Following the release of a YouTube video on racism allegations against the NFT project Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), news from parent company Yuga Labs’ circuit began to roll over. YouTuber Philion joined the digital artist about six months ago Ryder Ripps together to jointly investigate the charges. On his website, Ripps drew parallels to right-wing extremist ideology and alleged hidden clues within the ecosystem Bored Ape Yacht Clubs attentive.
Yuga Labs does not like it at all. The company talks about character assassinations, raises allegations of fraud and complaints about trademark infringement – because Ryder Ripps himself launched a modified NFT collection of bored monkeys, which Philion praises in his video for Bored Apes. Now Ripps must answer in court.
Yuga Labs vs. Ryder Ripps: The Battle for NFTs
Yuga Labs’ lawyers allege trademark infringement, unfair competition, misrepresentation of sources and unfair enrichment by Ripp. It appears from the trial brought on June 24 at U.S. District Court for the Central District of California was submitted.
Ripps copied all NFTs of the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection and minted the 10,000 monkeys again under the name RR / BAYC. All monkeys were then on sale for 0.15 ETH on the NFT platform OpenSea. According to Ripps’ website, the RR versions are sold out and have even temporarily overtaken the main project in terms of volume.
At 10,000 NFTs, Ripps should have earned an estimated $ 1.8 million from the collection – “unfair profits” according to Yuga Labs.
He boldly promotes and sells these RR / BAYC NFTs with exactly the same branding that Yuga Labs uses to promote and sell authentic Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.
Yuga Labs accusation
Cancellation of Bored Apes
Yuga Labs claims that Ripps not only wants to resell exactly the same works of art, but also offered the allegedly infringing NFTs in “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 federal Lanham Act. The law prohibits the sale of the same or related products, in the same place, under the same brand names. It aims to protect consumers from poor quality of goods. Yuga Labs claims that all of these violations occurred in the RR case.
BAYC founders suspect Ripps wants to devalue Bored Apes “by flooding the NFT market with its own counterfeit NFT collection.”
Copycat NFTs: Is It All Just Satire?
Ryder Ripps sees it differently. He refers to his artistic freedom and describes his work as satire. On his website, he takes a stand and explains that he was already in the process of recreating CryptoPunk # 3100 on Ethereum Blockchain. The original token was sold on March 11, 2021 for a record $ 7.58 million.
At the time, by recreating CryptoPunken, Ripps wanted to test the limits and significance of digital images within a new paradigm of IP law, copyright, computer-generated images, and non-fungible tokens. As before, the files associated with an NFT are still infinitely copyable, but the token behind them is not.
The current ownership is unclear to BAYC owners and does not comply with applicable 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 cryptocurrency has been very unregulated for years, especially NFTs and Metaverse. Christian Solmecke, a lawyer with the law firm WBS LAW, investigated the case for BTC-ECHO on the basis of German copyright and trademark law. Can Ripps refer to artistic freedom and should copyright then be interpreted in this way? “This legal issue has long been discussed in the light of the phenomenon Acquisition art discussed and has not been finally resolved, “says Solmecke. And further: “It would also be possible for the new barrier from § 51a UrhG to enter into force here, which allows for caricature, parody and pastiche. In the end, however, these questions could only be answered definitively by a court in individual cases, ”the legal expert continues.
Since the current case comes from the United States, Solmecke adds: “In the Appropriation Art case, a U.S. court agreed with a photographer who sued Appropriation Art artist Richard Prince for copyright infringement.”
Solmecke adds that the lawsuit does not concern copyright but trademark law. “Ripps has copied, promoted and sold trademarked images. In doing so, he used it for commercial purposes and in principle as a trademark, unacceptable. In that case, the trademark owners would in principle have claims for injunctions and claims for damages. However, it is also possible in some cases that artistic freedom prevails if a trademark is used purely artistically. Ultimately, a court must decide whether this is also the case in this case, ”says Solmecke.
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