The Chinese government issued a statement on November 10, declaring that individuals stealing digital collections, such as nonfungible tokens (NFTs), will be subject to theft sentences. The statement outlines three perspectives on the type of crime that the theft of digital collections falls under.
The first two views classify it as either data or digital property, while the third view considers digital collections as both data and virtual property, falling under the umbrella of “co-offending.” The statement emphasizes that stealing a digital collection involves intrusion into the system where it is stored, thereby committing the crime of illegally obtaining computer information system data and theft.
The statement recognizes digital collections as “network virtual property” and asserts that, in the context of criminal law, collections should be acknowledged as property. NFTs are explicitly mentioned, and the statement establishes that digital collections are derived from the concept of NFTs abroad, using blockchain technology to map specific assets with unique, non-copyable, tamper-preventing, and permanent storage characteristics.
Despite China’s official ban on nearly all crypto-related activities and transactions from 2021, there has been recent interest in NFTs. Local reports suggest that Alibaba-owned peer-to-peer marketplace Xianyu removed censorship of NFT-related keywords in its search. Additionally, China Daily, a government-owned English-language newspaper, announced plans to create its own NFT platform and offered a substantial reward to a third-party contractor to design the platform according to its specifications.