Canadian court declares Krista Kim copyright owner of "first NFT digital house in the world"

The Federal Court of Canada has declared that Krista Kim is the “sole author” of Mars House, after the artist became embroiled in a copyright dispute over the NFT-backed digital home.

Kim sought a declaration of copyright ownership for Mars House in response to a dispute over the intellectual property of the digital home between her and the visualiser who rendered the project.

In a declaration earlier this year, the court stated: “Krista Kim is the sole author of the Work and the plaintiffs are the sole owners of the copyright in the Work including the Mars House”.

“The first NFT digital house in the world”

Named Mars House, the digital home designed by Kim was sold on non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace SuperRare in 2021 for 288 Ether ($512,000), a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin.

Described by SuperRare as “the first NFT digital house in the world”, it was sold during the height of interest in NFTs, which are based on blockchain technology and act as digital certificates of ownership, enabling digital artworks or designs to be bought, sold and collected.

Shortly after the sale, Argentine 3D modeller Mateo Sanz Pedemonte, who Kim commissioned through freelance marketplace, alleged that he was “co- author of Mars House project”.

Kim had always disputed the claims, and the Canadian courts have now declared in her favour.

“Ms Kim issued a lawsuit to the Canadian courts for a declaration of copyright ownership in Mars House in response to claims over her ownership of the intellectual property in Mars House,” lawyers representing Kim told Dezeen.

“The Federal Court of Canada declared that Ms Kim is the sole author of the Mars House and that she and her company Krista Kim Studios Inc. are the sole owners of the copyright in the Mars House.”

Mars House “a fully realized digital environment”

Mars House was designed in 2020 by Kim to be a space that embodied her philosophy of meditative design and hired a freelance 3D modeller to render the house using Unreal Engine, software that is commonly used to create video games.

The house overlooks a moody mountain range on Mars and features an open-plan design, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and mirrored finishes. The floors and ceiling of the home are covered in colourfully-hued gradient video art made by the artist.

The home can be experienced in virtual reality or it could be overlaid on the real world through augmented reality (AR).

“Mars Houses challenges and expands our understanding of ownership, space, digital/physical identity and art in the digital era,” Kim told Dezeen.

“It propels the notion that digital spaces can possess the same value, emotional significance, and utility as physical ones.”

“Mars House is not just a virtual structure but a fully realized digital environment that offers a new way to experience art, architecture, and design, suggesting a future where our living spaces are no longer confined to the physical world but extend into the vast possibilities of the digital realm,” she continued.

“Moreover, Mars House contributes to the evolving narrative of digital art by demonstrating its potential to foster new forms of social interaction and engagement within digital spaces.”

In 2021, at the peak of the NFT market, several designers and artists sold their work as crypto art, with Christie’s selling a jpeg created by artist Beeple for a world-record $69 million.

Barcelona-based Andrés Reisinger sold 10 pieces of virtual furniture for almost $450,000 and Alexis Christodoulou sold his architectural renderings for $340,000.

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