It’s never a fun experience when your NFT is stolen; you’re scrambling to find out who did it, you’re frantically messaging your NFT marketplace to find out if there is anything you can do, and you might even be looking towards legal action.
If you’re actor and comedian Seth Green, however, things might be a bit more complicated than that.
The Curious Case of the Stolen Apes
Earlier in May, it was reported that Green had some of his Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs stolen.
“Well frens it happened to me. Got phished and had 4NFT stolen. @BoredApeYC @opensea @doodles @yugalabs please don’t buy or trade these while I work to resolve,” he tweeted at the time.
While the loss of a Bored Ape NFT, many of which run for hundreds of thousands of dollars, would be devastating in itself, this theft has put some of Green’s projects in jeopardy. Green explained in a recent interview with Gary Vaynerchuk that he had been developing a new animated series called Darkwing84.
One of the main characters in the series was to be Fred Simian, which was a representation of one of the Bored Apes that was stolen. Now, this shouldn’t be an issue. If a digital representation of one of Green’s characters was stolen, surely he could just go ahead with the show anyway?
This, unfortunately, is not quite so simple. You see, owning the Bored Ape NFT not only gave the owner the right to the NFT but its copyright as well.
By owning the NFT, Green could use the Fred Simian character commercially. Now that the NFT has been stolen and he no longer ‘owns’ it, the copyright is gone. He can, technically, still go ahead with the show but will not be able to use the character or might face legal repercussions from whoever now owns the NFT.
“I bought that ape in July 2021, and have spent the last several months developing and exploiting the IP to make it into the star of this show. Then days before—his name is Fred, by the way—days before he’s set to make his world debut, he’s literally kidnapped,” Green said in the interview.
This whole saga is a very complicated one and is one that forces us to examine the technicalities of NFTs. Green is clearly the rightful owner of the NFTs but because they were stolen, so was his copyright.
What happens if he goes ahead and uses the character? No one has been sued for copyright infringement using NFTs thus far but what would the legal case look like given that the NFT is stolen property?
For now, it is not known how Greem will proceed and what the outcome will be but it does bring into scrutiny the complexities of NFTs, their safety, and the rights attached to them.
But with the recent increase in NFT-related lawsuits, perhaps we will get some clarity on the matter soon.