Crypto-counterfeiting is wreaking havoc on the art world

Claudia Andrieu spends her days hunting down counterfeit goods. The legal manager of Picasso Administration, a structure that manages the rights to the Spaniard’s work, is looking for those who loot the artist’s name and images for commercial purposes. His actions, brought in the field of copyright and trademark law, can no longer be counted.

But with the popularity of NFT (non-fungible tokens, or non-fungible tokens), those lines of code that refer to a certificate of authenticity in a blockchain, she no longer knows where to turn.

“It’s a real madness. A wild world, deregulated both in terms of intellectual property and tax law. »Claudia Andrieu, lawyer

OpenSea, the only digital platform specializing in the sale of NFT, displays no less than 2.2 million hits with the name Picasso. In September, she removed from a sale at Christie’s an NFT by artist Trevor Jones representing Picasso’s bull in an animated version that can be found today on… OpenSea. “It’s a real madness, thunders Claudia Andrieu. A wild world, deregulated both in terms of intellectual property and tax law. ” In November, the lawyer came across a platform,, which claims to sell NFTs of works by Picasso.

The cup is full: Picasso Administration launches, on November 27, an action against the disputed site, now blocked. “Picasso’s NFTs which reproduce all or part of the artist’s works are counterfeit”, insists the lawyer Jean-Jacques Neuer, who represents the heirs, recalling that to this day they “Have neither put Picasso’s NFTs on the market, nor given third parties the right to do so”.

Like the families of famous artists, brands are also starting to pull out their claws. So of the luxury house Hermès, which announced, via the Financial Times, qu’she did not license artist Mason Rothschild’s MetaBirkins, digital replicas of the Birkin handbag, emblematic model of the French saddler. “Even if, for the moment, no legal provision expressly envisages digital reproductions, in this case in the form of NFT, these cannot escape intellectual property rights”, insists lawyer Julie Jacob.

An array transformed into a digital token

Legal puzzles, speculative objects… These virtual tokens now worry, amaze and upset the art world. “Before, the sales catalogs lined up Van Gogh, Picasso and Basquiat, recalls the modern art broker Thomas Seydoux. We were purring… until the NFTs appeared. “ In his eyes, this is the event “The most disruptive” that the art world has known since the creation of the Internet.

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Crypto-counterfeiting is wreaking havoc on the art world