The Chinese government has altered its previously rigid stance on digital asset regulation. Specifically, it has officially recognized the theft of NFTs and other digital collections as a form of property theft.
In its official statement, the government proposed three categorizations for the theft of digital collections: data theft, digital property theft, or a combination of the two – referred to as “co-offending”. In essence, the “co-offending” perspective recognizes that digital collection theft involves unauthorized access to the hosting system and theft of virtual property.
Recognizing Digital Collections as “Network Virtual Property”
By defining these assets as constituting “network virtual property”, the Chinese authorities affirm that they can be the subject of property-related crime, officially recognizing them as property in criminal law. This is an essential shift in China’s digital property rights and cybercrime norms in a country recognized for its stringent regulatory framework.
China’s Evolving Stance on Digital Assets
This announcement comes after China’s reported ban on most cryptocurrency-related activities earlier this year. Yet, it reflects an advanced and nuanced approach to digital assets like NFTs. This shift is further supported by recent corporate moves, like e-commerce titan Alibaba’s Xianyu platform easing restrictions on NFT searches from October 25th.
In September, the Chinese Trademark Office sanctioned a series of trademarks linked to NFTs and metaverse-related products and services, highlighting their recognition of the increasing relevance of virtual assets.
The approvals from the Chinese Trademark Office encompass an extensive array of digital assets and their applications. Significantly, they have recognized the legitimacy of downloadable digital files verified by NFTs, covering a broad spectrum of virtual goods.
For example, they have approved trademarks for the exhibition of virtual goods intended for retail environments. Additionally, virtual goods explicitly crafted for entertainment purposes have been authorized. Moreover, including avatars, digital overlays, and skins in the list of approved items is noteworthy. These elements are crucial in enriching the user experience within online virtual worlds.
A Landmark Decision in Digital Asset Protection
China’s new stance on the theft of digital assets is another milestone in digital asset security. It spotlights an emerging acknowledgement of property rights in the digital era that could influence other countries grappling with regulatory challenges in the digital asset domain. This forward-looking move ensures a promising future for digital assets in China. It could shape the global conversation surrounding digital asset ownership and security with NFTs.