This is NOT a monkey business: YUGA LABS, INC. v. RYDER RIPPS, JEREMY CAHEN, and DOES 1-10
Today I’m going to tell you about the Ryder Ripps Bored Ape Yacht Club…
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Remember, in the previous story about the Bored Ape Yacht Club I promised I would write a separate piece about it?
Well here it is!
The timing seemed perfect since the trial happened last week.
So let’s dive in.
From the previous issue you already know the high level story of the Bored Apes Yacht Club - but what the hell is Ryder Ripps Bored Ape Yacht Club (RR BAYC) you may be wondering.
Here is how it all started.
In May, 2022 conceptual artist Ryder Ripps took the picture of the Bored Ape that j1mmy.eth owned and used as his profile picture on Twitter and minted it as a new NFT on Foundation. He then linked his wallet to his Twitter account and used that NFT as his new profile picture. Twitter on its turn showed a hexagon around the image, which proved that it’s an NFT that the account holder (Ryder) owns.
I could not find the exact public dialogue between j1mmy.eth and Ryder, but I recall that j1mmy.eth was not happy at all.
The conversation between them and the Twitter crowd provoked thoughts and brought up important topics such as NFTs, IP rights, ownership, provenance, etc.
And within this context below is the tweet that started it all
There were many people tweeting and asking to get their RR BAYC based on their chosen Bored Ape image.
Ryder Ripps himself was minting the RR BAYC apes 1 by 1 on Foundation and soon it became a trending collection on the platform.
If I am not mistaken, at one point Yuga Labs had sent a DMCA letter requesting the Foundation to take the collection down. It was taken down for a day, but after investigation was brought back up.
Everyone who was purchasing RR BAYC had to agree to the terms below.
Many simplified the matter and due to the same imagery used (later even the media while covering the topic) simply labeled RR BAYC collection a copycat.
As you can see from the terms Ryder meant to re-conceptualize the BAYC imagery for educational purposes, as protest and satirical commentary.
And everyone was informed that it was a new mint and not an NFT from the original Bored Ape Yacht Club collection.
It is hard to deny though that the collection did what Ryder intended it to do.
You cannot copy an NFT.
It would be safe to say that there were many people in the space, who had the wrong perception about what an NFT actually was. Many really thought they were buying, holding and trading the image (jpeg). Which is exactly why some had that ignorant “right-click save” counter-argument.
What they didn’t realize was that when they bought the NFT they bought the token, not the image.
And although RR BAYC NFT was pointing to the same image of the respective BAYC ape, it was a completely new NFT under a different smart contract.
Please note that the accusations about Yuga Labs being a Nazi brand had not yet gained traction, but they were already around. Ryder had launched https://gordongoner.com/ at the beginning of 2022 and different Twitter Spaces were debating the matter.
So to many at this point minting a RR BAYC was a form of protest.
RR BAYC may be looked at as appropriation art too.
What is appropriation art?
Appropriation in art and art history refers to the practice of artists using pre-existing objects or images in their art with little transformation of the original.
Appropriation art raises questions of originality, authenticity and authorship.
Below is just one example
More examples mentioned in this tweet.
And yes, you may argue that in RR BAYC case it’s pointing to the same BAYC original image… but remember - the NFT is not about the image but provenance, right?
Anyway, let’s see what happened next
Seems that at some point the demand became so high that Ryder could no longer mint them manually. So he teamed up with Pauly (Jeremy Cahen) and a few others to launch a website where people could buy/mint them.
I already told you in the previous story that the Youtuber Philion published his video called BORED APE NAZI CLUB at the time the NFT NYC 2022 was taking place.
The video blew up and I think everyone in the NFT space watched it(+ some more since it got 2M views so far). The video mentioned the RR BAYC collection and brought the attention of more people to it. So the demand kept growing…
At first the most powerful NFT company who gave birth to BAYC: Yuga Labs ignored the matter, probably hoping that it would never gain traction and be forgotten with the time.
But not only the video kept gaining views, but also the crypto and mass media picked up the topic so with each day more and more people were coming across the accusations and the RR BAYC collection as a result.
So they reached a point where ignoring it further was no longer an option.
That’s when Gordon Goner published A letter from the Founders labelling the accusations “bullshit” but addressing them nevertheless.
Trying to recall those times, I don’t remember the Bored Ape community being as loyal and united, supporting the brand as Ryder Ripps and Pauly’s supporters were. The latter were way more loud, bold and passionate compared to the Bored Ape holders.
I personally think that if it was the other way around, things would die out and eventually be forgotten and this story would simply stop here…
But no… we’re still half way there.
Yuga Labs sued Ryder Ripps, Pauly (Jeremy Cahen) and DOES 1-10 in June 2022.
Before they were saying that accusations were “bullshit” and the accusers were just trolls. Now a 4 billion company was suing them.
And yes, I get it - all these accusations certainly had a very negative impact on the brand reputation… but wait - looks like it is not a defamation case at all!
If you are as ignorant in legal matters as I am you may be wondering - who the hell is DOES 1-10.
Looked into court files and here is who else is Yuga Labs suing besides Ryder and Jeremy:
Don’t wanna bore you with too many legal details, but below are just a few segments of what Yuga Labs’ complaints consist of to give you a better context, so you can follow the story along.
In response to the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s popularity, Defendant Ryder Ripps, a self-proclaimed “conceptual artist,” recently began trolling Yuga Labs and scamming consumers into purchasing RR/BAYC NFTs by misusing Yuga Labs’ trademarks. He seeks to devalue the Bored Ape NFTs by flooding the NFT market with his own copycat NFT collection using the original Bored Ape Yacht Club images and calling his NFTs “RR/BAYC” NFTs. Brazenly, he promotes and sells these RR/BAYC NFTs using the very same trademarks that Yuga Labs uses to promote and sell authentic Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs. He also markets these copycat NFTs as falsely equivalent to an authentic Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT. He then goes on to use Yuga Labs’ marks to promote his coming “Ape Market” NFT marketplace, which requires a person to purchase one of his infringing NFTs to join the Ape Market. This is no mere monkey business. It is a deliberate effort to harm Yuga Labs at the expense of consumers by sowing confusion about whether these RR/BAYC NFTs are in some way sponsored, affiliated, or connected to Yuga Labs’ official Bored Ape Yacht Club, in violation of the Lanham Act and related state law.
Yuga Labs brings this action against Ripps and others involved in perpetrating his scam to dispel the confusion he has caused in the marketplace, to protect the goodwill in authentic Bored Ape NFTs and the Bored Ape Yacht Club, to protect members of the NFT community from being deceived into thinking they are purchasing a highly coveted Bored Ape NFT, and to protect the general public from deceptive commercialization or use of RR/BAYC NFTs that would lead consumers to believe those NFTs are official Bored Ape NFTs.
Ripps claims his actions are “satire,” yet he conveniently rakes in millions in ill-gotten profit from sales of the RR/BAYC NFTs using Yuga Labs’ marks to make those sales. Copying is not satire, it is theft. And lying to consumers is not conceptual art, it is deception.
Ripps, Cahen, and Does 1-5’s website (https://rrbayc.com) claims that minting exact replicas of Yuga Labs’ Bored Ape NFTs and reselling them at a profit is “satire.” In reality, this is part of a longstanding harassment campaign against Yuga Labs and an attempt to devalue the price of authentic Bored Ape NFTs. At the same time, Ripps, Cahen, and Does 1-5 stand to make millions of dollars by tricking consumers into buying these fake Bored Ape NFTs. Indeed, on information and belief, Ripps has made well over $5 million through this scheme of pumping and dumping fake NFTs.
There is also part specifically for all those who have bought RR BAYC too…
Defendants Does 6-10 have joined Ripps, Cahen, and Does 1-5 in acting to devalue authentic Bored Ape NFTs through their participation in social media in promoting the RR/BAYC NFTs while knowing them to be fake. Their specific actions will be alleged when and if their identities are ascertained.
Will leave the link to all public documents here in case you’d like to dive into it deeper.
There are tons of documents and evidence in there.
In January 2023, Yuga filed a complaint against Thomas Lehman focusing on his role in coding and developing the RR BAYC contract and the rrbayc.com site. In February they reached a settlement (source: Coindesk).
I guess we won’t know what they had agreed on though.
In April 2023 Yuga Labs won summary judgment.
But the court decided that any damages would be calculated and determined during the trial.
And here we are just a week after the trail.
The trial was open to the public and Pauly encouraged their supporters to show up in a tweet mentioning it a few times on Twitter Spaces too.
Check the tweet with the video here: https://twitter.com/Pauly0x/status/1684566734181920768?s=20
There was a bit of citizen journalism going on so many were following the developments real time reading the tweets and watching videos from the breaks.
Here are both parties arriving at the court:
When I started researching for this story I reached out to the Twitter audience to get more information and details. As a result I personally spoke to 10+ people who were at the trial to find out more details and write this part.
All of them were there to support Ryder and Jeremy. They all discovered RR BAYC in different times (from the 1st day, after following Pauly through Pepe, after watching the video, etc.) but all were united by their beliefs.
People had traveled from Washington, Miami and Arizona to be there in person and show their support.
Here are just a few of them below explaining why they decided to be there.
This guy flew from Miami
And he also brought his framed RR BAYC with him to the trial.
People I spoke to thought everyone from the Yuga Labs side were paid to be there - i.e. mostly from their legal team, hired experts, etc.and no one from the public came to support them.
I reached out to Yuga Labs and did not get a response, so unfortunately there will be no way of presenting their side of the story here.
Most of the people I spoke with were on the same page when they were sharing their impressions and observations.
I tried to summaries them below:
Ryder Ripps did not get a chance to speak. He was asked 1 question only.
Being the “hero of the story” it felt strange to me…
When I asked Ryder’s mother: Helene Verin who was there too, why she thinks that was she responded:
It's obvious; Ryder was so articulate in his deposition, they didn't want him to explain his protest.
Jeremy though was questioned for 30-40 minutes and he was very calm and confident.
Greg Solano (one of Yuga Lab co-founders) admitted that the theme of their brand is “scatalogical” in nature and also mentioned that Bored Ape Yacht Club is a luxury brand.
Quoting one of the supporters below (a sentiment/impression I got from several in different phrasing)
I was shocked that Nicole Muniz (x CEO of Yuga Labs) didn’t even know her own company’s terms . The way certain YUGA witnessed lied on the stand and then we’re quickly reminded of their lies via their deposition was insane. I can’t believe it. It was embarrassing. They really shamed themselves that day.
Yuga Labs brought around 13 boxes of printed evidence
There were some laughs and giggles during Yuga Labs testimony
Yuga Labs have spent tons of money (around $600k?) to hire experts to prove that people were confused and bought RR BAYC thinking they were buying BAYC
The story is not over yet and it’s hard to predict what would the decision about the damages be.
I believe that the law will find its way. I believe that things will be reconciled. Reconciled because the main business of Yuga Labs is illegitimate. They promise you “IP” — intellectual property if you own one of these NFTs and there is no boundaries of how that intellectual property can be used.
I think that’s the most fascinating thing in all of this. Yuga’s examples of IP are poop videos and penises on a bathroom wall. Everybody else, whom Yuga Labs celebrates is using their IP to make marijuana products, kids toys, clothing, pillows, socks, anything you could think of… So in what world is there a guideline? The spectrum of how you can use your IP is wide.
If you want to utilize your IP to make criticisms of the company, why can’t you?
The rabbit hole seems too deep and this story just scratched the surface.
Meanwhile it feels like we are living at times when memes are used as “serious” evidence in court but people keep meme-ing anyway.
That was all for this week Rebels!
I am not a lawyer and qualified in legal matters, so all I have in this story is what I managed to research and comprehend: feel free to correct if needed.
I also have not owned and don’t own RR/BAYC at the moment.
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