A handful of YouTubers best known for creating gaming content have had their likenesses made into NFTs without even being given a heads-up. At least three prominent YouTubers — Caddicarus, James Stephanie Sterling, and Alanah Pearce — have spoken out about the NFTs thus far.
The NFTs all link back to one OpenSea user by the name of StakeTheWeb, Eurogamer reports. “Frankly not surprised that some freeloading leech turned my channel into an NFT,” James Stephanie Sterling tweeted Saturday evening.
Some of the NFTs have reportedly been posted to StakeTheWeb’s OpenSea page for months now. At the time of this writing, though, the user’s OpenSea profile has been wiped from the site entirely. OpenSea tells Input in an emailed statement:
It is against our policy to sell NFTs that violate the publicity rights of others. We regularly enforce this in multiple ways, including delisting and banning accounts when we are notified that usage of a likeness is not authorized. Furthermore, we have a zero tolerance policy for NCII (non consensual intimate imagery). NFTs using NCII or similar images (including images doctored to look like someone that they are not) are prohibited, and we move quickly to ban accounts that post this material. We are actively expanding our efforts across customer support, trust and safety, and site integrity so we can move faster to protect and empower our community and creators."
NFT moderation is… bad — There’s plenty of harmful content all across the internet — just scroll through Facebook or Twitter for a few minutes and you’ll stumble across something, surely. With NFTs, that problem is made significantly worse by the very limited moderation efforts in place for the digital art ecosystem. That’s how you end up with exploitative projects like these George Floyd NFTs.
OpenSea’s Terms of Service does contain an extensive list of content not allowed on the site, including anything that infringes upon intellectual property owned by others. But OpenSea didn’t notice these NFTs for months on end. If third parties hadn’t brought the issue to light, those NFTs might still be available for purchase today.
Is this legal? — The NFT marketplace is a hotbed of scams and other unsavory activity. While some artists do use the blockchain for genuine sales, plenty of others use it for a quick cash grab. You can sell basically anything you want as an NFT — because no one is checking the validity of your product. Any intellectual property is fair game as long as no one takes the time to investigate your claim to it.
If we put the NFT part of this equation on hold for a moment, the legality of using someone’s likeness as a separate piece of art is very much up for debate. Some celebrities have won cases against artists who did just that, while in other cases the court has sided with the artist.