Seth Green, the guy who lends his voice to Family Guy and produces the Robot Chicken series, was robbed of several NFTs because he fell for a phishing scam. And adding to that unfortunate incident, the NFTs he initially owned were set to star as characters in their own TV show—and copyright law is preventing Green from releasing his NFT show.
On 17 May, Green tweeted to inform his followers that four of his NFTs had been stolen due to a phishing scam. He asked to not purchase or trade the NFTs while he works to resolve the issue.
Transaction ledgers show one of his NFTs was also sold by the scammer to a pseudonymous collector known as “DarkWing84,” who purchased it for more than USD 200,000 (RM878,500). Green has attempted to tweet at DarkWing84 to try and reclaim the NFT, but there hasn’t been a reported response by the NFT’s new owner yet.
We also don’t yet whether DarkWing84 knew if they purchased an illicitly obtained NFT. According to NFT marketplace OpenSea, they “do not have the power to freeze or delist NFTs that exist on decentralised blockchains”. The only thing they can really do is disable the ability to use OpenSea to buy or sell stolen items when assets have been reported stolen. OpenSea is also currently already facing three lawsuits from those who lost their NFTs to similar phishing attacks.
Daniel Dubin, a tax and litigation attorney, mentioned that if the current owner “wanted to cause trouble for Seth Green they probably could, because that person becomes the holder” of the NFTs’ commercial usage rights. He also says that because NFTs aren’t physical goods, “it’s interesting to imagine the different ways that IP rights can be affected”.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface,” continued Dublin.
Seth Green’s show, “White Horse Tavern”, was teased at the NFT conference VeeCon—and also features Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur and crypto hype man. It looks like it would appeal to NFT enthusiasts, and it looks like it shows a world where real-life people can sort of… live with animated versions of NFTs.
After Buzzfeed reported that Green might not be able to premiere his show because he no longer owns commercial rights, he tweeted that it isn’t true “because the art was stolen”. He explained that he would be taking DarkWing84 to court but would prefer to meet them before that.
“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,” said Green.
It might not be as easy as that, as I previously said that the NFT world has a bit of a “dangerous lawless cowboy vibe” in my NFT feature. NFTs are still fairly new, and copyright law can be touchy issue. A growing number of NFT projects are granting owners the right to commercially adapt their works, but it has consequently introduced a host of legal disputes.
However, Green assured VeeCon attendees that he is working with authorities to retrieve his NFTs. In his latest tweet, he says that he’s “looking forward to precedent setting debates on IP ownership & exploitation, having spent 18 years studying copyright & the industry laws”.
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