Ryder Ripps, a contemporary artist known for his satire, stunts and designs for millennial brands, has begun minting a set of non-fakeable tokens (NFTs) that mock the influential Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC).
Some 550 tokens have been “hand-minted” by Ripps since Monday, he said. Each has a unique Simeonan character already seen in the fictional world of Bored Ape. This means that Ripps is imitating apes.
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Foundation, an NFT marketplace, has suspended trading in several of these images earlier this week after receiving requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. According to a letter shared by Ripps, his work infringes on the intellectual property of Yuga Labs, the corporate administrator of the Bored Apes brand. Although Ripps intends to fight the DMCA – just as he has defended other artistic plagiarism before – the images are back online and causing controversy in the NFT industry.
“I haven’t (sic) slept,” Ripps said in a private message around 11:00 UTC yesterday.
“Minting a coin
Purchasers of the so-called “RR/BAYC” tokens (an acronym for Ripps’ name) consider the act a work of “performance art. “Ripps is taking Yuga Labs’ copyrightable material and putting it in a new context by attaching a different, unforgeable blockchain signature to it. The images may be the same, but the meaning is different, he said.
NFTs are a blockchain-based technology for attaching a tradable asset to another piece of digital data, such as a PDF, GIF or MP3. proponents believe they can be used to improve the provenance of data and give a unique identity to infinitely reproducible files.
NFTs are also increasingly becoming a vehicle for fundraising – sometimes in ways that seem to violate established securities laws. Seen as a hotbed of innovation and artistic production, the sector also raises questions around copyright law and what it means to own digital files.
The Bored Ape Yacht Club allows its token holders to monetize their NFTs and related characters, an effort that could be called decentralized brand building. Ape holders have opened themed restaurants, sold Ape merchandise, and expanded the club’s lore through fan art.
See also. Neil Strauss Writes “Narrative” for Bored Ape Yacht Club
It’s unclear why or how Ripps’ images were taken down in the first place, a process that may have been automated or put back on the foundation, which Ripps believes must have been a direct act from Yuga Labs.
It sends a huge message, like, if they go out of their way to cancel this request,” Ripps said by phone. A representative from Yuga Labs did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Ripps has been selling his fake apes primarily for 0.1 ETH, which is currently worth about $200. A Twitter user named @VardCrypto got a RR/BAYC token after telling Ripps he liked the prank, though couldn’t afford the price.
“Conceptual art isn’t something you see every day in the NFT space,” Vard told CoinDesk. “I like that [Ripps] used the base URI [Uniform Resource Identifier, used to process online data] to prove that you can’t replicate NFT.”
This is not the first time Ripps has made artistic statements about NFTs, nor is it the first time he has criticized successful “profile photo” projects. Also known as PFPs, these projects refer to the mostly cartoonish animal images in the NFT space, such as lazy lions, fat penguins and MiLadies, that buyers use as online avatars.
Last July, Ripps “Punk CryptoPunks,” a high-value collection of early NFT art, minted his own tokens by copying/pasting a punk file and using it as his personal photo on social media platforms including Twitter.Ripps’ version of Punk 3100 is the same as Larva Labs’ first minted in 2017 CryptoPunk NFT is identical, except for the additional tokens.
“By engaging their supposed art with the ethereum network, they are supposedly believers in the cryptocurrency’s ideal of self-management. I question Larva Labs’ motives, understanding of art, understanding of ‘punk’ and understanding of cryptocurrency/NFT,” Ripps told CoinDesk at the time.
In the past year, Ripps has also tried to draw attention to the alleged racist kitsch that exists in the Bored Ape Yacht Club. He hosts a website called Gordon Goner, referring to one of Yuga Labs’ one-time pseudonymous founders, detailing what he calls the “dog whistles” and “Nazi imagery” in the series.
“If you’ve been on 4chan, this is typical mockery,” Ripps said, referring to some obscure references or “inside jokes” he said he found.” It’s amazing how far they’ve gone.”
Yuga Labs has denied Ripps’ allegations, and other outside observers have called some of his claims superficial, false or coincidental.
“I bought [RR/BAYC] because I’ve been following his work for years, and while he’s known for his design, his satire is my favorite and his most touching. I would never consider buying Yuga Labs in any form,” an NFT collector named krystall.eth told CoinDesk.
While others are participating in the boycott, the boring brand will only grow. Celebrities including Justin Beiber, Jimmy Fallon and Snoop Dogg have joined the “yacht club. Sales of virtual land associated with the BAYC “metaverse” recently topped $285 million and contributed to a rise in Ether transaction fees (based on rising demand) as the network saw its fourth-highest trading week at the time of the sale. Yuga Labs recently closed a $450 million funding round led by top-tier venture firm Andreessen Horowitz.
There is a film series planned for the APE token and blockchain “business development team/” that is pursuing Yuga away from ethereum.
Ripps’ current BAYC project was launched after a dispute with prominent NFT influencer j1mmy.eth. Ripps minted a version of j1mmy’s Bored Ape profile picture to push back against claims that people holding the token have unique requirements for the picture.
“If an ape comes to you because you shook their PFP,” Ripps said, “they might say ‘it doesn’t matter, it’s not the same NFT!’ to which you should say ‘yes, you can’t copy the NFT, so this is an original work with a new context/meaning,’ just like Phunks did.
While Ripps’ earlier experiments with fake CryptoPunks were allowed to continue trading on OpenSea after a failed copyright claim by Larva Labs, some legal experts believe the happy prankster could be in legal trouble this time.
“BAYC’s picture is another story. There’s no question that the images are copyrightable and RR’s use of them is ostensibly infringing,” lawyer and conceptual artist Brian Frye, who is known for his statements on plagiarism, told CoinDesk.
The problem is that he sold the NFT associated with the images into the ‘same’ market as [Yuga Labs],” he said.
See also. NFT artist Brian Frye wants you to steal this article
Rips said what he’s doing would fall under “fair use” of the image, a legal copyright exemption intended for educational purposes – just as news organizations use Bored Ape images 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 a copyright owner would do to make a profit on a work, so it’s unlikely a court would consider it fair use,” he said.
Ripps argued that creating and selling NFT is an artistic act in itself, and a broader understanding of fair use would apply given his work. Fry also doubts Yuga will press charges because it could draw attention to Ripps’ race-related criticism or “make them look like tools.
On Twitter, Ripps’ program has had mixed results, with one partner at Egirl Capital, @DegenSpartan, asking, “What’s happening with [the] foundation?” and called it “free” to comment on the recent spat.
While Ripps has a First Amendment right to criticize and comment on influential projects, his work arguably undermines Bored Ape’s brand and could create confusion in the NFT marketplace, though legally that may not matter as much.
“Copyright doesn’t care about the consumer. In fact, the whole point of copyright is to make consumers pay more in order to benefit copyright owners,” Frye said.