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Copyright Law

Important Legal Issues for Buyers and Sellers of NFTs

Important Legal Issues for Buyers and Sellers of NFTs

Jason Fisher

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WHAT ARE NFTS?

NFTs are the latest digital asset to have taken the world by storm. Similar to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, NFTs are recorded on a blockchain ledger to verify ownership. However, while a cryptocurrency’s tokens are interchangeable and indistinguishable, each NFT is a unique asset such as a particular document, image, or video.

POTENTIAL FOR INFRINGEMENT AND ENFORCEMENT

Those who buy and use or resell NFTs should be particularly aware of the potential for infringement. Generally, NFT marketplaces verify sellers to ensure authenticity, however, this does not eliminate the possibility that a NFT is infringing another’s intellectual property rights. As a result, buyers should always conduct their own due diligence.

Last July, Opensea, a leading marketplace for the resale of NFTs,  delisted a seller after receiving a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) notice alleging infringement. The delisted seller, “CryptoPhunks” was parodying NFTs created by, “CryptoPunks”, a very well-known seller who submitted the DMCA notice. Reactions to the CryptoPhunks delisting were mixed with many accusing the platform of censorship. What many critics may not realize is that Opensea was protecting not only themselves but potential purchasers of CryptoPhunks NFTs.

Under Section 504 of the Copyright Act, any person who sells an infringing work can be liable for statutory damages between $750 and $30,000 per infringement. This applies whether or not the seller knew that they were selling infringing material. With this, CryptoPunks would have been able to bring a claim against any person who bought and resold a NFT from CryptoPhunks based on alleged infringement.

Further, the Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement Act (the “CASE Act”), which passed  in late 2020, is designed to streamline the process by which CryptoPunks or other owners of allegedly infringed property can bring these claims. By providing a cheaper and less expensive framework for copyright litigation, the CASE Act incentivizes rightsholders to enforce their rights in situations which previously would not be worth the hassle of federal court and is likely to increase NFT-related enforcement actions.

When deciding whether to purchase NFTs, all potential buyers should consider the possibility of infringement and the potential for personal liability . Some risky parodies may provide resale value —and a good laugh—but ultimately will not be worth the headache of defending an enforcement action.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ASSOCIATE

Jason focuses his practice on corporate governance, commercial finance, commercial contracts, and employment law. He advises clients on all aspects of general corporate matters and strategic business decisions including organization structure, operating/shareholder agreements, and private debt and equity offerings.

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Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act: What Employers Should Know

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Jason Fisher

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Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work ACT (“EPEWA”) became effective January 1, 2021, and all companies that employ Coloradans should be aware of its provision—which may require an update to employer practices and policies—to avoid liability.

By enacting EPEWA, the Colorado legislature seeks to prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes gender identity, or on the basis of sex combined with another protected trait such as disability, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, age, or ancestry. However, EPEWA also contains provisions regulating (1) what information is required in job listings, (2) who is notified of promotional opportunities, and (3) how interviews are conducted regarding wages.

JOB LISTINGS

All job listings open to Colorada applicants must include the following:

  • The hourly or salary compensation offered (a reasonable range is acceptable);
  • A description of all benefits offered such as health, retirement, and paid time off;
  • A description of any other compensation offered such as bonus or equity incentives.

PROMOTIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

Employers must further make a “reasonable effort” to notify current employees of promotional opportunities. Such notice must be in writing and made available on the same day to all employees for whom the opportunity would be a promotion. It must also be given far enough in advance of having the position filled to allow employees a reasonable time to apply.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS REGARDING PAY

When performing interviews with applicants for new positions or promotional opportunities, employers are prohibited from asking how much the applicant made in their previous position or any other questions regarding the applicant’s wage rate history. Further, if an employer learns of an applicant’s wage rate history, the employer is prohibited from using that information in determining the applicant’s new compensation.

COSTS OF VIOLATIONS

Employers who fail to comply with the provisions of EPEWA leave themselves open to complaints filed by employees with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (“CDLE”). CDLE will conduct investigations into alleged violations, and employers will be required to turn over any documentation requested that has bearing on the complaint. If a violation is found, employers can face fines between $500.00 and $10,000.00 for each violation. They may also be required to provide back pay and other damages to employees who were subject to the violating conduct.

The legal ins and outs of employment are constantly changing. Employers should regularly revisit their internal policies and procedures to ensure compliance and update those practices as required. If you are an employer concerned about compliance with EPEWA, please reach out to Milgrom & Daskam for a free consultation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Navigating Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination as an Employer

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According to recent guidance published by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), private employers may require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The EEOC enforces workplace anti-discrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act, both of which impact an employer’s ability to require vaccination against COVID-19. In addition, emerging, state-specific regulations will determine employers’ vaccination policies. Prior to enacting a vaccine requirement, employers must understand their legal responsibilities under federal and state law.

The ADA allows an employer to enforce a policy that includes “a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.” This is the same standard that enables employers to require COVID-19 testing of employees who exhibit symptoms before allowing those employees to enter the workplace, and it is now being applied to enable employers to require vaccinations.

When applying this standard to required vaccinations, the employer must examine whether such a requirement screens out, or tends to screen out, an individual with a disability. For example, persons who are immunocompromised or taking certain medications may be unable to receive the vaccine due to a qualifying disability. If so, the employer must show that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat due to a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.” 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(r).

A conclusion that there is a direct threat would include a determination that an unvaccinated individual will expose others in the workplace to the virus.

Even after the employer concludes that there is a direct threat, the employer cannot immediately exclude the employee from the workplace or take any other action. The employer must still determine that there is no way to provide a reasonable accommodation that would eliminate or reduce this risk so that the unvaccinated employee does not pose a direct threat.

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