NFT Platform Nifty Gateway, Collector Caught in Legal Battle Over Beeple Auction

NFT Platform Nifty Gateway, Collector Caught in Legal Battle Over Beeple Auction

The NFT trading platform Nifty Gateway and art collector Amir Soleymani are currently caught in a series of legal disputes on both sides of the Atlantic over a Beeple artwork. At the heart of the matter is a debate over whether Soleymani is obligated to cough up $650,000 for a lower-valued edition of the work for which he was ultimately outbid. The fracas was first reported by the Art Newspaper.

Nifty Gateway, which has quickly established itself as a premiere NFT trading platform, hosted an auction for Beeple’s Abundance (2021) in May. Earlier this year, Beeple made headlines when his NFT Everydays: the First 5000 Days sold for $69.3 million at Christie’s, making him the third-most expensive living artist.

According to Soleymani, he had bid on Abundance, but ultimately lost out on the NFT to Taylor Gerring, the cofounder of Ethereum, a blockchain technology. Gerring paid $1.2 million for the piece.

What Soleymani hadn’t quite understood was that the Abundance sale was a ranked auction, even though it had been labeled as such on the auction page. This meant that he and the other 98 top bidders were expected to accept editions of Beeple’s Abundance for the price of their top bid. For Soleymani, he would receive edition number 3 for the fee of $650,000. 

Soleymani has so far refused to pay, citing the unusual format of the sale. “I have not previously encountered such an auction which NG seems to have uniquely used for the Abundance NFT,” he said in an email to ARTnews. In September, he filed a suit in the U.K.’s High Court seeking recognition that the terms were “unfair and do not bind him,” according to the complaint. He also requested payment of any legal fees. In his email, he added, “Ranked Auction was written but the case is more about whether the NG’s [Nifty Gateway’s] Terms are enforceable/binding upon me. I have not previously encountered such an auction which NG seems to have uniquely used for the Abundance NFT.”

Soleymani’s complaint claims that his bids were made “with the intention of acquiring the original artwork offered for sale in the Abundance Auction and not the third or any other edition thereof.”

Nifty Gateway is a platform where artists can mint NFTs (creating a smart contract on the blockchain) and then sell the resulting work to collectors. The complaint alleges that, after Solyemani refused to pay, Nifty Gateway froze his account, cutting off his access to the 106 NFTs he had previously bought on the site for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Escalating the situation even further as Soleymani continued to resist payment, Nifty Gateway reportedly filed for arbitration in July in New York, which is where Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss, the owners of Nifty Gateway, are based. That led Soleymani to filing his suit in the U.K., where he lives, as well as a countersuit in New York.   

The crux of the dispute is whether or not Soleymani, as a U.K. resident, can be subject to Nifty Gateway’s terms of use, which are “a contract wholly entered into and wholly performed within the State of New York,” according to the complaint. Soleymani claims that the English Consumer Rights Act of 2015, part of which focuses on “digital content,” forbids Nifty Gateway’s terms from applying to him. The complaint alleges that Soleymani could not be forced to submit to a foreign court, as that would “bind the consumer to matters of law with which he has no familiarity,” potentially cost him more money, and leave him unable to sue.

Nifty Gateway did not respond to a request for comment. 

The collector, Amir Soleymani, wasn’t aware that it was a ranked auction. Now, both parties are suing each other.