NFT Project Bored Ape Yacht Club Spawns ‘Left-Facing’ Copycats

The parody projects expose the absurdity of NFT communities and intellectual property concerns surrounding digital images.

AccessTimeIconDec 30, 2021 at 3:52 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 4:37 p.m. UTC

It’s a Bored Ape face-off.

On Wednesday, two Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) parody projects gained momentum on crypto Twitter, igniting plagiarism accusations, several trading bans and a robust supply of ape-themed memes.

The two collections – both named PHAYC, a play on “fake” and “BAYC” – appear to be identical copies of the original BAYC collection, but with each ape’s profile mirrored to the opposite side, or “left-facing”.

One PHAYC collection’s Twitter bio read: “PHAYC IT TIL YOU MAKE IT.” The other read: “Apes phace left on the right side of History.”

Within hours, profile pictures boasting left-facing cartoon primates saturated crypto Twitter with members tweeting self-deprecating NFT humor.

“I think the project is a satirical take on the current state of NFTs and members of the NFT community who might be taking the NFT market a little too seriously,” said Twitter user @rootslashbin (“root”), a member of the PHAYC community.

Adding to the drama, the left-facing derivative project sporting Twitter handle @phunkyApeYC claimed to be the original left-facing derivative project, and not, as it might appear to the untrained eye, the left-facing derivative project with handle @phaycbot.

Since its launch in April 2021, BAYC has emerged as one of the most successful NFT projects, touting prominent celebrities, athletes and crypto-influencers as owners.

On NFT marketplace OpenSea, the floor price (the lowest price at which a non-fungible token can be purchased) of a Bored Ape stood at just under 60 ETH, or about $220,000.

PHAYC project @phunkyApeYC launched Tuesday evening as a free mint to the first 8,500 claimers and generated about 60 ETH from the remaining 1,496 sales.

PHAYC project @phaycbot started several hours later, hauling in 500 ETH in sales and offered no free mints. Rival project @phunkyApeYC subsequently bashed its copycat for copying and profiteering from the sale.

Both PHAYC projects sold out in several hours, but were subsequently banned on OpenSea for allegedly violating the platform’s intellectual-property policies. (After a scramble to get the projects relisted on other secondary markets, @phunkyApeYC is currently live on Mintable, while @phaycbot is available on Rarible.)

“Intellectual property laws seem to be in a very weird spot when it comes to NFTs and $200,000 price tags for pictures of cartoon apes is an odd reality to come to terms with even for someone who has been in the space for years,” Twitter user root told CoinDesk.

It is not uncommon for successful NFT projects to be imitated through what are essentially copy-and-paste jobs, but whether those projects have violated an unspoken “code of ethics” is still a point of contention in the NFT community.

In crypto, riding on the coattails of another successful project has proven to be a winning formula time and time again.

PHAYC it till you make it, as it were.


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Tracy Wang

Tracy was the deputy managing editor at CoinDesk. She owns BTC, ETH, MINA, ENS and some NFTs.