Magic: The Gathering-Loving Crypto Losers Fail To Understand Copyright Law

Magic: The Gathering-Loving Crypto Losers Fail To Understand Copyright Law

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A group of Magic: The Gathering fans, assembled as the “mtgDAO”, have announced plans to create what’s essentially their own platform/version of Wizards of the Coast’s game, taking digital versions of actual Magic cards and minting them as NFTs.

They’re not creating something in the same genre, or loosely based on Magic. They want to simply take representations of existing Magic cards, from the design to the text to the illustrations, and move them onto the blockchain. In a hilarious attempt to try and dodge Wizards of the Coast’s lawyers, they added a note that players would only be able to use cards they already owned across the game’s various formats:

Players will need the actual card in order to legally play the game, whether that be a paper card, a card on Arena, or a card on MTGO. The NFTs aren’t meant to establish ownership of the card, it will only be used to allow that card to be played in the mtgDAO format. We are not building gaming software or printing copies of official cards. Games will still be played using Arena, MTGO, or tabletop with real cards. NFTs can be thought of as tickets to enter tournaments or a way to represent temporary ownership in a cube draft, not as ownership of the copyrighted card.

It didn’t work.

Your enthusiasm for MAGIC: THE GATHERING is evident and appreciated. The team at Wizards is also impressed by the work you have put into developing a new format for playing MAGIC: THE GATHERING. Unfortunately, your intended use of Wizards’ intellectual property, including its trademarks and copyrights, would be unlawful.

You appear to be operating under the mistaken assumption that the project would be legal because you would allow the reproduction of MAGIC cards in the form of NFTs only by a player who had purchased a physical card, a card on Arena, or a card on MTGO. This is not correct. It is the exclusive right of the copyright owner to reproduce the copyrighted work, such as a MAGIC card, in any format. While there is an exception in the copyright statute for making a backup or “archival” copy in some circumstances, “this privilege extends only to computer programs and not to other types of works.” See, for example, the U.S. Copyright Office’s FAQ on Copyright and Digital Files.

There’s a lot to be angry about when it comes to Web3, from its cult-like nature to the enormous Ponzi Scheme it’s running to the environmental impact. But this idiotic scam in particular reveals perhaps the entire thing’s biggest issue in a practical sense: it’s a solution looking for a problem.

Absolutely nothing about this is of any benefit to anyone whatsoever. Well, almost. Magic players already have loads of ways to own and play the game, both in the real world and digitally, so a scam like this stands to benefit only those looking to profit off these NFTs, and/or those who are so brainwormed by the cult of the blockchain that they’re trying to do this simply because inertia demands it, no matter how stupid it looks (and is!) to everyone else. Case in point: if you want to see insanity unfolding over a series of tweets, check out the group’s reaction to Wizards’ letter, it is completely unhinged.

If you’re unsure what a group like this (a “DAO) is actually about, and you haven’t already seen it, Chapter 12 of Dan Olson’s excellent NFT video will get you up to speed:

Also! While we’re here and laughing at these fucking dorks, be sure not to let Wizards of the Coast off the hook either, as they conclude their correspondence with:

While Wizards is currently evaluating its future plans regarding NFTs and the MAGIC: THE GATHERING cards, no decision has been made at this time. Use of NFTs in connection with Wizards’ intellectual property is therefore, strictly prohibited.

I don’t care if this is intended as boilerplate legalese, any company still “evaluating” their plans in this space, given everything we now know about it, can get in the bin.


  • I think Wizards lawyers are saying “We are looking at NFTs” just to clog a legal loop hole or stop anyone stealing from them

    If they say we don’t care about NFTs, they can under trademark or copyright law be waiving their rights in some obscure law or jurisdiction. With IP you are required to viciously challenge and stake your claim of ownership, or risk losing said rights.

    • This is completely wrong on pretty much every level. The legal standard to establish abandonment of copyright is virtually impossible to meet for any actively marketed IP.

      And if Azerbaijan or some other obscure jurisdiction waives copyright for some reason, in the WoTC boardroom not one single shit will be given. Next year, for example, in large parts of the world copyright of The Hobbit will officially expire. Not one major game, movie or novel will be made without making a deal with Tolkein’s estate, however, because the book will still be copyright in the United States and trying to publish in the absence of access to the US market is a losing proposition.

      Also, there are no relevant ‘obscure laws’. Lawyers exist to find legal loopholes. If we aren’t already aware of relevant loopholes by now none actually exist.

  • Sweet merciful cheesecake, calling their response unhinged is putting it nicely, I nearly choked on my coffee when they started talking about being discriminated against.
    The world entitlement gets thrown around a lot these days but their response to the letter should be added to the dictionary as the definitive example.

    I can’t stop laughing at the whole “You don’t get it” energy being displayed by them and their followers.

    • The best part of the responses is when a lawyer reached out and they asked him to DM them so they could learn more.

      Seriously?! NOW you engage a lawyer and some rando on Twitter is how you go about that?!
      You can’t teach that level of stupid.

  • There response can be summarised as such:


Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!