
- Mishcon de Reya – Multi-service lawyers with key blockchain and NFT expertise
- Traverse Legal – One of the best NFT law firms with a small practice
- Selachii – Top NFT and crypto litigation firm
- Gamma Law – NFT and video game specialists
A Closer Look at the Best NFT Lawyers for 2022
Many international law firms offer specialist NFT lawyers. The top two in our list, Dilendorf Law Firm and Mishcon de Reya, fall under this category.
Two NFT law firms on our list have a strong background in litigation: Selachii and Traverse Legal.
Our final inclusion, Gamma Law, derives their NFT and blockchain expertise from a grounding in the computer games industry.
1: Dilendorf Law Firm — Top NFT Lawyers based in New York
Dilendorf Law Firm calls itself ‘New York City’s Top Cryptocurrency and Web3 Lawyers.’ The firm is multi-service. This means that it offers expertise in many areas of law including real estate, trusts, tax planning and intellectual property. These areas feed into its handling of ‘challenging crypto and Web 3.0 legal puzzles:’
- Digital assets: NFTs and crypto.
- International Private Client: helping High Net Worth Individuals with their NFT and blockchain issues.
- Asset Protection: Web 3.0 digital asset issues.
- Tax planning: applies to digital and non-digital assets.
- Real estate: both virtual and real-world.
- Blockchain litigation: fighting a client’s corner in court.
Like most blockchain law firms, Dilendorf services a broad range of Web 3.0 clients, including:
- Institutional investors.
- Crypto exchanges, OTC (Over-the-Counter) desks and providers of some of the best NFT wallets.
- Crypto hedge fund managers.
- DeFi traders.
- DApp (Decentralised Application) developers.
- Metaverse brands, as well as metaverse users.
- Family offices (that means rich families who own big brands).
- Digital asset platforms.
When it comes down to NFTs in particular, Dilendorf serves NFT platforms, NFT issuers, NFT investors and victims of NFT fraud.
If you are simply a lone NFT fraud victim who has got into trouble having worked out how to flip NFTs, then Dilendorf can certainly help. But the firm’s main emphasis is on assisting in setting up NFT offerings as well as advising individuals and companies doing significant NFT business.
‘Anyone,’ says Dilendorf, ‘who is entering the world of NFT art will need to seriously consider it from the perspective of taxation, corporate structure, and intellectual property.’
2: Mishcon de Reya — Multi-Service Lawyers with Key Blockchain and NFT Expertise
Mishcon de Reya is a top name in blockchain, crypto and NFT work. The firm boasts 600 lawyers spread across three offices in London, Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s also considered one of the best crypto lawyers as well.
Like most top NFT law firms, Mishcon offers many areas of expertise including real estate, corporate law and intellectual property on top of its blockchain and NFT skills. The company handles NFT work under the umbrella of the Blockchain Group.
The Blockchain Group
Mishcon’s Blockchain Group numbers 17 lawyers. It comes under the mandate of MDRxTech, the firm’s dedicated digital transformation business, headed by Co-Head of Blockchain and MDRxTech CEO Tom Grogan. Key areas of work include:
- 5G and the Internet of Things: data protection and the physical side of the internet.
- Anti-Money Laundering (AML): international protocols to stop fraudsters using the blockchain to launder money.
- Art Law: foundational for an understanding of NFTs.
- Business: a broad legal remit, vital for general blockchain work.
- Cryptocurrency Fraud: Mishcon are specialists.
Working alongside MDRxTech is MDR Cyber, the dedicated cryptocurrency investigations team headed by Cyber Intelligence Director Mark Tibbs.
Mishcon has its finger on the pulse when it comes to NFTs. On March 8th 2022, the NFT lawyers hosted their first Retail Academy. This was a learning event focused on NFTs led by Co-Head of Retail, Lewis Cohen and Co-Head of Blockchain Tom Grogan. The NFT event explored ‘what is driving their popularity, and the strategic, technological, legal and practical considerations for brands looking to explore the market.’
The Mishcon team stresses the novelty of the NFT space. Brands, says Mishcon, must stress-test their legal arrangements to avoid falling foul of the rapidly-developing law in this area.
3: Traverse Legal — One of the Best NFT Law Firms with a Small Practice
Traverse Legal is a small US company boasting 30 years of experience in internet law issues. The firm has four offices divided between Texas, Michigan and California and six main lawyers.
The company bases its contemporary focus on NFT and blockchain law on a variety of historical litigation successes in the fields of online libel and cybersquatting (where a company registers a domain name that relates to another brand).
Away from NFTs and the blockchain, Traverse Legal offers expertise in real estate, business, employment and defamation law.
Like many of the top NFT lawyers, the firm specialises in Intellectual Property (IP). IP is critical to NFTs, because it concerns ownership. Key areas of NFT IP expertise covered by Traverse Legal include copyright, trade secrets, trademarks and patents.
A key NFT lawyer at the firm is founding partner Enrico Schaefer. With a Twitter handle of ‘@The_NFT_Lawyer‘ and a Youtube channel entitled ‘The NFT Lawyer’, Schaefer is a true NFT specialist.
Schaefer underlines, for example, the mistakes made by the market-leading Bored Ape Yacht Club regarding Intellectual Property. Schaefer also points out the IP troubles which the founders of the popular CrytoPunks Project NFTs have got themselves into.
Traverse Legal splits its NFT practice into 6 key areas:
- Litigating on behalf of victims of NFT frauds, scams and rug pulls.
- Drafting contracts for setting up NFTs.
- The role of licensing in NFT purchases.
- General Intellectual Property NFT issues.
- Dispute resolution: defending against NFT litigation.
- Drafting NFT marketplace website agreements.
4: Selachii — Top NFT Litigation Lawyers
Selachii is a small London-based firm of lawyers that takes an aggressive approach to Web 3.0 litigation.
Helmed by partners Simon Taylor and Richard Howlett, this niche firm boasts a ‘tenacious and entrepreneurial approach often challenging convention to achieve the client’s goals.’ These are the people you want on your side if you have figured out how to buy an NFT — but haven’t figured out how to get your money back if you have been scammed.
Selachii’s biggest coup was its successful litigation action against the Japanese Mt Gox Bitcoin exchange which dramatically went bust in 2014. With Bitcoin that would be worth up to $25bn today gone missing, Selachii ran a successful class action to ensure that investors were able to apply for compensation with the current price of Bitcoin taken into account. This was a key issue because, between 2014 and 2018, the value of Bitcoin soared by over 15 times.
Selachii provides general legal expertise in litigation relating to real-world businesses including debt recovery, breach of contract as well as intellectual property issues.
Its digital currency work is divided between Bitcoin disputes, compliance, regulation, and smart contracts. Selachii’s NFT expertise comes under its smart contracts work. That’s because NFTs are actually smart contracts which record ownership of the underlying content.
You can be sure that Selachii is at the forefront of NFT legal expertise. As early as December 2020 — before the NFT sector exploded in value over 2021 — this firm was asking Could NFTs be the infallible security solution the crypto art, gaming and collectibles markets have been looking for?
Thanks to a partnership with crypto exchange Coinburb, you can buy some of the best metaverse coins direct from Selachii, as well as other cryptos.
5: Gamma Law — NFT and Video Game Specialists
In basing its NFT expertise on related fields of existing law, Gamma Law is typical of the NFT legal sector. The firm services clients in media and tech sectors and splits its work between the US and Japan. In terms of size, Gamma Law is a bigger team than Selachii, but tiny compared to Mishcon de Reya. This niche firm has developed deep expertise in the law around video games, esports, VR/AR/XR and now the blockchain and NFTs.
Gamma Law’s background in digital media gives it a solid foundation for NFT work. The team ‘brings relevant experience in video games, intellectual property, artist representation, investment banking, blockchain and cryptocurrency law’.
Managing Partner David Hoppe heads the NFT wing of the business. Hoppe has 20 years of experience in video games law as well as international transaction law; both very useful in the NFT field.
Gamma Law provides what it calls ‘turnkey virtual general counsel services to companies in the NFT arena’. What does this mean?
Well, ‘turnkey’ means a client can use Gamma Law for specific tasks without entering into an ongoing working relationship necessarily. ‘General counsel services’ means advising the client, or acting on behalf of the client, in NFT matters. And ‘virtual’ means that Gamma is happy to work over the internet or on the phone.
The firm leverages its experience in the crypto and blockchain to advise on a range of NFT issues:
- Structure and execution of NFT launches.
- NFT purchase.
- NFT distribution arrangements.
- NFT-related regulations based on jurisdiction.
- Drafting contract and terms agreements.
- Compiling end-user license agreements (EULAs).
- Data security policies.
- Auditing Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance documents.
- Negotiating primary and secondary sales, as well as revenue splits.
What are NFT Lawyers?
NFT lawyers offer legal services related to NFTs. Most of the top NFT lawyers would probably describe themselves as among the best crypto lawyers too.
Before we dive into what NFT lawyers do, let’s make sure we understand the legal basis of NFTs.
NFTs – Legal Overview
NFTs are Non-Fungible Tokens. ‘Non-fungible’ means indivisible. So, unlike a crypto coin, for example, an NFT cannot be broken down into parts.
The legal purpose of an NFT is to empower NFT owners to maintain Intellectual Property (IP) rights over the NFT content. If you have the IP rights to an asset, you can make money from it. The benefit of NFTs is therefore to allow commercial contracts (like buying, selling and leasing) to apply to digital content.
NFTs thus establish a standard for what is known as ‘verifiable digital scarcity’. In other words, with an NFT something can be proven to be unique, and therefore have a reliable commercial value.
NFTs – What Types are There?
You may have heard about the most expensive NFTs like the Bored Ape Yacht Club Collection.
Over the last 7 days, NFTs from this collection have been selling for an average price of $344k with over $52m of business carried out in just a week.
These NFTs are digital art. Much of NFT fraud centres on NFTs which are based on imagery. And, as Traverse Legal investigates, NFT ownership controversy centres on Bored Ape NFTs too.
But other forms of NFT exist.
- NFTs as in-game items is a key category. NFTs are used as tradeable assets in metaverses and play-to-earn games. For example, the hugely-popular Axie Infinity game centres on players breeding monsters to fight each other; each monster is an NFT. Players must buy Axie Infinity coin (AXS) to get started, and investors can buy AXS too.
- Music, collectibles, literature and films also nowadays exist in NFT form.
As digital assets, 90% of NFTs are minted on the Ethereum blockchain to the ERC-721 and ERC-1155 standard. Note that other blockchains are used to mint NFTs. For example, if you were to buy Enjin Coin, you would be buying a crypto that is used in the minting of NFTs for use in the Enjin metaverse.
Will my NFT Lawyer just handle NFT issues?
Most law firms that work with NFTs also handle general crypto/blockchain issues too. What’s more, most feature their NFT/crypto services as part of a broader suite of non-virtual services.
A company like Dilendorf Law Firm, for example, may offer a specialist understanding of NFTs and blockchain work in general that exceeds that of other law firms. But, alongside its Web 3.0 lawyers, the firm also boasts experts in:
- Real Estate.
- VC & Corporate.
- Private Client Issues.
- Intellectual Property.
- Asset Protection.
- Business Counsel.
- Estate Planning.
- Tax Planning.
- International Trade.
- Business Litigation.
For NFT lawyers to work effectively, it is essential for them to have a broad grounding in different types of law. In particular:
- Intellectual Property (IP) is a key NFT issue in general. IP is about Copyright Law. It governs who owns what and — most importantly — who gets paid for what!
- Property law is important because NFTs are a digital asset, which makes them property.
- Tax law allows individuals to plan the purchase and sale of NFTs effectively.
- In the US, compliance with regulation issued by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is a key part of NFT business.
- Internationally, compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulation applies.
What Qualifications will my NFT Lawyer Have?
In the US, lawyers obtain a license to practice law having achieved a Juris Doctor or Doctor of Jurisprudence degree at a law school accredited by the American Bar Association.
Your NFT lawyer will not have letters after their name showing that they have a special qualification in NFT law. No such legal specialism exists. But what they might have is certification to show that they have completed training courses in aspects of the blockchain and NFT management.
What Services Can NFT Lawyers Provide?
With NFT law being decided on an ongoing basis, NFT lawyers apply their expertise in business law and intellectual property in particular:
Copyright and Intellectual Property Basics
The market in NFTs is so new that many companies need guidance from NFT lawyers on the legal basics of NFTs.
But what do you actually own with an NFT? You might have one of the best NFTs to buy but you do not actually own the underlying artwork; you own a linked digital certificate saying that you do!
Top NFT lawyer of Traverse Legal stresses that, ‘the NFT is distinct from the thing that is being linked, – the painting, graphic or video.’
When you buy an NFT, you are buying into a Smart Contract. This contract may give you the right, legally speaking, to license the NFT content. But that does not mean that the NFT necessarily is covered by copyright.
Copyright may apply to the original artwork that has been minted as an NFT. But the NFT itself is a record of ownership, not in itself a piece of intellectual property to which copyright can apply. This is a fine distinction.
Because this boils down to ownership, and ownership boils down to money, this is one of many such nuances of copyright and intellectual property relating to NFTs that makes NFT lawyers so relevant.
Supposing you want to follow in the footsteps of top NFT producers like World of Women NFTs, for example. The NFTs offered by this enterprise have a floor price of 9 ETH ($22k) and are promoted by leading US actress Reese Witherspoon.
Whether you aim to offer celebrity-backed NFTs or not, there is so much on the legal side that you will need to think about. Or you risk running into serious litigation in the future.
A top NFT lawyer can help you with:
Stay on the right side of the SEC, FinCEN and state currency laws, as well as Anti-Money Laundering (AML) legislation.
- Intellectual Property Governance
The key issue here is often royalties; how do you ensure that you get paid royalties if you sell an NFT on and the new owner uses it for commercial purposes? Get it written into the contract!
- Setting up Appropriate Corporate Entities
You will need to find the right business ‘vessel’ to host an NFT collection.
- Tax Planning
Ensure you set yourself up right to minimise your tax liability on NFT sales.
With the NFT sector valued at $25bn, there is plenty of scope for fraudulent activity.
NFT fraud often involves scammers minting an NFT of a digital image that does not belong to them, and passing it off as if it does. This infringes the original copyright of the digital image, as well as contravening laws against selling non-authentic items that are branded as authentic.
Selachii partner Richard Howlett stresses how easy it is to commit fraud with NFT: ‘as any digital object can become an NFT once it’s been put on the blockchain – or ‘minted’ as it’s called – as things stand today, it is very easy to steal images from the internet or social media and create your own tokens. Added to that, verifying your identity on trading platforms like Rarible and OpenSea is hardly a stringent process.’
There are usually two victims of NFT fraud:
- The artist whose work is copied and then turned into NFT form.
A recent case involved a sculptor from Hamburg Hedi Xandt, who found that one of his works ‘God of the Grove’ was being sold online as an NFT without his knowledge.
- The purchaser of the NFT, who has been sold the NFT under false pretences.
In the case of Hedi Xandt, one victim was German designer David Drayton.
NFT Smart Contracts & Intellectual Property
In cases of simple fraud, NFT lawyers are consulted to establish what laws have been broken and what can be done about it. In more sophisticated cases, their advanced knowledge of Intellectual Property (IP) come into play.
For example, an authentic NFT may have been sold which the buyer has then used commercially in breach of the licensing arrangements agreed as part of the purchase.
Arrangements for licensing and other IP issues are embedded as part of the NFT smart contract. But often there are contradictions which only a NFT lawyer can sort out.
For example Managing Associate Anne Rose of the Mishcon de Reya Blockchain Group points out a key confusion over IP with the metaverse Decentraland.
People can buy Decentraland crypto MANA to buy avatars, items and virtual land inside the virtual world. These items are NFTs. And they can be expensive: 6 months ago, the Fashion Street Estate lot was sold for $2.42m. The price has now dropped to $1.42m. But the owner potentially faces a greater problem than a drop in value.
So who owns Decentraland virtual land? The Decentraland Foundation or investors and brands that have bought virtual lots? Should the issue come to court, NFT lawyers will be right in the thick of it sorting it out.
If a company or individual has lost their money to an NFT scam, then litigation is how NFT lawyers try to get the money back.
In the NFT and blockchain space, featured lawyers Selachii has a proven track record in crypto litigation (which is, of course, related to the NFT world). This firm led a successful class action against the Mt Gox Bitcoin exchange which went bust in 2014, leaving thousands of investors out of pocket. Traverse Legal is another NFT law firm with a background in aggressive litigation.
How to Get in Touch with the Best NFT Lawyers in 2022
It is easy to get in touch with NFT lawyers. They need your business, after all!
To contact top NFT lawyers Dilendorf Law Firm, for example, simply call them direct on 212.457.9797. Or email them at [email protected]
Above we have reviewed five of the best NFT lawyers.
We have explored how law firms tend to bundle up their NFT services along with general blockchain and crypto services. We have learnt that the scope of NFT work is very varied and that clients range from people and businesses setting up NFT companies to individuals who have been the victim of NFT fraud.
Primarily, we recognise that the world of NFT law is new, with NFT lawyers having to be masters of legal improvisation.
Of the companies we have reviewed, we recognise the sheer weight that international law firm Mishcon de Reya brings to the NFT space. But the best of the bunch we judge to be Dilendorf Law Firm, which combines international presence and heavyweight expertise with a very thorough approach to NFTs.