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

'You appear to be operating under the mistaken assumption that the project would be legal'

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Magic: The Gathering
Illustration: Ekaterina Burmak

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A group of Magic: The Gathering fans, assembled under the name 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 to 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 it’s not them. 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 they’re doing this 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.