NFTs Ruled as Legal Property – Theft Victims to Receive Legal Protection

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A High Court case in the UK has concluded with recognizing NFTs as legal property. The ruling further means that citizens of England and Wales will now have greater protection if ever a victim of NFT theft. 

The landmark case in question occurred in March of this year, when Lavinia Osbourne, the founder of Women in Blockchain Talks, claimed that two digital works from the Boss Beauties NFT collection had been stolen from her wallet. After exploring the nature of the digital asset, the judge ruled that NFTs were ‘property,’ and thus able to have access to legal protections.

In this instance, the protection on offer was an injunction served onto Ozone Networks (which hosts OpenSea) to freeze the assets, as well as a Bankers Trust disclosure which compelled OpenSea to release information about the two account holders who hold the stolen NFTs. In addition, a permission to serve the orders regardless of jurisdiction was issued, which is significant considering the largely unbeknownst whereabouts of Web3 actors and activity.

In speaking on the case, Racheal Muldoon, a counsel on the case, said: “It is of the utmost significance as, for the first time in the world (as far as we are aware), a court of law has recognized that an NFT is property capable of being frozen by way of an injunction. This ruling, therefore, removes any uncertainty that NFTs (as tokens consisting of code) are property in and of themselves, distinct from the thing they represent (e.g., a digital artwork), under the law of England and Wales”.

Now such ruling has taken place, the next stages of Osbourne’s NFT retrieval have taken place, which include OpenSea’s blocking of the NFT sales on its platform, as well as the hiring of intelligence firm Mitmark to collate evidence, identify the current holders, and facilitate the assets’ return.


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