The Bored Ape Yacht club lawsuit takes a wild left turn into racism and Nazism

Los Angeles, California - A wild case is whipping up a legal frenzy between the creators of one of the most financially successful Non-Fungible Token (NFT) collection, the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), and a satirist who is making big claims about the Apes.

The popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs have some very problematic images.
The popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs have some very problematic images.  © Unsplash/Dylan Calluy

Artist Ryder Ripps has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit from Yuga Labs, the creators of BAYC, claiming the digital tokens include racist imagery and Nazi dog whistles, according to Web3 Is Going Just Great.

Yuga Labs accused Ripps of copying the trademarked BAYC images by reminting them as satire on his website. The company wants him to knock it off, but it's worth noting that there aren't any other lawsuits pending against the plenthora of copycat projects out there using the collection's images.

Ripps, in his motion to have the lawsuit dismissed, claims Yuga Labs is trying to silence him and his work, which he says is pointing out the racist and Nazi symbolism in the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs and team.

The Yuga Labs, Inc. v. Ripps case documents are collected on the non-profit Court Listener project, and this might be the first time you will ever read "trolling" in official court filings that also include accusations of imagery supporting racism, Nazism, and white supremacy.

Nazism and racism in BAYC

The BAYC logo looks disturbingly like the Waffen SS uniform patch.
The BAYC logo looks disturbingly like the Waffen SS uniform patch.  © Collage:, Unsplash/PiggyBank

Ripps and 10 others documented the symbolism in the BAYC NFTs and their creators' social media presence. They argue there's a clear trend of racist and white supremacist imagery, with references to the Axis nations in World War II, the Nazi SS, and even Adolf Hitler.

For example, Ripps points out that the NFT collection and another Yuga Labs project, Otherside, were both launched on the date of Hitler's death day, April 30.

The collection logo looks eerily similar to the Waffen-SS uniform's shoulder patch, with an identical layout, and even the same number of teeth – 18, itself a reference to Hitler – in the BAYC ape skull as the so-called Totenkopf (skull) patch.

Another example is the apes with what Yuga Labs calls "sushi chef headband". The argument is that this headband, which has Japan's rising sun and "Kamikaze" on it, is actually a reference to a racist meme from the toxic cesspool that is 4Chan.

The creators' social media handles are also scrutinized. One used "SASS" in their name, which is fuses the abbreviations for two Nazi paramilitary forces. Another called themselves Gargamel, the name of a Smurfs character whose design has been seen as anti-Semitic.

The outcome of the case will be significant for deciding how copyright law and NFTs work together (or don't). But whatever happens, there are now bigger questions for BAYC to answer.

Cover photo: Unsplash/Dylan Calluy

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