August 17, 2022

Volume XII, Number 229

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Hackers Go Phishing in Beeple’s Deep Pool of Twitter Followers

“Stay safe out there, anything too good to be true is a … scam.” Beeple, a popular digital artist, tweeted to his followers, addressing the phishing scam that took place on May 23, 2022, targeting his Twitter account. The attack reportedly resulted in a loss of more than US$400,000 in cryptocurrency and NFTs, stolen from the artist’s followers on the social media website.

After hacking into Beeple’s Twitter account, perpetrators tweeted links from the artist’s page, promoting a fake raffle for unique art pieces. The links would reportedly take the user to a website that would drain the user’s cryptocurrency wallet of their digital assets. 

Phishing scams for digital assets, including NFTs or non-fungible tokens, have steadily increased, with funds as large as $6 million being stolen. Various jurisdictions have adopted privacy and security laws that require companies to adopt reasonable security measures and follow required cyber incident response protocols. A significant part of these measures and protocols is training for employees in how to detect phishing scams and other hacking attempts by bad actors. This incident is a reminder to consumers to exercise vigilance, watch for red flags and not click on links without verifying the source.

The remaining summaries of news headlines are separated by region for your browsing convenience. 

UNITED STATES

Relaxed Deaccessioning COVID-19 Exemptions Expire

The global COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes, including dire financial consequences of the shutdowns for museums. In April 2020, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) made a decision to ease the rules that dictate how museums may use proceeds from art sales. Until April 2022, museums were permitted to use the funds for “direct care of collections” rather than to procure new artworks for their collections.

This relaxed policy and some of the museums that followed it met with backlash on more than one occasion; others, however, advocate for its continuation, citing considerations of diversity and inclusion. Some further argue that a policy born out of financial desperation should be continued to provide museums with the means to overcome any future financial issues that may arise.

Given that “direct care” is vague and open to interpretation, opponents of the relaxed rules counter giving museums such latitude to decide on the use of the proceeds, as it can lead to abuses and bad decisions. While AAMD has returned to its pre-pandemic regulations, and museums have followed suit, it appears that the public debate around deaccessioning is far from over.

Inigo Philbrick Sentenced to a Prison Term

Former contemporary art dealer Inigo Philbrick was sentenced by a federal court in New York to serve seven years in prison for a “Ponzi-like” art fraud, said to be one of the most significant in the history of the art market, with more than an estimated US$86 million in damages. Philbrick stood accused of a number of bad acts, including forging signatures, selling shares in artworks he did not own and inventing fictitious clients.

New York Abolishes Auction House Regulations

As the U.S. government is studying whether the art market requires further regulations to increase transparency and to combat money laundering, New York City repealed its local law that required auctioneers to be licensed and required disclosures to bidders, including whether an auction house had a financial stake in the item being auctioned. While the abolition of the regulation was ostensibly to improve the business climate after the pandemic, some commentators note that the regulations were outdated and not serving their purpose in any event. As an illustration, a newcomer to an auction will likely struggle to understand the garbled pre-action announcements or their significance. Whether the old regulations are to be replaced with new, clearer rules remains to be seen.

EUROPE

Greece and UK to Discuss Rehoming of Displaced Parthenon Marbles

The Parthenon marbles, also known as the Elgin marbles, have been on display in London’s British Museum for more than 200 years. These objects comprise 15 metopes, 17 pedimental figures and an approximately 250-foot section of a frieze depicting the birthday festivities of the Greek goddess Athena. What museum goers might not know is that these ancient sculptures were taken from the Acropolis in Greece in 1801 by Lord Elgin.

Previously, the British government, seeking to retain the sculptures, relied on the argument that the objects were legally acquired during the Ottoman Empire rule of Greece. However, for the first time, the UK has initiated formal talks with Greece to discuss repatriation of the Parthenon sculptures. These discussions are expected to influence future intergovernmental repatriation negotiations.

ASIA

Singapore High Court Asserts Jurisdiction over NFTs after Ruling Them a Digital Asset

The highest court in Singapore has granted an injunction to a non-fungible token (NFT) investor, Janesh Rajkumar, who sought to stop the sale of an NFT that once belonged to him and was used as collateral for a loan. The subject NFT from the Bored Ape Yacht Club Series is a rarity, as it depicts the only avatar that wears a beanie. Rajkumar now is seeking to repay the loan and have the NFT restored to his cryptocurrency wallet. The loan agreement specified that Rajkumar would not relinquish ownership of the NFT, and should he be unable to repay the loan in a timely manner, an extension would be granted. Instead of granting Rajkumar an extension, the lender, who goes by an alias “chefpierre,” moved to sell the NFT. The significance of the Singapore court’s decision is two-fold: the court has (1) recognized jurisdiction over assets cited in the decentralized blockchain, and (2) allowed for the freezing order to be issued via social media platforms.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Illegal Trading Leads to Raiding of Antique Dealer by the Israeli Authorities

A recent raid on an unauthorized antiquities dealer in the city of Modi’in by the Israel Antiquities Authority recovered hundreds of artifacts of significant historical value, including jewelry, a bronze statue and approximately 1,800 coins. One the coins is a nearly 2,000-year-old silver shekel of great historical significance. The coin is engraved with the name Shimon, leader of the 132–136 C.E. Bar Kokhba revolt.

Investigations are ongoing to determine where the antiquities were obtained. The Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit intends to charge the dealer and their suppliers upon obtaining this information.

© 2022 Wilson ElserNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 160
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About this Author

Jana Farmer IP Lawyer Wilson Elser Law Firm
Partner

Jana Farmer represents client interests in connection with design professional matters and architects’ copyright; intellectual property matters involving copyright, sale and transfer of rights in artwork; protection of valuable creative assets; and general commercial disputes. In addition to handling cases before New York state courts, she defends clients in federal courts and in arbitrations and employs mediation to facilitate the cost-effective resolution of disputes. Jana also has experience conducting e-discovery and cross-border discovery in complex cases with large...

914.872.7247
Meenka Maharaj Litigation Attorney  New York, Wilson Elser
Associate

Meenka Maharaj is a civil litigator who defends claims in the trucking/transportation, real estate and construction industries. Meenka handles matters for clients from inception through resolution by settlement, dispositive motion, trial or mediation/arbitration, actively litigating cases in state and federal courts in New York and New Jersey.

Meenka joined Wilson Elser from a New York City litigation firm specializing in automotive and motorized vehicle insurance law issues. Previously, Meenka worked in compliance at a home health agency...

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