Brazilian Prosecutors Side WIth Indigenous People in NFT Lawsuit

Earlier this year, news broke about Nemus, a company that claimed to help conserve the Amazon rainforest through NFTs. How this worked is that customers would buy plots of land in the Amazon rainforest represented by NFTs and the funds raised would then be used to conserve the real-life plot of land. 

Now, months later, a judge has ruled that Nemus should stop this NFT initiative as it infringes on the rights of the indigenous people who own it. This comes after much dispute and accusations of exploitation by representatives of the Apurinã tribe. 

All About the Dispute

On paper, Nemus’ initiative seems foolproof; it allows people to buy NFTs while supporting a good cause and also protects the environment. But beneath all of this was an underlying issue, which was that Nemus might not have had the legal rights to the land they were claiming to conserve.

In court, the company was accused of convincing the indigenous people to endorse land contracts they did not understand. 

“People from the company delivered a sign to the villages, written in English, and asked the indigenous people, who can barely read, to sign documents without clarifying the content or providing a copy,” a court document said at the time, claiming that Nemus’ activities were in violation of Convention no. 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 

This convention essentially protects the lands of the Seruini River region and Pauini and maintains the rights of the indigenous people within it. This then led to a dispute about the ownership of the land and after Nemus claimed that it had permission from the indigenous affairs agency to operate on the land, it was asked for proof of this ownership.

Brazilian Prosecutors Side WIth Indigenous People in NFT Lawsuit

After much back and forth over the months, prosecutors have formally told Nemus to stop selling their NFTs or engaging in any activities on the land. Doing so would be in violation of the UN Indigenous Rights Convention, prosecutors say. Furthermore, the company was given 10 days to outline its compliance measures to a court or risk facing more legal action. According to Flavio de Mira Penna, the founder of Nemus, the company will be complying with these requirements and has already stopped selling NFTs and does not plan to do so until at least around the second half of 2023.

But that doesn’t mean the end of all its ventures, however, as Penna has said that he is hoping to re-enter into dialogue with the Apurinã people at some point. It should be noted that there is an existing UN convention that specifies how such dialogue should take place. 

A Complicated Situation

While Nemus might have had good intentions, this shows the complicated side of selling NFTs based on real-life assets. The entire case has brought up the topic of land rights, the rights of indigenous people, and how NFTs based on these should be treated. And depending on how the dialogue between Nemus and the Apurinã people goes, there might be more to come.


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