Outlaw's NFT collection encounters controversy over its resemblance to Jeremy Booth's artworks

The art style of the Outlaws collection, which strongly resembles the style of prominent NFTs by Jeremy Booth, has confused the NFT community, which is trying to decide whether it is plagiarism or inspiration.

Two cowboys fighting with each other
It is unclear if images can be considered plagiarised when they are not direct copies of other artworks but feature their distinct style.

A new collection from NFT maker Outlaws.WTF which was launched on April 12, has already been sold out, but the NFT community is still debating the art style, which strongly resembles the style used by another NFT artist, Jeremy Booth.

The Outlaws collection consisting of 10,000 profile pictures (PFP) was released with a floor price of 0.05 ETH per piece worth $104.72 at press time. While some pieces in the collection have traded for 0.130 ETH or $272.27, the current floor price for Outlaws NFTs is 0.0418 ETH worth $87.55.

Unexpectedly, Outlaws have created certain confusion among NFT collectors and artists. Some of them have noticed a striking similarity between Outlaws and Booth's works, particularly his Dirt series.

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The Dirt collection includes works such as Passing By, Luck of the Pursuit, Night Watch, Saguaro, Wild Frontier, At Days End, Cowpoke, and Canyon Traveller. One of the collection's pieces, Luck of the Pursuit, was sold for 12.1 ETH, which is currently worth $18.2k., whereas all of the Dirt's artworks share a very distinct minimalist and cinematic style. A very similar artistic style was also used in Outlaws, which many fans of Booth's works found rather suspicious.

In the face of growing misunderstanding, the team behind Outlaws posted a clarification on Twitter, in which the collection's creators explained that the Western art and style had been created before the release of their works, as well as Booth's series. "This 'style' isn't new - again been around before any of us and was paved by artists like Malika Favre, Levente Szabo, etc.," they said, asking the community to compare one of the portraits created by Booth to the Outlaws portraits, adding, "We DM'd Jeremy to offer his boots holders a mint. We also RT'd his Tweet saying he isn't affiliated - we've never tried to pass off that we are him, and have been clear on that."

The Outlaws team found great support from fans, who made many posts explaining the origin of the art style used by the Outlaws creators and Booth.

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"Jeremy Booth is pretty much just adopting similar styles as you mentioned and mixing up Mark Maggiori's pieces with that style. So many vector art styles like this, which a lot are inspired by Sal Bass... there's Thomas Danthony, Olly Moss Fernando Reza, and the list goes on," pseudonymous collector SwineFlu stated.

In turn, Booth clarified on Twitter that he was not concerned about the style used by Outlaws. "My 'only' issue was what I already tweeted about. (i.e. explicitly using my name in DMs to prospective collectors and repeatedly tagging me in promotional content to create speculation around their project)," the artist explained.

This post from the artist did not help to handle the situation and led to criticism from Outlaws fans who feel Booth is "making something out of nothing," as it is presumably very common for brands to reach out to social media influencers.

Although Booth clearly explained what exactly bothered him about this story, he received even more explanation from Twitter users who pointed out that he was not the creator of the art style used in his works. One of the Twitter users, GenXDegenerate, replied to the artist, "You didn't create the style in the first place. I live in the Southwest, and that style of artwork goes way back and it's all over the place. It's on tourist t-shirts across the Four Corners states. Old advertisements are really the inspiration that SW style of art."

However, this reaction is also understandable as many fans of Booth's artwork tried to convince their opponents of the originality of Booth's style.

It may be challenging to resolve this conflict, however, it is a great illustration of the vulnerability of NFTs and artworks in general. In such situations, it may be virtually impossible to understand where inspiration ends and plagiarism begins and there are no clear copyright policies that could help manage such cases.

On the one hand, the similarity between Outlaws and Booth's works cannot be hidden. On the other hand, it is also apparent Outlaws is not an exact copy of Booth's works. This is one of the problems that especially apply to generative art based on the works of other artists and also the subject of controversy over AI-powered image generators that can create "unique pictures" using styles developed by real artists.

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The issue has already been raised by artists Karla Ortiz, Sarah Andersen, and Kelly McKernan, as well as lawyer Matthew Butterick and litigators from the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, who filed a class-action lawsuit against DeviantArt and Midjourney in January for using a stable diffusion algorithm.

"Having copied the five billion images - without the consent of the original artists - Stable Diffusion relies on a mathematical process called diffusion to store compressed copies of these training images, which in turn are recombined to derive other images," Butterick explains on the lawsuit's website.

Still, while the main issue in this conflict is the fact that the major AI image generators have not obtained permission to use artworks from their creators, figuring out how to handle situations where artists use the same unique art style is even more difficult.