A United States District Court judge for the Southern District of New York ruled that emojis like the rocket ship, stock chart and money bags mean “a financial return on investment, ” according to a recent court filing.
In a tweet, former United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) branch chief Lisa Braganca warned users of the potential legal consequence of using emojis that may indicate future gains. She tweeted:
A federal court judge ruled that these emojis objectively mean “one thing: a financial return on investment.” Users of these emojis are hereby warned of the legal consequence of their use. #emojis #rocketshipemoji #DapperLabs https://t.co/4yRfWBH96R
— Former SEC Branch Chief Lisa Braganca (@LisaBraganca) February 23, 2023
Braganca shared the link to a court filing where federal court judge Victor Marrero denied Dapper Labs’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint alleging that its NBA Top Shot Moments violated security laws.
Within the filing, the judge pointed out that some tweets published by the NBA Top Shot account on Twitter contain emojis indicating financial returns. “And although the literal word ‘profit’ is not included in any of the tweets, the ‘rocket ship’ emoji, ‘stock chart’ emoji, and ‘money bags’ emoji objectively mean one thing: a financial return on investment,” they wrote.
Oscar Franklin Tan, the chief legal officer of NFT platform Enjin, also commented on the issue. Tan told Cointelegraph that the Dapper Labs decision should not create a “dangerous rule” that emojis make NFTs securities.” Tan explained that:
“Courts should protect the edgy, freewheeling messaging in NFT communities because shitposts and emojis are part of free speech too.”
According to Tan, sneaker resellers can also use the same “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out” pitch and use the emojis cited in the case.
Members of the crypto community reacted to the warning and tweeted various responses. One Twitter user described the news as “tragic,” while another pointed out that freedom of speech no longer extends to emojis. Meanwhile, a user decided to make a declaration on the meanings of their use of the emojis.
On Feb. 23, lawyers also reacted to the judge’s decision to allow the lawsuit against Dapper Labs to play out. U.S. attorney Jake Chervinsky pointed out that “it would be absurd” for a U.S. court to consider assets on private blockchains as securities. Chervinsky explained that this could turn every major video game developer, ticketing platform and travel rewards program into an SEC-regulated company.
Similarly, how the SEC went after Terra also captured the attention of lawyers. On Feb. 17, crypto lawyers went on Twitter to voice their thoughts on the issue of the SEC alleging that Terra sold a suite of crypto asset securities. Web3 lawyer Mike Selig explained that anything can be a security under the theory, while attorney Justin Browder described the SEC’s actions as “wild.”