In the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s feud with artist Ryder Ripps

The Bored Ape Yacht Club, a combination NFT/membership club for people with too much money and not enough taste, is embroiled in a lawsuit over alleged secret alt-right imagery and a fake collection that is said to be raking in millions of dollars.

The Bored Apes are one of the most valuable NFTs in the world, selling for up to millions apiece at their peak. (An NFT is like a digital deed to a work of art.) Owning a “monkey” not only gives members the rights to their unique monkey image, but also access to parties, chat rooms, and bragging rights. Justin Bieber, Madonna and Shaquille O’Neal are all members.

But the project has recently come under attack from artist Ryder Ripps, himself a celebrity-backed but controversial figure, who claims BAYC is actually an elaborate troll founded by alt-right forum-dwellers and riddled with racist dog whistles. He began compiling data points in a Twitter thread in January and eventually launched a website where he laid out his arguments point by point. A spokesman for Yuga Labs, the company behind the monkeys, responded by calling the allegations “deeply painful” and “troubling,” and the founders posted a Twitter thread Debunking some of Ripps’ points.

Things really got hot last month when Ripps launched a series of identical images he dubbed ‘RR BAYC’ and sold them on the major NFT marketplaces using official Bored Ape branding. in one tweet, he called the line “artistic statement on the nature of NFT, satire against Yuga Labs’ practice & protest against the content”. The collection has sold 6,900 items, according to CoinGecko, and Ripps claims it has made at least $1 million so far.

Yuga Labs escalated the fight on Friday, filing a nationwide trademark infringement lawsuit against Ripps and its collaborator Jeremy Cahen, accusing them of flooding the market with fake bored monkeys to intentionally devalue the original. (The company claims Ripps made $5 million from the program.) It called the project a “premeditated attempt to harm Yuga Labs,” and is seeking damages and an order ordering Ripps and Cahen to stop using his name and to post his pictures.

“Ripp’s misuse of Yuga Labs’ trademarks and false advertising of the RR/BAYC NFTs is not an accident,” the attorneys for Yuga Labs wrote. “These actions are calculated, intentional, and intentional with the stated goal of causing actual and financial harm to Yuga Labs and the owners of authentic Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, causing real damage to Yuga Labs’ goodwill.”

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Ripps said the company “grossly mischaracterized[d]’ his project, which was not a copy of Bored Ape, but a protest against it.

“People who reserved an RR/BAYC NFT (Non Fungible Token) understood that their NFT was coined as a protest against and as a parody of BAYC, and no one was under the impression that the RR/BAYC NFTs were replacements for BAYC NFTs or would you grant them access to Yuga’s club,” he wrote.

He added that he is a “passionate supporter of the principles of free speech and blockchain,” and wrote that over the past year he has created NFT artworks that “reveal the purpose, meaning, and social significance of NFTs as numerical… Entries in the marketplace question ledgers—not like the public images they link to.”

“I believe the primary purpose of NFT is to establish the provenance of digital content whose authorship and provenance was inherently difficult to ascertain prior to its appearance,” he wrote.

Ripps is something of an internet troll himself, known for creating a fake Balenciaga Twitter account that fooled Rihanna and a fake Kanye West project The Washington Post. Though he’s an accomplished designer — his studio, OK Focus, has worked with clients including Kanye West, Nike, and Red Bull — his personal artwork is known for occasionally making incendiaries of internet culture and sexuality.

One of his shows, ART WHORE, in which he paid female masseuses $80 each to make art in his room at the Ace Hotel, was named “in the running for the most aggressive project of 2014” by New York art blog Art F City. Another show featuring distorted oil paintings of an Instagram model’s photos earned him the Jezebel headline: “Petty Man Builds Art Career By Shitting Fitness Star Adrianne Ho.” Forum troll who knows the power of the public (or ‘discourse’) and uses it to his advantage”).

That Ripps has something in common with his alleged alt-right targets makes him the perfect person to investigate this theory – most of which involve secret symbols and dog whistles known to those living in the bowels of the deep web. It’s already been picked up by major arts publications like ArtNet News – “How Seriously Should We Take This Bored-Ape Conspiracy Theory?” It asked – and digital culture publications including Mel Magazine, though it’s featured in at least one story by an anti-Defamation researcher League was shot down.

Earlier this month, a YouTube user named “Philion” uploaded a video about the theory entitled “BORED APE NAZI CLUB”. For more than an hour, the narrator lays out the alleged “evidence,” including the similarities between the BAYC logo and the Nazi “death’s head” symbol, and the alleged alt-right connections to the founders’ aliases. (The founders only went by those names until Ripps revealed their true identities to multiple news outlets this year.) In the end, it encourages owners to drop their NFTs and viewers to tweet the hashtag #BURNBAYC. It had more than 1.1 million views and 85,000 likes at the time of publication.

BAYC’s founders responded to the viral video with a Medium post in which they reiterated that they were of Jewish, Turkish, Pakistani and Cuban descent and released emails saying they matched the original one, decided not -showed Nazi reasoning behind the BAYC logo.

“Overall we think it’s crazy that these conspiracy theories were allowed to spread,” they wrote. “It really shows the power that an insane troll can have on the internet.”

Ripps, predictably, responded Twitter.

This “who is the real internet troll” game took place during a nosedive in NFTs profitability and popularity, sparked by the crypto marketplace crash starting in May. According to research firm BeInCrypto, NFT sales volume fell by 75 percent between January and April; the value of the average NFT has fallen by about 80 percent.

The bloodshed hasn’t spared the Bored Apes either, with the value of a Bored Ape falling 78 percent between late April and mid-June, and the starting price falling below $100,000 for the first time since August 2021. Celebrity supporters including Paris Hilton, Jimmy Kimmel and Serena Willaims quietly changed their profile pictures to something other than their monkeys.

The price of ApeCoin — YugaLab’s cryptocurrency — soared this week after the release of a music video featuring rappers Snoop Dogg and Eminem driving around as animated monkeys. (Both are BAYC NFT owners.) And Yuga Labs tweeted Friday that the “outpouring of support from our community today was overwhelming” after news of its lawsuit was released. But whether the legal battle and celebrity endorsements can save the apes from a future of irrelevance trying to write Hamlet remains to be seen. In the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s feud with artist Ryder Ripps


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