Sackboy NFT Project Violates Sony's IP Rights: Here's Why

Updated: Mar 15

LBP Union is a fan-made community that has no relationship with Sony Group Corporation (Sony).

A grid of many avatars that look strikingly similar to Sony's Sackboy.
Source: Beanbag Frens

A storm began in the community early last month on Twitter. Images of numerous variations of a character very closely resembling Sackboy were making their rounds around the platform. In most cases, this might be fanart. Instead, these were in fact images representing NFT's distributed on the ecommerce market OpenSea. LittleBigPlanet fans on Twitter came together and collectively condemned 'Beanbag Frens' for their shameless profiteering of Sony's IP. Let's talk about the Beanbag Frens scandal and why it's important for the future of LittleBigPlanet and Project Lighthouse custom servers.


Stick around until the end of the article to get some nice 'funged' tokens.


What is an NFT?


A visualization of the blockchain Multiple computers are connected together.
The blockchain. Image source: https://medium.com/the-capital/blockchain-technology-62a8ffabc899

If only there was a good Stephen Fry tutorial for this one. The full scope of this topic can't quite fit into this article, but the term stands for non-fungible token.

  1. Non-fungible: Cannot be replaced with another identical item.

  2. Token: Similar to a software license but stored on a secure network called the blockchain.

NFT's are, at their core, little licenses. When you own an NFT, a network called the blockchain is used to verify your ownership of the token. The blockchain is composed of a large network of computers that perform very complex cryptographic computations. This ensures that the network remains secure, but all transactions are visible to the public.


NFT's and Art


When defined like this, NFT's have nothing to do with art. However, as in the case of Beanbag Frens, they are often sold associated with images. Users will buy the NFT while also receiving 'ownership' over a profile picture or other image. However, the user does not own the image. They own the token. The best way I can describe it is that they own a cell on a spreadsheet.


This is a simplified version of the topic but it will help us understand what the heck Beanbag Frens is doing illegally making money off Sackboy.


Beanbag Frens and Sackboy


The Twitter account used by Beanbag Frens was created in December 2021, around three to four months before this article was published. One of the earliest tweets recognizing the resemblance in the art associated with the NFT's is by Dangerisinu,

If the images in that tweet don't convince you of the resemblance, here's another side-by-side with an official sticker created by Sony for use on iMessage:


Let's do a quick art analysis just to drive this home. Both Sackboy and this 'Beanbag Fren' are stitched characters. They both have the same round eyes and smiles. Notice also the eye shine is characteristic of both images. Note the small neck as well, and the proportions of the body and arms. It's undeniable that there is a striking resemblance between these two characters.


In fact, that resemblance proved to be too much for Sony, as we'll discuss next.


Sony Takes Action


After dozens of tweets pleading with Sony and the official LittleBigPlanet Twitter account about Beanbag Frens's shameless rip off of Sackboy, Sony submitted a DMCA takedown request to Beanbag Frens, causing their tokens to be removed from the platform on February 23rd. One day later, they posted this update after investigating the situation:

Now, let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's say they really didn't know anything about Sackboy or LittleBigPlanet, and this was just all a big coincidence. Maybe this was all just a big mistake and nobody did anything wrong here. However, it has been argued by some members of the community that there is evidence that says otherwise,

This isn't completely incriminating evidence because there is nothing to indicate that CreamyETH is directly associated with the project aside from the @beanbagfrens handle in their profile description. However, it does show that members of the community surrounding the project were aware of the resemblance as early as the beginning of January.


Beanbag Frens Responds...and Returns


A few days later on February 25th, Beanbag Frens posted a message on their Discord server to their community about the future of the project. They acknowledged that due to the Sony DMCA takedown request, they would need to create a whole new collection of art and ensure that current token-holders would be compensated fairly.


However, on March 11th, Beanbag Frens announced their return to OpenSea, but the art remains largely unchanged.


Characteristic features of the avatars are completely unchanged. The one on the left still uses the exact same mouth and eyes. Both avatars have the same stitched aesthetic and body proportions. The 'BBF' project is undoubtedly a shameless copy of Sackboy and they're not even trying to hide it.


There are various people in the BBF community hilariously defending their tokens as well, like this humorous exchange between a BBF supporter and a member of the LBP Union Research and Development team, SyngletOxygen,

Speaking of quato_eth's argument, check out our article about how many people play LittleBigPlanet to get a better understanding of how popular LBP has been over the years.


Beanbag Frens Blocks LittleBigPlanet Accounts


On March 12th, popular YouTuber BlazingVictini and Sumo Digital Principal Level Designer Mark Hall discussed how various LittleBigPlanet accounts had been blocked by Beanbag Frens. This was seemingly in response to the overwhelming outrage of the community against the BBF NFT project.

It's clear that Beanbag Frens is aware of the resemblance of their avatars to Sackboy and is actively attempting to hide from the accusations instead of addressing them or changing the art style. Fortunately, Beanbag Frens didn't ban the @LBPUnion account, so we were sure to send them a copy of this article as a reminder that we haven't forgotten about their IP infringement.


What Now?


Art theft is a severe problem in NFT spaces, and this is no exception. The fact that Beanbag Frens continues to boldly defy Sony's DMCA takedown request is a great example of why the law needs to catch up with the evolution of technology. However, this has much broader implications about Beanbag Frens, and even Project Lighthouse.


The Future of Beanbag Frens


Sony could choose to continue to pursue Beanbag Frens for copyright violations. However, it's entirely possible that Sony will allow it to exist. The chances of this are highly dependent on how much they value Sackboy as an IP. With Sackboy: A Big Adventure and LittleBigPlanet 3 still having active communities, it's possible this alone is enough to justify fighting back.

However, an even more convincing argument for shutting down BBF is that Sony may have hopes for a future Sackboy or LittleBigPlanet title in the future. If they ever decide to create LittleBigPlanet 4, having control over the Sackboy brand would be very important for Sony.


If Sony doesn't take action, they would be at risk of losing control over their IP. Customers may become confused about the status and quality of the Sackboy brand and may associate the NFT's with Sackboy: A Big Adventure. This could negatively impact sales and the success of future games.


Project Lighthouse and Copyright


The situation with Beanbag Frens has shown that Sony will go out of its way to defend their intellectual property rights. However, what does that mean for Project Lighthouse? Wouldn't this mean that Sony may pursue action against our custom server initiative?



Not necessarily. We aren't using LittleBigPlanet branding, and we aren't selling it either. Everyone who uses the server must own their own copy of the game. In addition, the server and its code are all open source and completely original. No proprietary code or information is distributed. Project Lighthouse is not for profit, and we aren't even taking donations for the project. We are also careful to never use copyrighted content, and we never show copyrighted movies or other material on our Discord server without expressed permission.


Beanbag Frens on the other hand is openly profiting off the IP by selling NFT's with images that are unmistakably based on Sackboy. That's completely different.


How to 'Funge' Beanbag Frens Tokens


I saw this hilarious meme the other day on the LBP Union Discord server,

A Windows 10 right click menu, replacing save image to funge token.
Time to funge your token!

This isn't accurate by any means, because the image itself is not the token that you receive when you buy the NFT. However, it's an amazing satirical criticism of what NFT buyers actually own: a token. A cell on a spreadsheet. Maybe that cell gives you access to certain things on other platforms, but at the end of the day it's a little string of text that thousands of computers on the blockchain spend countless hours of energy killing the planet to verify you own.


So, if you want to show them how useless the illegal Beanbag Frens NFTs are, go ahead and download them all. No, seriously. It's easy! Our R&D lead developer Jvyden downloaded all 7,777 Beanbag Friends NFT's and dumped them into a zip folder for you to download. Enjoy!

Here's a few of them collected by our scribes A_H and Sackratt:



If anything happens with Beanbag Frens in the future, we will be sure to provide updates here on our website. What do you think will happen? Do you think Sony will pursue further action against Beanbag Frens? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please be sure to share it on social media. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram as well to support LBP Union and our custom server efforts with Project Lighthouse.

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