Actor Seth Green has been the victim of a bizarre theft which saw a copyrighted digital artwork of a monkey stolen from him by crooks – plunging an upcoming TV series featuring the creature into chaos.
The actor, 48, was using the artwork – known as a non-fungible token (NFT) – of an animated cartoon monkey for an upcoming TV show.
But he could now be 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 can easily be reproduced, his status as an NFT means that such reproductions must comply with 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 that one of the bartenders is Fred Simian, who is part of an NFT collective called Bored Ape Yacht BClub.
The character purchased by Green is animated and interacts with real actors in the 1880s bar.
But now the production of the series has stopped, after the main character was “kidnapped”.
Green announced on May 17 that the character had been stolen. He pleaded for his return to social media, and also insisted he could still stream the show because Fred Simian was stolen and copyright rules don’t apply.
But Fred was sold to use cryptocurrency – a completely unregulated market – meaning the new, unidentified owner of the NFT could well exercise a copyright claim if a likeness of Fred is released without permission.
Seth Green has created an animated show, in which a cartoon character Bored Ape works in a real Manhattan bar, White Horse Tavern, in the West Village
“Well it happened to me,” he tweeted.
“I was phished and 4NFT was stolen.”
NFTs are bitcoin-like digital tokens that act as a certificate of ownership and live on a blockchain.
He attached photos of the four stolen characters, including Fred Simian.
Green added, “Please don’t buy or trade these while I work to resolve: @DarkWing84 looks like you bought my stolen monkey – contact me so we can fix it.”
User @DarkWing84 describes himself as: ‘Street Photographer. Experimental photographer. All images are artist’s own.’
Green is pictured at VEECon on Sunday – a conference held in Minneapolis for fans of NFT, pop culture and innovation. He captioned the photo: ‘Thank you all for giving such a warm welcome to @fred_simian. We are so excited to bring you @whitehorsetavern1880 and continue to build this together’
The monkey is seen behind the bar at the White Horse Tavern, in a trailer for the series
Green said the character was ‘stolen’ and pleaded for his return
Green said he was pursuing legal action.
“Looking forward to precedent-setting debates on ownership and exploitation of intellectual property, having spent 18 years studying copyright and industry laws,” he tweeted on Tuesday. .
“I’d rather meet @DarkWing84 to make a deal, than in court.”
The actor, who like Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg enthusiastically embraced NFT’s “Bored Ape” brand, said he wanted to be a legal trailblazer.
“We can prove the promise of the great 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 therefore the show cannot move forward.”
Green then replied that the “thief” was unable to use the image anyway, explaining, “That’s not true since the art was stolen. A buyer who has purchased stolen art with real money and refuses to return it is not legally permitted to exploit the use of the underlying intellectual property.
He’s not the first famous face to get in hot water for NFT’s “stealing”.
Earlier this month, Elon Musk briefly replaced his Twitter profile picture with a $24.4 million NFT, before being asked by the co-director of Sotheby’s digital art division to remove the image .
Musk, 50, appears to have taken a screenshot of a collage of an image titled “Bored Ape Yacht Club”, which sold at auction in September.
The NFT contains 107 images of cartoon monkeys and was purchased 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 as I admire your work, I would like you to delete your pfp that I created for our Sotheby’s sale,’ Bouhanna tweeted.
“Or you credit me.
“Happy to send you the original stamped file with buyer’s approval.”
Michael Bouhanna, the co-head of digital art at Sotheby’s, noticed that Musk captured his work
Half an hour later, Musk appeared to respond to Bouhanna, mocking the NFT community
The image used by Musk was auctioned by Sotheby’s in September for $24.4 million
Musk didn’t respond directly, instead tweeting half an hour later, “I dunno…seems a bit expendable.”
Several hours later, the image of the monkey was gone, replaced by a picture of a child playing with a rocket.
Some thought Musk was mocking the NFT industry, a day later The Wall Street Journal reported that the digital art market had “collapsed,” with sales down 92% from their September peak.
On Wednesday afternoon, Musk had changed his profile picture and, instead of the NFT, a child playing with a rocket
The newspaper cites data from the NonFungible website, which reports that sales have fallen to a daily average of around 19,000 this week – from around 225,000 in September.
The number of active wallets in the NFT market fell 88% to around 14,000 last week, from a high of 119,000 in November.
There have been significant signs of a decline in interest.
An NFT of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet was 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 received no bids over $14,000, so canceled the sale.
In April, an NFT hosted by Snoop Dog titled “Doggy #4292” was sold for $32,000 worth of 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 a Twitter profile picture and has worn on a sweatshirt on TV – tweeted his support for Musk’s interest in trades .
‘Ay @elonmusk! Let’s take our Apes 2 the moon. Upper n upper. LFG!!!’ he tweeted.