As a Government agency, NASA images are not copyrighted. This means YouTubers, news agencies, or anyone else can use the images without needing to fall into fair-use exceptions. The same, however, is not true for the agency’s logos. NASA logos, including the meatball logo and popular worm logo, may only be used with permission from the agency – and don’t expect to get this permission for space-themed NFTs.
NASA’s website includes a page on media usage guidelines, and among a fair bit of legalese, the page covers the places that it will allow its images to be used – and NASA dedicates a small section to NFTs.
NASA makes its imagery and video available for educational and information purposes in accordance with these guidelines. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are, in essence, digital tokens owned by someone as a “one of a kind” digital asset. NASA does not wish for its images to be used for these purposes.
It is unlawful to falsely claim copyright or other rights in NASA material.
What are NFTs?
For those who don’t know, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are essentially a digital record of ownership based on the blockchain. NFTs have been rather controversial. Many see NFTs as a new tool to allow artists and content creators to monetize their work, while others are seeing their work stolen and published as NFTs without their permission.
There are also environmental concerns with NFTs, primarily due to the amount of energy used to mine the cryptocurrency used to purchase them. Some of these concerns are assuaged with the use of a proof-of-stake model rather than a proof-of-work, though we won’t go into the details of that.
NASA further delves into the use of its insignia for merchandise on a separate page. In order to use NASA logos on merchandise, the company must reach out to NASA for permission. These requests are then granted, provided the criteria are met.
The reasoning behind most of these requirements is easily understood. For instance, you can’t use NASA logos with other logos in a way that makes it appear as a NASA endorsement.
The agency also limits the products that logo can be placed on:
NASA does not permit logos on certain products because they are not deemed appropriate or are not permissible given NASA’s role as a government agency. These include merchandise/products in areas like alcohol, food, cosmetics, tobacco, underwear, technology, etc.
The webpage also explains that NFTs are off the table:
NASA is not approving any merchandising applications involving Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), as they are not consistent with the categories of products the Agency is approved to merchandise. Further, as stated in the NASA Media Usage Guidelines, NASA does not wish for its images to be used in connection with NFTs.
There are two separate sections to this: The logos and the imagery.
As the logos require the agency’s explicit permission, this means they cannot be used in NFTs.
As most NASA imagery is not subject to copyright, the agency cannot stop people from making NFTs from its imagery. But the agency has expressed its desire for individuals not to use its imagery for this purpose. Additionally, NFTs of these images hold no true value, as the person creating the image does not own the images, and NASA notes, “It is unlawful to falsely claim copyright or other rights in NASA material.”
Space Explored’s take
Honestly, I think it’s a good thing that NASA isn’t approving the use of its logos in NFTs. As the very point of NFTs is the proof of ownership it doesn’t make sense to try to prove ownership over something that is public. Space can’t be owned (no matter what that star registry told you), and NASA imagery and logos should remain public as well.
If someone really wants to own a space related NFT, there are plenty of options out there – from Inspiration 4’s “flown in space” NFTs to artwork and more.