Late last June, Yuga Labs, the parent company behind the NFT projects Bored Ape Yacht Club and Crypto Punks, filed a lawsuit against artist Ryder Ripps, who had created a NFT collection of his own that shared imagery with the former. On Monday, Ripps’s legal team hit back, claiming that the lawsuit was being used to silence him through legal intimidation.
A legal action with that intention is known as SLAPP, which stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an anti-SLAPP motion is a request to have a case dismissed on the grounds that the case involves “speech on a matter of public concern.”
Ripps’s legal team claims that the artist “used his craft to call out a multi-billion-dollar company built on racist and neo-Nazi dog whistles.”
Yuga Labs declined to comment.
Since the beginning of 2022, Ripps, his partner Jeremy Cahen, and ten John Does have been leading a viral campaign which claims that the founders of Yuga Labs threaded alt-right imagery throughout their mega-successful NFT project Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Ripps published the research he and his team have collected on the matter on a website called gordongoner.com. He has spoken about the issue extensively on social media, and has done interviews with the press and internet personalties on the subject.
Yuga Labs has previously denied Ripps’s allegations of racism. But Yuga Labs only filed a lawsuit when Ripps came out with RR/BAYC, an NFT collection in which he re-minted Bored Apes from the Yuga Labs collection and sold 9,500 of these NFTs for them for around $1.6 million collectively.
Yuga Labs claims that doing so was a form of trademark infringement that threatened to mislead potential customers. Notably absent from the lawsuit were any allegations of defamation though the suit did repeatedly mention Ripps’s “campaign of harassment based on false accusations of racism.”
Ripps and Cahen’s lawyers claim that the use of BAYC imagery is a form of appropriation and that Ripps did not intend to trick potential BAYC customers into buying his own NFTs.
The RR/BAYC team wrote on their website that RR/BAYC was an artwork whose aim was to use “satire and appropriation to protest and educate people regarding The Bored Ape Yacht Club and the framework of NFTs.”
Ripps and Cahen’s motion to dismiss explains that their use of appropriation art specifically served several purposes: “(1) to bring attention to Yuga’s use of racist and neo-Nazi messages and imagery, (2) to expose Yuga’s use of unwitting celebrities and popular brands to disseminate offensive material, (3) to create social pressure demanding that Yuga take responsibility for its actions, and (4) to educate the public about the technical nature and utility of NFTs.”
In an emailed statement, Louis Tompros of WilmerHale, a lawyer for Ripps and Cahen, said that they would be seeking attorney’s fees and costs.