NFT Marketplace OpenSea Has Blocked Cuban Artists and Collectors From Its Platform, Citing U.S. Sanctions Law

December 28, 2022

By Sharan Kaur Phillora

Following six decades of sanctions against Cuba, the Biden administration renewed the trade embargo on the neighboring island in September. And now, the internet’s biggest NFT marketplace, OpenSea is delisting Cuban artist and collector accounts from its platform to comply with U.S. sanctions law.

Here’s what we know:

On September 2nd, the White House released a memorandum on the “Continuation of the Exercise of Certain Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act.” This made Biden the 12th President to have extended the trade embargo on Cuba, now set for September 14, 2023, for a new extension.

The memorandum referenced the enforcement of Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515. Under exempt transactions, informational material or artistic alteration that is not US-based is prohibited. This includes “payment of royalties to a designated national with respect to income received for enhancements or alterations made by persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

OpenSea started banning Cuban artists soon after. The largest NFT marketplace, handling 66% of all trading volume as of October, clearly states in terms of service that users will have their accounts terminated if they are “subject to any sanctions administered by an agency of the U.S. Government.”

The first major NFT collective to be hit was NFTcuba.ART, which has over 70 listed artists. OpenSea disabled their account, but they still have access to their wallet. According to the collective’s interpretation of the US embargo on Cuba, art trade should not be susceptible to banning.

Another NFT collective, Bit Remasa, also had their NFT collections delisted by OpenSea. Interestingly, the founder of Bit Remasa, Erich Garcia Cruz, also screenshotted PancakeSwap.Finance refusing service due to “unavailable for legal reasons.” 

Delisted artists include even the most popular Cuban names, such as Gabriel Guerra Bianchini. He is known for the first NFT auction originating from Cuba in March 2021, with Hotel Habana 3/10 NFT that is now nowhere to be found on OpenSea.

The crypto community was not very pleased with the auctions of the NFT marketplace and called for an end to intermediaries. Another user said there is a need for real decentralized platforms that don’t care about nationalities.

About the author

Sharan Kaur Phillora’s thirst for knowledge has led her to study many different subjects, including NFTs and Blockchain technology – two emerging technologies that will change how we interact with each other in the future. When she isn’t exploring a new idea or concept, she enjoys reading literary masterpieces.

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