Owner of Circle Society platform, which advertised 600% returns, charged with fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice announced fraud charges against David Saffron, the owner of the Circle Society cryptocurrency investment platform (with no relation to Circle). Saffron allegedly lied to investors, saying he operated a cryptocurrency trading bot that would generate 500–600% returns on investment. He also reportedly held meetings at luxury homes in the Hollywood Hills and traveled with armed security "in order to create the false appearance of wealth and success".

The scheme ultimately drew in about $12 million from investors, beginning in late 2017. Saffron was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 115 years in prison.

Previously, in April 2021, the a court ordered Circle Society and Saffron to pay $32 million in relation to the scheme after a default judgment in a lawsuit from the CFTC, who described the whole thing as a Ponzi scheme.

Crypto games site "w3itch.io" blatantly copies itch.io, hosts stolen games

Tweet from w3itch.io: "We are really sorry about used itchio's CSS files. But we are really shot of designer. And if you check in detail the supported project types and features are very different between us and they are two different public goods. We will try to make a distinction in UI in future."Tweet by w3itch.io (attribution)
A somewhat blundering group of developers decided to create "w3itch.io", an online marketplace for game creators. The marketplace said it was intended to be friendly to games incorporating NFTs and other crypto-related technologies, unlike the indie game marketplace itch.io, which tweeted in February that "NFTs are a scam. If you think they are legitimately useful for anything other than the exploitation of creators, financial scams, and the destruction of the planet the we ask that [you] please reevaluate your life choices."

W3itch.io apparently decided the best way to accomplish their goal would be to not only steal itch.io's site design, but the source code itself. The games hosted on the website were also taken without the consent from their creators.

After being called out by the KennyNL Twitter account, W3itch.io admitted to stealing the CSS, as well as buying Twitter followers. However, they refused to take the website down, and seemed to claim they were unable to remove listings of stolen games.

Toronto Comic Arts Festival sparks outrage by featuring NFT creator Saba Moeel, Moeel found to have widely traced her artwork

Two images: on the left, an illustration of a pink cat sitting on a tank; on the right, original Tank Girl artwork from which the cat artwork was tracedPink Cat artwork (left); Tank Girl artwork from which it was traced (right) (attribution)
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival angered artists and fans alike when they invited Saba Moeel, the artist behind the Pink Cat NFT collection, to attend as a featured guest. This was in part because of opinions around NFTs more generally, but much of the ire was directed at Moeel specifically when she was found to have traced much of her work from sources including Tank Girl, Tom and Jerry, and various artists on Instagram without providing any credit. Others were concerned with various transphobic or racist statements Moeel has made in the past, as well as the creation of artwork by a non-Black artist that appeared to be caricaturing Black people.

Moeel responded to the criticism in a slew of tweets, writing in one: "Why did i trace tank girl art? Why did Occidental soldiers raid the Iraqi national museum of art and steal all of our cultural artifacts and history? Many questions to answer". Moeef also accused those expressing concerns about her appearance of racism, and described them all as "people who love the central banking system". "Big organizations come out to try to destroy my community of 90% women, mostly WOC like me", she wrote.

One other TCAF featured guest, Ngozi Ukazu, withdrew from the Festival, writing, "Not only do I disagree with the platforming of NFTS, but I also will not be a featured guest alongside an influencer who traces art and explicitly commodifies Black culture." TCAF wrote on Twitter that they were preparing a response to "valid concerns", and the subsequent day announced that they had rescinded the invitation due to "code of conduct violations and the concerns expressed by the comics community".

NFTBOOKS enters the race to see who can remake DRM the worst

A pie chart where none of the sections appear to be proportional to the numbered percentages, and are all slightly overlappingNFTBOOKS token distribution chart (attribution)
A project called NFTBOOKS has cropped up, promising to "transform the world of book-readings" by creating an NFT economy of authors, book-lenders, readers, translators, and, of course, investors. A writer named Tiffany Hutchinson contacted the project to politely inquire about how it intended to prevent the theft that is so rampant in the NFT space, and received some pretty disappointing answers. After trying several times to wave her off with vague answers about "there will be a review process" to check ownership of the work, they explained that they would implement "a filter on our system" that would check against identical copies. When she asked how that system would work if the original author was not the first person to create an NFT of the work, or how they would prevent someone from making small changes to the work to trick the filters, the project first gave staggeringly poor answers, then wrote that Hutchinson simply didn't understand, then became combative with her.

Fortunately there doesn't actually appear to be much to the project yet—actually creating a platform and an app to allow people to borrow books doesn't come until the fifth and sixth stages of their roadmap. The project is currently on the fourth step, and has been focusing their attentions on things like "marketing campaign" (stage 1), "aggressive marketing rollout" (stage 2), and "extreme marketing campaign" (stage 3). The stage 3 "extreme marketing campaign" also came with a "website relaunch", which we have to thank for one of the most outrageous pie charts I have ever seen (pictured) (which was later determined to have been a stock photo of a pie chart where they'd just changed the numbers). Perhaps they should focus some of their marketing efforts on coming up with answers to the simplest of questions that they should probably expect from authors—the type of people they're claiming to help.

Over 10,000 NFTs of photographs by August Sander are delisted from OpenSea after being created without permission

A black and white photo of a man, woman, and young child. The man sits on a stool with a child on his knee, and the woman stands next to them.AS10k+ #5489 (attribution)
An NFT project called the August Sander 10K Collection launched on February 11, offering NFTs of all 10,700 photographs by German portrait and documentary photographer August Sander (1876–1964). The project website described a "groundbreaking partnership between Fellowship and the August Sander family estate", apparently referring to their partnership with August Sander's great-grandson Julian. The NFTs were all distributed for free to the Fellowship community, which the project website boasted "speaks volumes about the commitment of both Fellowship and the August Sander family estate to creating a new standard of visibility and public access to large photography collections, an issue that has historically burdened museums". The website does not appear to mention that they take a 10% cut of all secondary sales, which so far appears to have netted them around 7 ETH ($20,000).

The problem with this whole scheme is that Julian Sanders does not actually control the Sander estate—it was sold in 1992 by Gerd Sander (August's grandson, and Julian's father) to the Cultural Foundation of the Stadtsparkasse Cologne. That group was surprised to see all of Sander's work suddenly being sold as NFTs without their permission, and submitted a legal notice to have it taken down from OpenSea. OpenSea complied with the request on March 7. After almost two weeks of stalling and deflecting questions about the delisting without even acknowledging the cause, Fellowship and Julian Sander finally released a statement on the issue on March 18. Sander wrote that "a third party... claims to have certain rights in August Sanders' photographs" but that he "believe[s] the complaint is not valid" and would be working with his lawyers to have the collection reinstated. As best as I can tell, it seems that Sander is trying to argue he is entitled to sell his great-grandfather's work as NFTs because he physically possesses the negatives, despite the fact that the Cultural Foundation owns the usage rights to all of Sander's work.

Crypto.Chicks team member gives a non-apology for blatantly copying the work of another artist

Side-by-side comparison of an Instagram post and an NFT listing, both containing similar illustrations of a woman with a grimace and three eyesComparison of the original and Crypto.Chick #2 (attribution)
Polly, a member of the popular Crypto.Chicks NFT team, apologized for "drawing inspiration from" artists and "inadvertently cop[ying]" their work, after it is discovered that she blatantly traced the artwork used in some of the Crypto.Chicks NFTs. Although she wrote that she had "redrawn" the NFT in question, the artwork was nearly identical to artwork by a Brazilian artist named Amanda, who apparently was never credited nor compensated. The Crypto.Chick in question had sold for $27,500 in late January.

The following day, Crypto.Chicks announced that they would be replacing Polly as a team member, and pausing their planned release of another NFT collection that also appeared to contain stolen artwork.

MetaDeckz ends trading card NFT project after facing legal action from streamers whose likenesses were used without consent

Side-by-side images showing an illustrated trading card of streamer Pokimane eating a lollipop, next to a photo of her from which the illustration was derivedComparison of the Pokimane MetaDeckz card and an existing photo (attribution)
An artist creating and selling trading cards of various streamers without asking their permission claims he was "just trying to do something cool for the community". He originally claimed that he had emailed each streamer about the project and never got a response, but the enormously popular streamer Ludwig released a statement in a tweet reading summarized with "TLDR: I am not making a fucking NFT and I'll let my lawyers take it from here". The longer text said that the MetaDeckz creator hadn't emailed Ludwig at all, and only sent him a Twitter DM "less than 24 hours ago". "You didn't even follow me on Twitter until [a popular Twitter personality called out your project]. It feels like you just reached out to cover your ass rather than get permission.... This is nothing more than a low effort scam."

Following Ludwig's scathing statement and legal threat, MetaDeckz explained he was just "an artist who saw an oppertunity [sic]" and that he would disband the project. He later released a video explaining that he would stop the project, though his continued references to the cards as "the product" and his statements that he intended to continue working on the cards led some to question if he was just planning to try to monetize them in some other way. If that's the case, he may run into further issues given that the card illustrations all appear to be derived directly from photos of the streamers that don't belong to MetaDeckz.

Another project tries to sell music NFTs without permission from artists

Tweet by NFT Music Stream: "Should you wish for your music to be removed we will honor your wishes and remove it for you, simply email verification@nftmusic.stream We are on YOUR SIDE and are going to flip the industry on it's head by cutting out the middle man & giving control back to you profit wise. (4)"Tweet by NFT Music Stream (attribution)
Following close on the heels of the disaster of an idea that was HitPiece, a new project called "NFT Music Stream" cropped up. Like HitPiece, the project appeared to be scraping Spotify to list music by an enormous number of artists, all apparently without the consent of the musicians. Crypto critics and musicians who questioned the project quickly found themselves blocked.

Also like HitPiece, NFT Music Stream claimed to be doing artists a favor, tweeting, "We are on YOUR SIDE and are going to flip the industry on it's[sic] head by cutting out the middle man & giving control back to you profit wise." They also wrote, "I think a lot of people are missing the point of the project", apparently not understanding why musicians might be less than thrilled to see their work resold without permission.

NFT marketplace Cent shuts down over "rampant" fakes and plagiarism, founder says "I think this is a pretty fundamental problem with Web3"

Cent, the NFT marketplace which sold Jack Dorsey's NFT of his first tweet for $2.9 million, stopped transactions on February 6. The founder explained that people selling NFTs of content they didn't own, copies of other NFT projects, and NFTs resembling securities were "rampant" problems on the platform. "We would ban offending accounts but it was like we're playing a game of whack-a-mole... Every time we would ban one, another one would come up, or three more would come up."

HitPiece catches heat for selling song and album NFTs without seeking consent from the artists

Two listings for sale on the HitPiece website: "Tokyo DisneySea Theme Song" and a German-language Star Wars song, "Die Belagerung von Lothal - Teil 2 - Kapitel 6"You have to admit they have guts for so prominently listing stolen IP from the notoriously-litigious Disney (attribution)
The industrial band Choke Chain tweeted, "Yo a bunch of industrial scene acts (including me) have NFTs for sale on the site hitpiece.com I did not put it online and I assume you probably didn't either, fucked up". A look through the site shows that it is chock full of almost certainly unauthorized NFTs of music not just from industrial bands, but from contemporary pop music artists, k-pop groups, Disney, and many others. The group appears to be simply scraping Spotify and publishing everything as NFT auctions.

The project's website writes, "Each time an artist's NFT is purchased or sold, a royalty from each transaction is accounted to the rights holders account." They do not write about how this is supposed to work when the artists have had zero involvement in the NFT being created to begin with, or have no cryptocurrency wallets at all. The FAQ also includes a hilariously handwavy answer to the question most people learning about NFTs have: "What utility does owning an NFT give me?" HitPiece writes, "Artists provide NFT owners access and experiences."

No JavaScript? That's cool too! Check out the Web 1.0 version of the site to see more entries.