Chubbies NFT: A $3.8 Million Artstic Heist?

Friday night turned out to be a drama filled evening as serious claims surfaced that Chubbies’ popular NFT characters were stolen.

So what happened?

On March 22nd, a new NFT project called Chubbies launched and quickly gained traction. Created by a husband and wife duo, the couple was particularly skilled at two things: identifying popular artwork styles and creating a community around that art.

Combined with luck, these two skillsets are basically the foundation for success in the world of NFTs. As former The Nifty podcast guest, Claire Silver, has stated, “taste is the new skill”. Thanks to a couple of shout outs from Gary Vaynerchuk and super NFT collector NFT Girl, the project went viral and all 10,000 Chubbies sold out.

The total revenue generated was 1843 ETH or more than $3.8 million in USD at current market prices, an absolute windfall for any artist.

Then on April 4th things began to fall apart for the Chubbies project. An anonymous Twitter user, who goes by the name Anne Mack, surfaced the source of the original Chubbies design from 2016:

While not identical, Chubbies was heavily influenced by the original work of Hans, a less known pixel artist.

It’s not clear why it took so long but by Friday evening the allegations exploded.

That evening, thanks to Christies’ announcement of an upcoming Cryptopunks auction, things were popping off in the Cryptopunks discord. The punk community had a tangible sense of excitement and the general atmosphere was upbeat and celebratory as punks had more than doubled in price within 24 hours.

Over on the Chubbies discord, things were not as joyous. A user who goes by the name “Brams” commented, “Is it true? Are Chubbies really a rip off?” setting off a flood of questions and claims from others.

One of the moderators, who goes by the name JeffBezos, began banning anybody who was bringing up the topic, including Brams.

That backfired and suddenly hundreds if not thousands of additional people were now aware of the drama surrounding Chubbies as the conversation spilled into the Cryptopunks discord.

While the reason for the timing was unclear, “JeffBezos” speculated that it was due to $WHALE potentially creating a Chubbies portfolio. The theory was that somebody was out to undermine such an investment.

Conspiracy theories aside, it led to a drama filled evening and by early morning (eastern time) the founders of Chubbies provided an update.

Originally we intended to release a statement after we have a clear agreement with pxlhns but this blew up and we are getting a lot of attention. There is a lot of false information spreading, so based on our mods’ recommendation, we decided to put out a statement.

pxlhns’ artwork with 12 cute animal costume characters created back in 2016 is super cute and served as one of the main inspirations for us. We were immediately hooked when we were looking for inspirations for our next NFT project on Google at the time.

There’re NO excuses not to inform pxlhns when we started this side project. We are very sorry about that and want to make things right.

We reached out to pxlhns ourselves 10 days ago when we found his email address. We have been in discussion since. We never see pxlhns as an opponent; quite the opposite, we respect him as our inspiration and even want to work with him on future projects, Chubbies or non-Chubbies, if possible. We are trying to work out a term that both parties will be happy and feel respected.

There’re also NO excuses not to list or mention pxlhns on the website as an inspiration. This is already in process. Chubbies are 10000 programmatically generated 32x32 GIFs NFTs inspired by pxlhns, and many things else. Apart from the animal costumes GIF inspired by pxlhns, which served as an awesome starting point, we also brainstormed a lot of different elements to make the collection fun. Aliens, Zombies, Apes inspired by CyptoPunks. Costume mix and match inspired by Fall Guys. An abundance of properties inspired by Waifusion. Shiny Chubbies inspired by Pokemon. Astronaut inspired by Cyberkongs. Lab-Grown vs Natural Chubbies inspired by buying diamonds. Pusheen Cat inspired by Pusheen. Shiny Pusheen Cat inspired by NyanCat. We are working on listing all of these inspirations on our website so that there’s no ambiguity.

As for the code that some people mentioned, we have never seen that before. We don’t mind making our Chubbies generation code public on github when this is all over. You can already see it on Twitch Live when we revealed all the Chubbies too.

For the bans, at first, the mods banned some accounts because they thought there was a coordinated attack. Our mods didn’t know we were already talking to pxlhns. Regardless of whether this was coordinated or not, as long as you don’t shill and spam in the discord, feel free to discuss this matter.

Please stop spreading false information and wait for us to reach an agreement in the meantime. Sorry for the confusion and thank you for your feedback, support, and concern.

Discord user bwpunks#9990

By then the damage had been done. On Saturday evening a Clubhouse room was spawned to discuss the implications of stolen artwork being sold as NFTs. It’s a subject matter that many of the mainstream news publications have been discussing but this time it hit close to home. Some of those who have been around the space for a while felt duped.

While it’s not clear what agreement, if any, Chubbies will come to with Hans, many have suggested that he launch his own NFT collection. I’m confident he would experience widespread support thanks to the visibility of many major crypto collectors.

In the world of digital art, everything is truly a remix. The line between “inspired by” and “copycat” is often blurred. To Chubbies creators, it’s clear that some adjustments were made. Yet many former Chubbies fans felt duped. The similarities were too close for comfort.

Ultimately the case will play out both in a court of public opinion and in private negotiations between Chubbies and Hans. As for the future of intellectual property in the world of NFTs, there’s a long way to go before effective systems are developed to protect artists from infringement.

Whatever the outcome, Friday was a drama filled evening in crypto land.