No monkey business: artist sued for appropriating Bored Ape NFTs

Yuga Labs filed a lawsuit against conceptual artist Ryder Ripps, accusing him of selling knock-off versions of its Bored Ape Yacht Club non-fungible tokens. The artist says this is an attempt to silence him.

Yuga Labs, a company behind BAYC tokens, the cheapest of which can still fetch close to $90,000 despite “crypto winter” fears, accused Ripps of copying its trademarks to troll and devalue the company. It says that his RR/BAYC project, which uses Bored Ape imagery but sells NFT pieces for as low as $200, is a scam.

“This is no mere monkey business,” a lawsuit filed in a California court said. Yuga Labs argues that Ripps profits from deliberate “confusion” over his work’s relation to the BAYC collection, one of the most valuable in the world.

Ripps dismissed the claims in a statement posted on Twitter. He said that people who reserved his pieces were explicitly informed it was “a protest against and parody” of BAYC rather than the real deal itself.

Ripps also argues that the lawsuit against him is part of a campaign to silence him. Some posts on his social media claim that Nazi and white supremacist messaging is coded into BAYC’s images and language.

In a blog post on Medium, Yuga Labs co-founder Gordon Goner dismissed the allegations as a “ridiculous” conspiracy theory. At the same time, the company’s lawsuit against Ripps mentioned “false accusations of racism” as a way to boost the sales of his NFTs.

On his website, Ripps says he does his work in the spirit of appropriation art – an artistic reworking of images or objects with little or no alteration to the original. Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and, more recently, Banksy are among artists known to have used the technique.

While acknowledging that his images are the same as the original ones except for a different token link attached to them, Ripps argues that they are "recontextualized" in offering commentary on their origins and meanings – and testing boundaries of digital ownership.

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