An unauthorized NFT drop celebrating information security pioneers has collapsed into a mess of conflicting takedowns and hacks.
Released on Christmas Day by a group called “ItsBlockchain”, the “Cipher Punks” NFT pack included portraits of 46 different figures, with ten copies of each token. Taken at its opening price, the total value of the dip was approximately $4,000. But almost immediately, the information security community began raising objections, including some from the subjects of the portrait themselves.
The portrait images misspelled several names, including EFF speech activist Jillian York and OpenPGP creator Jon Callas, and based at least one drawing on a copyrighted photograph. More controversially, the list included some figures who have been ostracized for harmful personal behavior, including Jacob Appelbaum and Richard Stallman.
Responding on Twitter, York tweeted a link to his own portrait and simply said: “I do not condone this at all and would like to see it removed.”
On Tuesday morning, the ItsBlockchain team announced in a Medium post that it would be “shutting down” the collection in response to the backlash, offering full refunds to any buyer and covering the gas fees involved in the transfer.
“We were unaware of the look-alike laws in NFTs as the market is unregulated,” the post reads. “It is our mistake. We have to recognize it.”
In the wake of the post, OpenSea appears to have taken central steps to remove the collection, which is no longer visible on the platform.
The incident is a reminder of the potentially thorny legal issues surrounding NFTs, where permissionless innovation rules often clash with look-alike rights and intellectual property law. Generally, US publicity rights laws state that a person’s name and identity cannot be used for promotion without their consent, although it’s unclear how such a claim would work in the practice when applied to NFTs.