Ryder Ripps, Bored Apes and ‘Owning’ an NFT
Foundation, an NFT marketplace, had suspended trading of several of the images earlier this week after receiving a Digital Millennium Copyright Act request. According to a letter shared by Ripps, his work had violated corporate stewart of the Bored Apes brand, Yuga Labs’, intellectual property. Though Ripps had intended to fight the DMCA – as he’s done before to defend other artistic acts of plagiarism – the images are again live and stirring controversy in the NFT industry.
Buyers of the so-called “RR/BAYC” tokens, an abbreviation of Ripps’ name, see this act as a work of “performance art.” Ripps is taking Yuga Labs’ copyrightable material and putting it in a new context by appending a different non-fungible blockchain signature to it. The images may be the same, though the meaning is different, he said.
NFTs are a type of blockchain-based technology used to append a tradable asset to another piece of digital data, such as a PDF, GIF or MP3. Supporters believe they have use for improving the provenance of data and granting infinitely reproducible files a type of unique identity.
NFTs are also increasingly a tool used for fundraising – sometimes in ways that look to fall afoul of established securities laws. Seen as a hotbed for innovation and artistic production, the sector is also raising issues around copyright law and what it means to own a digital file.
Ripps has mostly been selling his fake apes for .1 ETH, worth about $200 currently. A Twitter user of the name @VardCrypto was given a RR/BAYC token after telling Ripps he enjoyed the prank, though couldn’t afford the price.
“Conceptual art isn’t something you see within the NFT space everyday,” Vard told CoinDesk. “I love the fact [Ripps is] using the base URI [uniform resource identifier, used to address online data] to prove you cannot copy an NFT.”
This is not the first time Ripps has made an artistic statement about NFTs or criticized successful “profile pic” projects. Also called PFPs, these projects refer to an NFT sector of mostly cartoonish animal figures like Lazy Lions, Pudgy Penguins and MiLadies that buyers use as online avatars.
“By engaging their so-called art with the Ethereum network, they should be believers in the self-governing ideals of cryptocurrency. I question Larva Labs’s motives, understanding of art, understanding of ‘punk’ and understanding of cryptocurrency/NFT,” Ripps told CoinDesk at the time.
Over the past year, Ripps has also sought to draw attention to supposed racist tropes present in the Bored Ape Yacht Club. He hosts a website called Gordon Goner, referring to one of the once-pseudonymous founders of Yuga Labs, detailing what he calls “dog whistles” and “Nazi imagery” in the series.
“I bought [a RR/BAYC] because I’ve been following his work for years, and although he’s known for design his satire is my favorite and his most poignant. I would never consider a Yuga Labs purchase of any kind,” an NFT collector who goes by krystall.eth told CoinDesk.
“if an Ape comes at you for rocking their PFP they might say ‘well it doesn’t matter, it’s not the same NFT!’ to which you should say ‘exactly, you can’t copy an NFT,, therefore it’s an original work, with new context/meaning,’ just like the phunks,” Ripps said.
While Ripps’ early experiment with counterfeit CryptoPunks was allowed to continue trading on OpenSea after a failed copyright claim from Larva Labs, some legal experts think the merry prankster may be running into legal trouble this time around.
Ripps said what he is doing would fall under “fair use” of images, a legal copyright exemption meant for education purposes – like a news organization using a Bored Ape image in a story to show what they look like, Frye said.
“But using a BAYC image to illustrate an NFT available for sale is the same thing the copyright owner is doing in order to monetize the work, so courts are unlikely to see it as a fair use,” he said.
Although Ripps has a First Amendment constitutional right to criticize and comment on an influential project, his work could be said to be diminishing the Bored Ape’s brand and potentially creating confusion in the NFT markets, though that may not matter so much in the eyes of the law.
This content was originally published here.