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Digital Property Cycles


Joshua Fairfield


October 6, 2023

The present downturn in non-fungible token (“NFT”) markets is no cause for immediate alarm. There have been multiple cycles in both the legal and media focus on digital intangible property, and these cycles will recur. The cycles are easily explainable: demand for intangible property is constant, even increasing. The legal regimes governing ownership of these assets are unstable and poorly suited to satisfying the preferences of buyers and sellers. The combination of demand and poor legal regulation gives rise to the climate of fraud that has come to characterize NFTs, but it has nothing to do with the value of the technology, the legitimacy of the demand to own intangible property, or even the value of the assets themselves. Rather, fraud and exploitation are entirely avoidable and predictable outcomes of a situation in which buyers and sellers value assets highly but enjoy little to no protection of their interest in their investment. The solution is not more public service announcements indicating that all NFTs are fraudulent; this is neither true nor to the point. Rather, the only solution is to vindicate investor and purchaser rights in intangible property, so that the legitimate demand for intangible property is channeled into the regular economy instead of gray markets.


Joshua Fairfield, Digital Property Cycles, 80 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1115 (2023).