A Message to Community-Based Banks: Evolve and THRIVE

November 30, 2022 Copyright 2022. Tonya M. Evans. All rights reserved.

Evolve or die. That has been a consistent and persistent thread running through messaging from staunch crypto advocates regarding the disruptive purpose and impact of bitcoin and the over 22,000 different types of native crypto coins and tokens in the decentralized finance (defi) ecosystem. The point is well made and correct. But I think the fear-based framing is counter-productive and misses the incredible opportunities community banks (publicly or privately owned by local community members) and credit unions (privately owned by its members) can provide in the form of better, faster, less expensive and more creative savings and loans products and features that provide greater access to banking.

Although it is true that with every passing day fintech companies, digital banks, and crypto assets, become more ubiquitous as more investors and consumers access these alternatives to traditional banking and capital asset accumulation. These technological advances in finance continue to create a customer service issue for traditional financial entities (tradfi) because some consumers—especially those who have been historically marginalized—see fintech and blockchain-enabled banking solutions more viable as an alternative to the legacy banking system.

For example, an annual Black Investor report published by Ariel Investments and Schwab, one-quarter of Black Americans (25%) currently own cryptocurrency, and among Black investors under 40, that figure jumps to 38%. Black investors are more than twice as likely to say cryptocurrency was their first investment (11% of Black investors compared to 4% of white investors).

What is a Community Bank?

Community banks are smaller banking institutions (fewer than one hundred branches) devoted to nurturing relationships and prioritizing community care, impact and involvement to provide stability and opportunity to individuals and businesses within a specific local or regional area. Contrast Community banks like credit unions with super-regional banks like PNC and Truist Financial and mega-banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan, that began to proliferate in the late 1990s.

Palm-Powered Banking

With the increased demand for 24/7/365 access to a variety of banking services (and assets) and the ability to review, move, and manage value digitally on feature-rich platforms quickly and securely.

Banks (and the agencies charged with disclosure, compliance, and consumer protection oversight) that are ready, willing, and able to commit time, talent, and resources to reskill and increase digital and new technologies competency, will also be poised to increase positive relationship-based impacts for customers in the communities in which they serve.

Evolve and thrive.


My Thoughts on Copyright Office & USPTO Joint Study to Examine IP Issues Related to NFTs

Copyright 2022 Tonya M. Evans (Twitter/IG: @IPProfEvans)

On Tuesday, November, 22, 2022, the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a joint study to examine various IP issues arising from the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The Wednesday, November 23, 2022 Notice of Inquiry for the Federal Register can be found here.

This joint study follows a June 9, 2022 letter from Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property leadership, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Chair) and Thom Tillis (R-Tillis), requesting that the Copyright Office and the USPTO conduct a joint study and address issues related to NFTs and intellectual property rights in consultation with the private sector, drawing from the technological, creative, and academic sectors.

The notice seeks written public comments to several questions listed and also announces that the Copyright Office and USPTO intend to hold virtual public roundtables in January 2023.

A Closer Look at Copyright + NFTs

In late 2017 and early 2018, the era of token proliferation to leverage token issuance to raise funds to build blockchain-enabled projects (with a healthy dose of scams and unregistered securities), I began studying the intersection of copyright and blockchains, smart contracts, open source software and token standards in the Ethereum ecosystem (ERC-20 for fungible tokens and ERC-721 and later standards for non-fungible tokens).

My first law review article, CryptoKitties, Cryptography, and Copyright, presented at the 2019 BYU Copyright and Trademark Symposium and published in the American Intellectual Property Law Association Quarterly Journal, 47 AIPLA 219, 2019), examined the copyright implications of unique, scarce digital creative assets transferred and stored on blockchains, which I refer to herein generally as unique crypto assets (UCAs).

Specifically, I explored the emergence of NFTs created based on the ERC-721, a novel token standard at the time that enabled, for the first time, verifiable digital scarcity—an elusive characteristic in the world of Web 2.0. I analyzed whether ERC-721 tokens (and other non-fungible coding standards) could empower UCA holders to maintain control over their cryptographic creations in gaming, collectibles, and the full range of copyright-intensive industries, to name a few.

More recently, I examined the creative justice opportunities that might be enjoyed by systemically marginalized creatives when NFT and blockchain technology is leveraged.

I assessed whether such web3 technologies could provide and protect the economic power and creative control the Copyright Act promised but historically failed (and fails) to secure when at odds with discriminatory practices, contractual loopholes, and statutory impediments like the copyright transfer termination right.

I hope that stakeholders from all aspect of creativity, technology, education and policy submit comments and are invited to provide testimony during any hearings in these matters. This technology has disrupted copyright-intensive industries as much as it has the financial industry. And we’ve only just begun to explore the power and promise (as well as the pitfalls), to be sure.

In working with creatives and collectors at BlackNFTArt, Umba Daima and Black@, I know firsthand how disintermediated access to platforms that connect them on a peer-to-peer basis globally and to transfer artistry for cryptocurrencies (capital assets in the US) has begun to move the needle on the income and wealth gaps (at least before the current crypto winter).

I also know that numerous issues exist for artists, collectors and exchanges: the copyright complexities in the referenced art file connected to an individual token (because the token, itself, it not the art); direct and secondary liability issues for platforms; copyminting issues; file storage; how to respond to takedown notices and decentralized file storage issues; copyright transfer termination issues; estate planning and post-mortem copyright and license management issues. The list goes on. And that is just copyright!

So there is much to discuss. What intellectual property issues do you see at the intersection of IP and NFTs?

I’ve talked about this topic to several lawyers on my podcast, Tech Intersect, so listen, subscribe, share and let’s continue to conversation:

#FinancialLiteracyMonth Tech Intersect Podcast Spotlight Playlist

With over 100+ weekly episodes and counting, I’ve shared conversations with some of the foremost thought leaders and builders in the crypto and blockchain world. On this final day of financial literacy month, I’d like to share this curated list of the most popular and impactful Tech Intersect episodes for your listening and sharing pleasure.

Tech Intersect #112: Ping the Prof-Black Crypto Investor Data-FUD or Economic Justice?


Tech Intersect #3: Andreas Antonopoulos-Bitcoin for the other 6 Billion and Amplifying Inclusion in Blockchain


Tech Intersect #111: SPOTLIGHT Ep. 87 – Lamar Wilson-Black Bitcoin Billionaires & the Great Wealth Transfer


Tech Intersect #105: Jamiel Sheikh-The Role of Education in the Adoption, Regulation and Security in Crypto


Tech Intersect #97: Iris Nevins-Black NFT Art, Empowerment & the Future of Creativity


Tech Intersect #94: SPOTLIGHT Akin Sawyerr #44-Are Blockchains & Defi Lending the New Esusu Wealth-Building Model? Lessons from Nigeria


Tech Intersect #89: Justin Rhedrick-From Bars to Bitcoin


Tech Intersect #84: Ping The Prof #5-Decoding DeFi and the Future of Wealth


Tech Intersect #80: Robert Greenfield IV: The Emerging Impact of Crypto and Open Banking in a Decentralized World


Tech Intersect #72: Carmelle Cadet and EMTECH-Bridging the Financial Inclusion Divide between CeFI and DeFI


Tech Intersect #63:ONE/OFF-NFTs & Liberating Black Arts + Culture on the Blockchain


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