Seth Green had four prized NFTs stolen in a phishing scam, and it derailed more in his life than you might think.
On May 17, the actor and comedian took to Twitter to report the theft of his valuable avatars, including a Bored Ape, two Mutant Apes, and a Doodle. “Well frens it happened to me,” he wrote. “Got phished and had 4NFT stolen.”
While all four collectibles are valuable, for Green, it was the loss of the Bored Ape, #8398, that hit the hardest, and for an important reason: Green is currently developing a TV show around the cartoon creature. With the loss of the NFT, Green may have also lost the right to license the Bored Ape’s likeness—meaning the fate of his show has been thrown into jeopardy.
But the matter remains murky. Shortly after the incident, an anonymous collector—who, according to Blockchain records, goes by the Twitter handle @DarkWing84—purchased Bored Ape #8398 for over $200,000, then transferred it to a private collection called “GBE Vault.”
Since then, online debates have raged about the collector’s intentions. Did they purchase the piece in good faith, not knowing it was stolen? Who was it? (Was it the Real Napster?!) And does that person now own the usage rights for the NFT? (For a full breakdown of the legal complications surrounding the case, read this helpful thread from internet law expert James Grimmelmann.)
The case points to one of the many legal gray areas surrounding NFTs, some of which may remain that way for years, until precedents are hammered out in court. “But for now,” Dan McAvoy, an attorney at Polsinelli in New York, told Artnet News last year, “we are going to see a lot of civil litigation in the space where the terms of the platform or the NFT smart contract itself are not clear as to who owns the underlying asset tied to the NFT and how they are able to exploit that asset for further profit.”
Called White Horse Tavern, after the historic New York pub, Green’s show posits a world where popular NFT characters live among humans. The actor’s ape, a character named Fred Simian dons a Phoebe Bridgers-esque skeleton suit and has a halo above its head, tends bar at the tavern as a colorful characters shuffle through for a drink and conversation. Green introduced a rough cut of the show’s trailer at the NFT conference VeeCon last weekend.
“I bought that ape in July 2021, and have spent the last several months developing and exploiting the IP to make it into the star of this show,” Green said in a panel at the event. “Then days before… he’s set to make his world debut, he’s literally kidnapped.”
The comedian has tweeted at @DarkWing84 numerous times in recent days, pleading with the anonymous user to return the Ape. On more than one occasion he’s intimated the possibility of legal action.
“Looking forward to precedent setting debates on IP ownership & exploitation, having spent 18 years studying copyright & the industry laws,” he wrote yesterday. “I’d [rather] meet @DarkWing84 to make a deal, vs in court. We can prove the promise of [the] ape community.”
Today, Buzzfeed News reported that it has made contact with the person behind the username, an Australian surgeon who collects NFTs on the side and primarily operates under another pseudonym: Mr. Cheese.
“I have no plans for the ape,” Mr. Cheese told the news outlet. “As you can see I have been collecting for a while. I bought it because I liked it. It wasn’t a cheap buy either and was not marked as suspicious so I bought it in good faith. I’m happy to be in contact with Seth to chat about this.”
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