A music NFT project called Opulous featured Lil Yachty as “collaborating” on their NFT drops.

But he says he never agreed to be part of the project.

So, Yachty is suing Opulous, its music distribution partner, and that partner’s founder individually.

He’s asserting claims in California federal court for trademark infringement, false endorsement, and violations of his publicity rights.

According to the lawsuit, Yachty had intro conversations with the Opulous team who pitched their “music copyright-backed NFTs,” which allow people to buy fractional licenses to various music recordings and earn streaming royalties.

Ultimately, Yachty passed on the invitation.

But Opulous issued a press release and advertising campaign stating it was “kicking things off” with drops “led by world-famous artists including Lil Yachty.”

Opulous also used Yachty’s image in tweets and LinkedIn posts promoting the project.

This is not the first NFT project that I have read about where a musician’s likeness has been used allegedly without the artist’s permission or involvement.

While the context is new—NFTs as we currently know them are still in their relative infancy—the issues presented here are not.

It’s a mistake to think that the NFT or metaverse spaces are “unregulated,” which is something I hear repeated frequently.

IP rights, including publicity rights, exist everywhere.

And Yachty’s allegations present classic, straightforward claims for trademark and publicity rights violations.

While there are many novel legal issues that come with new technologies, it’s important to understand where the risks lie, old and new.

On the heels of a significant enforcement action against an ecommerce retailer over customer reviews, the FTC released two new guidance documents.

You might already know that the FTC has brought lawsuits against brands and marketers for hiding negative reviews, paying for positive reviews, creating fake reviews, failing to disclose incentives, and other deceptive acts.

Here are the bullet points, quoting from the new FTC docs:

For marketers:

• Don’t ask for reviews from people who haven’t used your product or service.

• Don’t ask staff to write reviews of your business unless they disclose that relationship.

• Don’t ask for reviews only from customers you think will leave positive ones.

• Don’t ask family and friends for reviews unless they disclose that relationship.

• If you offer incentives for reviews, don’t condition it on the review being positive.

• If you offer incentives, the incentive needs to be disclosed.

For review platforms and review sites:

• Don’t ask for reviews only from people you think will leave positive ones.

• If you offer incentives for reviews, don’t condition it on the review being positive.

• Don’t discourage or prevent people from leaving negative reviews.

• Have some process in place to verify that reviews are real.

• Don’t edit reviews to make them sound more positive.

• Treat negative and positive reviews equally: publish both; don’t feature some more prominently than others.

• Clearly disclose how you collect and display reviews and determine overall ratings.

When the FTC issues “guidance,” more actions typically follow.

But enforcement in this area isn’t new—some other examples:

-In 2015, the FTC sued AmeriFreight, a car shipment broker, because it showcased online customer reviews without disclosing that the reviewers were given discounts and entries into giveaways.

-In 2019, the FTC sued UrthBox for its practice of providing free products to customers in exchange for positive reviews and not disclosing the relationship.

-In 2020, the FTC obtained a $23.9M judgment against student loan debt relief operator who failed to disclose customers were paid to leave positive BBB reviews.

Ana De Armas appeared in the trailer for the 2019 film Yesterday, but she isn’t in the movie.

Fans who claim they only paid to rent the movie through Amazon because of her appearance in the trailer are suing Universal for false advertising.

The lawsuit is a proposed class action on behalf of everyone in California and Maryland who paid to see the movie.

The plaintiffs allege that “consumers were promised a movie with Ana De Armas by the trailer” but didn’t receive such a movie, so they “were not provided with any value for their rental or purchase.”

They claim that Universal couldn’t rely on the fame of the actors who actually appear in the movie to promote sales, so they used De Armas despite cutting her from the cast.

This case reminds me of the class action against Sega over the trailers for the videogame Aliens: Colonial Marines.

In that case, the plaintiffs claimed the promo videos for the game showed gameplay elements that weren’t included in the game itself.

Sega settled that case for $1.25M.

It will be interesting to see how Universal handles this one.

In the meantime, this is a good reminder to ensure that your ads don’t include claims about your products or services that might mislead some consumers as to the qualities and features of their purchases.

False advertising litigation more generally is common and expensive to deal with, even if you’re ultimately right.

Limiting risk early, where you can, will save time and money down the road.