Art Wars NFT Collection Raises Copyright Issue

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  • An NFT collection has been pulled after the images were accused of breaching copyright
  • Art Wars featured photographs of works from a number famous artists who had not given their permission
  • The issue reinforces the problems around copyright for NFTs

An NFT auction featuring stormtrooper helmets from the Star Wars series has been threatened with legal action after it was revealed that the curator doesn’t have permission to sell the images. NFTs from Art Wars, a project created by more than 300 artists since 2013 and curated by Ben Moore, were added to OpenSea yesterday, with multi-billion-dollar bids accepted before the page was taken down. The Art Wars saga once again illustrates the issues associated with NFT sellers profiting off the work of others and the difficulty in tracking them down.

Art Wars Taken Offline Following Artist Backlash

Art Wars drew the attention of the creators of the photographed pieces, which included works created by the likes of Sir Anish Kapoor and David Bailey, who were among the dozen or so artists who were considering legal action, according to The Financial Times.

Some 1,600 ETH ($7.3 million) had already been transferred to OpenSea in return for Art Wars pieces before the page was taken down, with very little able to be done by the artists whose work is featured in the photographs. OpenSea acted after receiving a copyright infringement notice.

Artists “Taken by Surprise” Says Moore

According to The Financial Times, Moore said he sent an email to the artists whose work featured in Art Wars on November 4 informing them of the collection, but apparently some of the emails went through to the recipients’ junk folders. Moore expressed regret that “some of the artists were taken by surprise, and have since expressed a preference not to be included” adding that any artists who wish to be featured in the Art Wars collection will “receive royalties in the usual way”.

The Art Wars story mirrors several cases that already exist in the NFT space, with the decentralized nature of the protocol and the swiftness of the process making it all but impossible for wronged artists to get what they deserve.