Yuga Labs Claims Its Bored Apes Have Copyright, Even if It Never Filed for Protection
Yuga Labs, the company behind the toilet obsessed Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs is in a strange area when it comes to its intellectual property.
As first reported by ARTnews, new documents filed by Yuga Labs in an ongoing court case out of the way to explain whether his infamous Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs actually have copyrights.
Last year, Yuga Labs submitted an application Trademark infringement lawsuit against Los Angeles conceptual artist Ryder Ripps. The company claimed that Ripps “trolled” the company by creating a copycat collection of Bored Ape look-alikes. Yuga Labs said the non-monkey “RR/BAYC” collection was trying to devalue their own NFT collection. Ripps has denied any allegations of false advertising and has instead done so allegedly Yuga Labs subversively inserted racist images into their popular NFT collection.
Court filings dated Jan. 18 mention that the Yuga Labs lawsuit did not file any copyright takedown notice, nor did the company register any copyrights on its NFTs.
The Hong Kong based law firm haldanes found that the 44-page complaint failed to mention the word “copyright” once. It has been suggested that this could be because the company has not registered copyrights to its NFTs. Ripps has asked the court for an explanation as to whether the company owns copyrights to his work. Haodanes remarked thThe company may also have tried to avoid any fair use issue.
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However, the filings also specifically asked the court to declare that the company “owns no copyright in the Bored Ape images.” Instead, the company said that a copyright “exists at the moment when copyrighted material is fixed in any tangible medium of expression… Registration of a copyright is not required to own one; it is necessary to file a lawsuit.”
In an email instruction to Gizmodo, Eric Ball, partner at Fenwick & West LLP and advisor to Yuga Labs said:
“Yesga Labs owns its copyrights. it is established law that a copyright arises the moment an author creates something original that he puts to paper. A copyright registration with the federal government is also voluntary and not required.”
The company also told ARTnews that Yuga Labs grants licenses and intellectual property rights to its NFT holders, although the company itself “retains the underlying copyright to the artwork.” With this back-and-forth between Yuga Labs and Ripps, the company is trying to avoid the court deciding whether its company has copyright, or at least agreeing that it will maintain provisional IP protection.
Can generated NFTs be protected by copyright at all?
The BAYC Terms and Conditions grants buyers a license to use the NFT in a variety of ways, both commercial and display-related. This became an issue for Seth Green, the famous actor who was working on a TV series based on his Bored Ape #8398 entitled “Fred Simian”. Poor Fred was stolen from Green’s wallet which apparently forced the show to go on hold until it was eventually returned.
“By clearly granting a license in their agreement, Yuga implicitly acknowledges that the NFT holder does not in fact own the art.”
Of course, even this reading is confused as to whether Yuga Labs or BAYC owners have an actual copyright claim to their NFTs. And if someone tried, they probably wouldn’t get a registration. Bored Apes, like most large NFT projects, are not handcrafted images designed by hundreds of doodling collaborators, rather they are algorithmically cobbled together from a set of pre-built assets. There are 170 traits that make a bored monkey, some rarer than others (causing greater artificial scarcity and driving up prices for some monkeys).
It’s hard to say that Bored Apes were created with “artificial intelligence” as that moniker has become synonymous with GPT and Diffusion Generative AI, though there’s certainly a lack of true human authorship beyond the individual assets that each ape possesses turn off.
The problem with this is that the US Copyright Office has routinely rejected copyright requests on behalf of AI systems. The last big test case for that was the scientist Stephen Thaler, who tried to register AI-generated art and designed a system he created called the Creativity Machine. The Copyright Office has said that the AI art “lacks the human authorship necessary to support a copyright claim.” earlier this month, Thaler sued the copyright office attempted to overturn the Board’s decision.
New York-based artist Kris Kashtanova has successfully filed a copyright for a graphic novel that uses AI-generated art. However, the copyright office is re-examining this case. The bureau has previously told Gizmodo, “The bureau will not knowingly grant any registration to any work that it claims was created solely by machine using artificial intelligence.” There are several other running processes all about AI and copyright, but it’s still an open question whether machine-created artwork offers legal protection.
https://gizmodo.com/yuga-labs-nfts-bored-apes-copyright-1850042639 Yuga Labs Claims Its Bored Apes Have Copyright, Even if It Never Filed for Protection