Over the last week, #BURNBAYC has been trending on Twitter after a rumor flew around that the design for the Bored Ape Yacht Club is based on Nazi symbolism. The BAYC team adamantly states this is not true.
The source of these rumors is Ryder Ripps, a conceptual artist and Bored Ape Holder. In January, he released a document online called “Bored Ape Yacht Club is Racist and Contains Nazi Dog Whistles.”
He then sold his own ersatz versions of Bored Apes called RR/BAYC and walked away with at least 300 ETH, according to Etherscan.
Wylie Aronow, cofounder of BAYC, stated that BAYC is not based on Nazi imagery. “As you may have heard, we’ve become the target of a crazy disinformation campaign accusing us — a group of Jewish, Turkish, Pakistani and Cuban friends — of being super-secret Nazis,” he tweeted under his Twitter handle, GordonGoner.eth.
Now BAYC parent company Yuga Labs is suing Ripps and his co-conspirator Jeremy Cahen for trademark infringement, false advertising, and several other charges. The lawsuit, which was filed on June 24 in U.S. District Court in California, argues that Ripps “recently began trolling Yuga Labs and scamming consumers into purchasing RR/BAYC NFTs by misusing Yuga Labs’ trademarks.”
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Dan Kahan, a popular web3 writer, told The Defiant that if Ripps had done things differently, he might have been protected under parody law. ”The problem is that he mounted a targeted harassment campaign against the founders of BAYC, directly copied the art […] and spread bad faith claims as ‘truth’ for personal profit,” Dan K told The Defiant. He believes that this will be a precedent-setting case for NFTs and IP law. (Dan K is a former writer at The Defiant).
Ripps contended there are similarities between the black & white BAYC logo and the Nazi Totenkopf emblem, claiming that the traits are “racially oriented or involve some type of military history.”.
In a thread, Dan K pointed out on Twitter that “Ape-ing in” — a term referring to buying a bunch of crypto or NFTs — has been used in web3 since at least a 2020 CoinMarketCap article. Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that combats antisemitism and supports civil rights, said Ripps’ Nazi conspiracy theory is not true.
This is not the first time Ripps has pulled such a stunt. He previously received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) letter from Larva Labs for copying the CryptoPunk NFTs.
On June 22, Ripps tweeted that there was a “0% chance” BAYC would sue him.
“I do think it’s pretty brilliant from an artistic point of view, and intriguing from a copyright lawyer point of view,” Mike Warsczak, General Counsel for web3 accelerator Alliance DAO, told The Defiant.
Prior to entering the NFT space, Ripps produced e conceptual, often-satirical artwork revolving around the internet, and has been featured in The New York Times, VICE, and WIRED.
Ripps did not respond to requests from The Defiant for comment.