The Stormtrooper Scandal: Behind the Art Wars NFT Collection

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London artist Ben Moore's audacious scheme using the iconic Star Wars stormtrooper helmets has sparked outrage among copyright holders and NFT market participants. This story is now being explored in a documentary.
Well-known contemporary artists like Jake and Dinos Chapman, Anish Kapoor, and Damien Hirst among others have been collaborating with Ben Moore since the 2010s. Initially, Moore launched a charitable project named Art Wars, featuring a physical collection of hundreds of Star Wars helmets, each uniquely decorated by different artists. 

The project ran smoothly, but at one point, Moore decided to photograph the helmets and create an NFT series based on these images.

In November 2021, when Moore announced the launch of an NFT project featuring these iconic stormtrooper helmets, it created a buying frenzy in the market. 

The Art Wars NFT collection, consisting of 1,138 tokens, was launched in collaboration with the NFT platform Dropspace. The tokens were listed on the major marketplace, OpenSea. The demand was so high that the entire series sold out in five seconds at 0.6 ETH per NFT, making Moore and his partners instant millionaires with a total of 682.8 ETH (over $3 million at the time).
The stormtrooper helmet that became the prototype for the NFT minted by Moore. Source: The Art Newspaper

The stormtrooper helmet that became the prototype for the NFT minted by Moore. Source: The Art Newspaper

The artists who gained fame from the Art Wars NFT did not share in the financial success or the excitement of the project founders. They asserted that the token issuance was unauthorized and that the sale occurred without their prior consent because Moore did not possess the rights or licenses to reproduce their works. 

We were surprised when a legal claim did not follow,” lawyers from K&L Gates LLP commented

Due to the resulting scandal, OpenSea quickly removed the collection's listing, and its page was deleted. Consequently, the price of the Art Wars NFT dropped to zero. 

Two and a half years later, the BBC released a documentary titled "The Stormtrooper Scandal." 
The Stormtrooper Scandal is a story of speculation, greed and betrayal that took place on a new digital frontier - an unregulated world where appearances can be deceptive. But was this a scam, or a well-intentioned bid to make a fast fortune that spiralled out of control?
ponder the filmmakers.
The film includes interviews with the artists, investors, and Ben Moore himself. Despite acknowledging the inherent risks of the NFT market, purchasers remain convinced that the art curator intentionally misled them. Moore himself shows little remorse. “While he freely admits that the prospect of making a quick buck led him to take shortcuts and collaborate with some shady characters, he insists here that ‘it was not my intention to do a scam’,” share journalists from The Financial Times.

There remains no concise legal framework regulating intellectual property issues within the NFT market. Thus, in legal disputes, judicial authorities consider precedents set by earlier similar cases. 

For instance, we have previously reported on the Hermes versus Rothschild case, where the maker of Birkin bags secured compensation from an NFT artist who minted MetaBirkins NFTs, netting around $1 million.