Actor and producer Seth Green is known for roles in Austin Powers, Entourage, and his work with Robot Chicken. His new show, Darkwing84, is now in danger, thanks to its title character being stolen. 

Let me explain. 

Earlier this year, Green was targeted by a phishing scam that stole several of his NFTs. One of those NFTs was a Bored Ape named Fred Simian. That ape was set to be the title character in his new animated show. But when the NFT was stolen, the copyright for the character disappeared too.

This means that Green and the show don't own the likeness of the ape they were going to use—because that ape was then sold to a third party who now owns the copyright. It's effectively a hostage. 

Green has been very vocal about this theft and what it's done to his show. In an interview with entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, Green said, “I bought that ape in July 2021, and have spent the last several months developing and exploiting the IP to make it into the star of this show. Then days before—his name is Fred, by the way—days before he’s set to make his world debut, he’s literally kidnapped.”

Basically, Green can proceed with the show, but he could be sued by whoever has bought the ape since it was stolen and resold with its copyright. And there's not an obvious legal case to refer to here, because this is all new territory. Technically speaking, the new owner owns the copyright to the character. Even if that character was stolen via a scam. 

Buzzfeed ran an entire expose on the matter, and it's worth the deep dive. 

“Ordinarily, bona fide purchasers are legally protected if they buy an item not knowing that it’s a hot item,” Eric Goldman, an intellectual property and technology law professor at the University of Santa Clara, told BuzzFeed. Goldman thinks there's more to the law here, saying, “There will be a lot of questions about whether they’re buying a stolen NFT and not doing their homework.”

Lots to unpack, but the idea of basing an animated show on a character that can be stolen along with its copyright is new ground in Hollywood. This is sort of funny, but also terrible.

Imagine selling an animated show and having the lead character stolen! It's safe to say that if you are working with NFTs and licensing them for movies or TV shows, do as much homework as you can on the operation. And don't lose sight of those NFTs. 

We'll keep you updated as this develops.