A picture of Pepe, the first genuine crypto-art of Matt Furie's popular mascot was sold for almost 1 Million USD at an auction in May, and the artist has plans to release a world of collectible NFT characters, including his most recent renditions of Pepe.
The NFT universe, according to Furie, is about much more than money. Fundamentalist people on social networks modified Pepe so frequently throughout Donald Trump's presidency that the Anti-Defamation League designated it as an emblem of hatred. However, the burgeoning realm of crypto-art is enabling the artist to recover a mascot that was never supposed to represent much more than love, harmony, decadence, and altered-state chillaxing'.
About five years ago, the crypto business embraced Pepe, and in March, an NFT of Homer Simpson with a Pepe-like face sold over 300,000 USD at auction. This, according to Furie, is only the start. He welcomes vast artistic potential for digital artwork, referring to the trippy vibe of his Pepe cartoons.
Last week, Matt Furie could effectively remove a compilation of 7,000 cartoon frog photos from the NFT platform, claiming that the pictures infringed on his copyrighted artwork. Vice has a nice rundown of the strange legal situation, which started on August 9 when an anonymously operated NFT venture named, “Sad Frogs District” was classified as “fully verified” on the peer-to-peer NFT marketplace OpenSea.
For the unfamiliar, NFT stands for "non-fungible token," which alludes to any collection of uncommon digital items that are one-of-a-kind and hence prone to be traded. NFTs are more like a picture or limited edition shoes rather than cryptocurrencies.
Sad Frogs District got off to a quick start in the marketplace, as per NFT Statistics; trading 883 NFTs over the last week for a sales volume of 664,000 USD (the average cost of one token, as per NFT Statistics, was 752 USD).
However, according to an email acquired by Motherboard, that resounding achievement came to a sudden end once Furie became directly engaged, pleading with the project's producers to "turn aside from Pepe and rather concentrate on inspired projects or unique frogs."
Since his trademark frog has become a popular meme among white nationalists and other dissidents, Furie has fought for exploitation of it.
The Sad Frogs series does seem to be evocative of Matt Furie's works, seeing as how the frogs are aesthetically inspired by Pepe and look to can be used for evil purposes. The compilation was “programmatically produced from a random mix of more than 200 attributes,” as per the Sad Frog's official website that has since been taken down but is still accessible through The Wayback Machine, and exists “on the Ethereum blockchain in the form of ERC-721 tokens”.
“The Frogs are influenced by online artists’ collaborative works and cyberpunk characteristics, according to the description. “This initiative has nothing to do with Matt Furie”.
However, after being banned from Sad Frogs' official Discord channel, Furie instructed his attorneys to file a DMCA takedown notice to OpenSea, to which the marketplace complied. After users of OpenSea's “community help” Discord channel inquired about the Sad Frogs' whereabouts, an OpenSea administrator verified the story, saying, “Pepe products have been removed owing to a DMCA infringement action by Pepe's designer, Matt Furie”.
“I am disappointed in Matt because of his arrogance and lack of support for artistic freedom,” said Kronos, a Sad Frogs Discord moderator. “It was apparent that he intended to end the venture for financial reasons. I'm also unhappy that Matt and the developers couldn't come up with a compromise that would have enabled the venture to continue ahead while respecting both sides' creative credibility and the frog meme culture”