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BitClout's Alleged Leader Hit With Cease-and-Desist by Prominent Crypto Law Firm

The legal letter is the latest twist in the controversial project's short history.

Mar 24, 2021 at 2:07 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:31 p.m. UTC

Brandon Curtis, the product lead for decentralized token exchange Radar Relay, has fired a legal warning shot at the alleged creator of controversial social network BitClout for using Curtis' likeness without his consent.

Anderson Kill P.C., the law firm representing Curtis, has sent a letter to Nadar Al-Naji, formally claiming the former Basis founder breached California's civil codes. BitClout is a social media network that issues "creator coins" (paid for in bitcoin) corresponding to different users. The platform appears to use profiles pulled from Twitter, regardless of whether the Twitter user has actually signed up to BitClout or not.

The cease-and-desist letter is the latest twist in the odd tale of BitClout, a controversial project whose founders have gone by pseudonyms. While one of those founders, who goes by the handle Diamondhands, claims BitClout offers a new way to monetize a social following, others have balked at several aspects of the rollout, including the current inability to trade out of the BTCLT token once it is purchased.

Anderson Kill doesn't specify how it tied Al-Naji to BitClout, only writing that it is "a project that we understand was launched by you and is under your control."

James Prestwich, the founder of decentralized finance startup Summa (acquired by Celo), also claimed that Al-Naji is behind BitClout, citing "personal knowledge." CoinDesk attempted to contact Al-Naji, but did not receive a reply by press time.

"It is well established that a person or company cannot knowingly use another's name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness, in any manner ... for purpose of ... selling, or soliciting purchases," the letter reads.

Hailey Lennon, now with Anderson Kill, at Consensus 2019

Curtis' lawyers cite California's Civil Code section 3344, which protects an individual's right to profit from the commercial value of his or her own identity and is established throughout the U.S. in both statute and common law.

Section 1798 of California Civil Code, which was also cited by Anderson Kill, protects an individual's right to privacy in the state.

The lawyers also state that any person found in violation of the code is liable to pay either $750 or actual damages incurred by BitClout's alleged actions for the "unauthorized use" of Curtis' identity as well as any profit collected in such actions.

"In order for Mr. Curtis to exercise any sort of control over his name .... he would need to put his own money into your project or provide ... personal information," the letter reads. "Even messaging BitClout's support team costs BitClout tokens."

The lawyers argue the only way for Curtis to use BitClout's site or control his profile is by buying tokens issued by the platform or by providing his telephone number.

"Mr. Curtis has no contractual relationship of any kind with you nor any desire to form one," the letter reads. As such the lawyers are asking Al-Naji to cease and desist from the "unlawful use" of Curtis' name and photo. Lawyers are also requesting Al-Naji cease and desist from engaging in further violation of Curtis' privacy rights.

Preston Byrne, obscuring his future Anderson Kill colleague Stephen Palley, at Consensus 2019

Preston Byrne, one of the lawyers who signed the letter, had previously asked BitClout to remove his profile on the platform, which the company apparently did.

"The right of publicity means an individual should be able to decide how they profit from the commercial value of their likeness and what organizations they collaborate with," said Hailey Lennon, another Anderson Kill partner who signed the letter, in a statement.

Byrne and Lennon are both veterans of the blockchain startup world and members of the technology, media and distributed systems practice at Anderson Kill chaired by seasoned litigator Stephen Palley, who also signed the letter.

Nikhilesh De contributed reporting.

DISCLOSURE

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