In 2021, Lavinia Osbourne, founder of Women in Blockchain Talks, looked in her NFT wallet and found two of her NFTs from Boss Beauties had been stolen. Osbourne immediately tweeted and after consulting with a barrister, Racheal Muldoon, Osbourne began the legal proceedings to take her case to court as a person in litigant.
This was the first NFT case to go through the civil courts, creating a landmark moment for NFT holders and the blockchain community. The judge granted a property injunction on the stolen NFTs, stating they are Osbourne’s property and, in doing so, set a legal precedent.
This theft, in Osbournes eyes, was not only of a sentimental piece of art but an attack on the independence of blockchain and decentralisation. The scammer stole not only financially, but also what the beauty of NFTs and decentralised transactions represent to Osbourne: financial independence for anyone and everyone.
“It is all very nascent, and for a lot of people, NFTs and the crypto, name has been muddied. However, this is a nascent technology and just like there are scammers there are also really good projects and platforms coming out of the Web3 space, one of which is Boss Beauties.”
“A lot of people who bought into Boss Beauties are women and Boss Beauties work is helping to grow the brand and thus the equity of it. This means if you own a Boss Beauty NFT (Boss Beauties own the IP) whenever the IP is used then NFT owners can earns a percentage, creating passive income. This creates an income stream for the masses and potentially a passive income, depending on how you use your digital asset, be it staking it or taking out a loan against it. In particular, for many women who have bought Boss Beauties NFT.”
NFTs have propelled the creative industry with some saying it is the new way to buy modern art and invest money into assets. So when the scammers stole Osbourne’s NFTs they also stole the potential income stream of these artworks from Osbourne.
“Boss Beauties, and other projects like them, are creating different pathways for women to hold, create and build wealth,” she said.
For Osbourne, “decentralisation means there is no gatekeeper of what someone can earn.” Reflecting on the constraints and financial restrictions put on women throughout history, Osbourne says this is why she advocates for more women to explore the opportunities in blockchain. She sees this as an egalitarian-oriented system that can give women a real chance in taking charge of their own wealth and income streams.
Despite the theft of her NFTs, Osbourne continues to support the power of crypto, “although crypto gets criticised because of scammers who take advantage,” she said.
“It is a huge learning curve, there are so many moving parts which can be overwhelming but the fact of the matter is, crypto has created a number of millionaires from the non a typical finance person. It has removed gates for minorities to access wealth and build wealth, which is a powerful thing.”
There are more calls for regulations on cryptocurrencies and NFTs to protect individuals from scams, however there are arguments that regulation would mean centralisation. This is something Osbourne supports: “we do need to think about protection as we go forward and just to say its decentralised and therefore we shouldn’t have confidence or regulation is not good enough. Minorities can make money from these platforms from nothing and, just because it is decentralised and nascent technology, that does not mean people must just accept scammers and losing assets and wealth as a risk which just comes with it, after building wealth from nothing.”
Osbourne explains this is what ignited her to go to the courts with this case and fight.
“There are smart minded scammers in the crypto space so I used what was available to me which is other smart people and the law, and what I did with the case was to help change the law, so we have something robust for future cases. We have to start from somewhere.”
When taking this to court Osbourne knew it was not going to be plain sailing but admits she had a level of naivety in regards to the paperwork, time, costs, and depth of the legal complexities. Osbourne explains “it was overwhelming,” adding, “it’s understandable why other individuals have been deterred from taking their cases to court.”
Osbourne shared by going to court she wanted to inspire other women and show that women should be, and are involved at every stage of the development of blockchains, crypto, and NFTs and at the forefront, leading it.
Despite a crime of theft being committed, this case was only a civil case. Which is something Osbourne thinks needs to be changed. However, due to blockchain and decentralised assets being a new technology, this means that fighting crypto-related crime isn’t as simple as adding it to an insurance policy or reporting the crime. There are also added complications due to the turbulence of crypto and assets value increasing and decreasing in value. Osbourne acknowledges this: “crypto fluctuates which means the value of the assets also do, however anyone holding onto an asset for a period of time will build equity, which was what my BBs NFTS would have done.”
Osbourne continues to advocate for tougher, criminal measures: “the civil case can only get so much recourse but this is dependent on money. The law equalises but the fact of the matter is if you can’t afford to implicate that law, that is the case with assets and digital assets. If it was criminal, there would be more recourse. But with a civil case it is not possible.”
Previously there would have been a worldwide freezing order, however this doesn’t give the owner proprietary rights. Whereas in Osbourne’s case the judge ruled a proprietary injunction, showing that NFTs are proprieties and the BB NFTS were property stolen from Osborne. There are many other individuals who have also had an NFT stolen from them, including other Boss Beauty NFT holders who have reached out to Osborne sharing their experience. Osborne is hoping for others affected there will be more recognition of stolen NFTs and property injunctions after her court case and accountability.
However, due to the anonymity of the blockchain, there is no information or personal data on file it is difficult to protect innocent individuals from scammers and keep it decentralised which for many, including Osbourne, it is one of the many beauties of crypto and blockchains and what it stands for. “There needs to be more protection but it is difficult, NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea, Rarible and other traders need to do more to protect individuals from scammers but if they do it could be seen as moving towards centralisation.”
After Osbournes case, there has been an influx of individuals reaching out to Osbourne with similar experiences. As such, through her platform Women in Blockchain Talks, Osbourne hopes to help others with their legal cases.
As it stands Osbourne’s case is still ongoing and is being litigated by Daune Morris.
Author: Bronwen Latham
#NFTs #Crypto #Blockchain #Decentralisation