After the publication of a YouTube video about accusations of racism against the NFT Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) project, news from the orbit of the parent company Yuga Labs began to roll. YouTuber Philion hooked up with the digital artist about six months ago Ryder Ripps together to jointly investigate the allegations. On his website, Ripps drew parallels with far-right ideology and surmised hidden clues within the ecosystem of the Bored Monkey Yacht Clubs attentive.
Yuga Labs doesn’t like that at all. The company speaks of defamation, raises accusations of scams and complains of trademark infringement, because Ryder Ripps himself released a modified NFT collection of bored apes, which Philion praises in his Bored Apes video. Now Ripps has to answer in court.
Yuga Labs vs. Ryder Ripps: The Battle for NFTs
Yuga Labs’ attorneys allege trademark infringement, unfair competition, misrepresentation of sources, and unjust enrichment by Ripps. This is how it arises from the lawsuit filed on June 24 in US District Court for the Central District of California it was sent.
Ripps copied everyone NFT from the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection and re-minted the 10,000 Monkeys under the RR/BAYC name. All the monkeys were then on sale for 0.15 ETH on the OpenSea NFT platform. According to the Ripps website, the RR versions were sold out and even temporarily surpassed the main project in terms of volume.
With 10,000 NFTs, Ripps should have made an estimated $1.8 million from the collection – “unfair profit” according to Yuga Labs.
Shamelessly promote and sell these RR/BAYC NFTs with the exact same branding used by Yuga Labs to promote and sell authentic Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.
Yuga Labs Accusation
Cancellation of boring monkeys
Yuga Labs argues that not only does Ripps want to resell the exact same artwork, but it also offers the allegedly infringing NFTs on “the same NFT marketplaces that Yuga Labs uses to sell its Bored Ape NFTs, such as OpenSea.” This constitutes “elementary trademark infringement” under the state’s federal Lanham Act. The law prohibits the sale of the same or related products, in the same place, under the same brand names. Its aim is to protect consumers from poor quality products. Yuga Labs claims that all of these violations occurred in the RR case.
The BAYC founders suspect that Ripps wants to devalue Bored Apes by “flooding the NFT market with its own collection of counterfeit NFTs.”
Copycat NFT: Is it all just satire?
Ryder Ripps sees it differently. He refers to his artistic freedom and qualifies his work as satire. On the website he takes a stand and explains that he was already re-minting the CryptoPunk #3100 on the Ethereum Blockchain. The original image token was sold on March 11, 2021 for a record $7.58 million.
At the time, by re-coining CryptoPunk, Ripps wanted to test the limits and meaning of digital images within a new paradigm of intellectual property laws, copyrights, computer generated images, and non-fungible tokens. As before, the files associated with an NFT can still be infinitely copied, but the token behind them is not.
Current ownership terms are not clear to BAYC owners and do not conform to current copyright standards. A clear definition and description of what is sold as an NFT and what an NFT actually is is one of the main goals of Ripp’s work.
The crypto space has been very unregulated for years, especially NFT and Metaverse. Christian Solmecke, a lawyer at the law firm WBS LAW, examined the BTC-ECHO case from the point of view of German copyright and trademark law. Can Ripps refer to artistic freedom and then copyright should be interpreted this way? “This legal issue has been discussed for a long time on the basis of the phenomenon of appropriation art discussed and not finally resolved,” says Solmecke. And further on: “It would also be possible for the new barrier of § 51a UrhG, which allows caricature, parody and pastiche, to come into force here. Ultimately, however, , these questions could only be answered conclusively by a court in individual cases”, continues the legal expert.
Since the current case comes from the US, Solmecke adds: “In the Appropriation Art case, a US court agreed with a photographer who was suing Appropriation Art artist Richard Prince for infringement of copyright”.
Solmecke adds that the lawsuit is not related to copyright, but to trademark law. “Ripps has copied, promoted and sold copyrighted images. In doing so, he used it for commercial purposes and, in principle, as a trademark, inadmissibly. In that case, the owners of the trademarks would basically have lawsuits for precautionary measures and lawsuits for damages. However, it is also possible here in individual cases that artistic freedom prevails if a mark is used purely artistically. Ultimately, a court must decide whether this is also the case in this case,” says Solmecke.
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