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Actor Seth Green has fallen victim to a bizarre theft which saw a copyrighted digital artwork of a monkey stolen from him by scammers – plunging an upcoming TV series featuring the creature into chaos.
The actor, 48, was using the artwork – which is known as an Non-Fungible Token (NFT) – of an animated cartoon monkey for an upcoming TV show.
But he could now face being sued for broadcasting his own creation, because the NFT, a cartoon monkey called Fred Simian, is officially the property of its new owner.
Although Fred could easily be reproduced, his status as an NFT means such reproductions must fall within intellectual property rules and copyright law.
The show is called White Horse Tavern. It features the real bar in Manhattan’s West Village, and imagines one of the bartenders is Fred Simian, who is part of an NFT collective called Bored Ape Yacht BClub.
The character which Green bought is animated, and interacts with real actors in the 1880s bar.
But now production on the show has ground to a halt, after the lead character was ‘kidnapped’.
Green announced on May 17 that the character had been stolen. He has pleaded for its return on social media, and also insisted that he can still broadcast the show, because Fred Simian was stolen and copyright rules do not apply.
But Fred was sold on using cryptocurrency – a totally unregulated market – meaning the NFT’s unidentified new owner could well exercise a copyright claim if a likeness of Fred is broadcast without permission.
Seth Green has created an animated show, in which a Bored Ape cartoon character works at a real Manhattan bar, White Horse Tavern, in the West Village
‘Well frens it happened to me,’ he tweeted.
‘Got phished and had 4NFT stolen.’
NFTs are bitcoin-like digital tokens that act like a certificate of ownership, and live on a blockchain.
He attached pictures of the four characters that were stolen, including Fred Simian.
Green added: ‘please don’t buy or trade these while I work to resolve: @DarkWing84 looks like you bought my stolen ape – hit me up so we can fix it.’
The user @DarkWing84 describes himself as: ‘Street Photographer. Experimental Photographer. All images are artist own.’
Green is pictured on Sunday at VEECon – a conference held in Minneapolis for fans of NFTs, pop culture and innovation. He captioned the photo: ‘Thanks everyone for welcoming @fred_simian so warmly. We’re excited to introduce you to the @whitehorsetavern1880 and continue building all this together’
The ape is seen behind the bar at the White Horse Tavern, in a trailer for the series
Green said that the character had been ‘stolen’, and was pleading for its return
Green said he was pursuing legal action.
‘Looking forward to precedent setting debates on IP ownership & exploitation, having spent 18 years studying copyright & the industry laws,’ he tweeted on Tuesday.
‘I’d rather meet @DarkWing84 to make a deal, vs in court.’
The actor, who, like Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg has enthusiastically embraced the ‘Bored Ape’ brand of NFTs, said he wanted to be a legal pioneer.
‘We can prove the promise of ape community,’ he said.
The legal status of the case remained unclear, as Green himself admitted.
One Twitter user commented: ‘Green no longer owns the commercial rights to the NFT and thus the show cannot move forward.’
Green then replied that the ‘thief’ was unable to use the image anyway, explaining: ‘Not true since the art was stolen. A buyer who purchased stolen art with real money and refuses to return it is not legally entitled to exploitation usage of the underlying IP.’
He is not the first famous face to get in hot water over ‘theft’ of NFTs.
Earlier this month Elon Musk briefly switched his Twitter profile picture to a $24.4 million NFT, before being asked by the co-head of Sotheby’s digital art division to take the image down.
Musk, 50, appeared to have taken a screenshot of a collage of an image entitled ‘Bored Ape Yacht Club’, which sold at auction in September.
The NFT features 107 images of cartoon apes, and was bought by an unknown bidder.
Musk’s use of the image was noticed by Michael Bouhanna, the co-head of digital art at Sotheby’s.
‘@elonmusk, as much I admire your work I’d like you to remove your pfp that I created for our Sotheby’s sale,’ Bouhanna tweeted.
‘Or you credit me.
‘Happy to send you the original file minted with the buyer approval.’
Michael Bouhanna, the co-head of digital art at Sotheby’s, noticed that Musk has screenshotted his work
Half an hour later, Musk appeared to reply to Bouhanna, mocking the NFT community
The image Musk used was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in September for $24.4 million
Musk did not reply directly, but instead tweeted half an hour later: ‘I dunno … seems kinda fungible.’
Several hours later, the ape image was gone, replaced with a photo of a child playing with a rocket.
Musk was thought by some to be mocking the NFT industry, one day after The Wall Street Journal reported that the market for the digital art had ‘collapsed’, with sales down 92 percent from its September peak.
By Wednesday afternoon, Musk had switched his profile photo, and instead of the NFT featured a child playing with a rocket
The paper cited data from website NonFungible, which reported that sales fell to a daily average of about 19,000 this week – compared to about 225,000 in September.
The number of active wallets in the NFT market fell 88 percent to about 14,000 last week from a high of 119,000 in November.
There have been significant signs of a drop in interest.
An NFT of the first tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold in March 2021 for $2.9 million to Sina Estavi, the chief executive of Malaysia-based blockchain company Bridge Oracle.
Estavi put the NFT up for auction earlier this year, but did not receive any bids above $14,000, so cancelled the sale.
In April, a Snoop Dog curated NFT, titled ‘Doggy #4292,’ was sold for $32,000 worth of the cryptocurrency ether.
The NFT, an image of a green astronaut standing on what looks like a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, is now up for auction, with an asking price of $25.5 million but the highest current bid is $210.
The rapper – a proud owner of a Bored Ape NFT, which he has as his Twitter profile pic, and which he has worn on a sweatshirt on TV – tweeted his support of Musk’s interest in the trades.
‘Ay @elonmusk! Let’s take our Apes 2 the moon. Higher n higher. LFG!!!’ he tweeted.