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It would appear that a Trump has run afoul of the federal government this week—but perhaps not the family member you’d expect. Former First Lady Melania Trump has potentially sparked conflict with NASA by apparently violating the federal agency’s policy on image usage in her latest NFT drop.
The collectible, titled "Man on the Moon"—which released on Wednesday—prominently features the iconic 1969 photo of astronaut Buzz Aldrin partaking in the NASA-orchestrated Apollo 11 lunar landing. Per agency policy, however, usage of NASA images in connection with an NFT project is strictly prohibited. Gizmodo first reported on the apparent violation.
“NASA does not wish for its images to be used in connection with NFTs,” the organization’s Regulations on Merchandising Requests and Media Usage Guidelines explicitly read, further noting that the agency is "not approving any merchandising applications" tied to NFTs.
— MELANIA TRUMP (@MELANIATRUMP) July 20, 2023
Companies or individuals wishing to use NASA imagery, emblems, or identifiers on merchandise must have that usage approved by the agency; NASA states that “strict laws and regulations” govern this approval process.
In this case, Trump and the USA Memorabilia NFT platform she used may not have filed a request with NASA, or may have had a request rejected, as NASA strictly prohibits NFT-related uses of its intellectual property.
Decrypt reached out to USA Memorabilia for comment on this story, but did not immediately receive a response.
Perhaps complicating matters, though, is the fact that images produced by federal agencies such as NASA are part of the public domain, and therefore can be used for free. If NASA were to seek legal action against Trump, it's unclear how far such a suit could go.
Judging by history, such an aggressive move by the federal agency is unlikely. A NASA attorney previously told The Los Angeles Times that though the organization can send cease-and-desist letters to merchants who violate its policies, NASA leadership tends to prefer more amicable routes to compliance, including informal conversations with merchants.
Making matters in this case more particular, however, is the fact that NFTs appear to be the only class of merchandise banned in all circumstances from utilizing NASA images.
NASA did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment on this story.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump's own NFT collection spiked in price in March after he was indicted on criminal charges by a New York grand jury. He then wiped out those gains by releasing a second batch of digital trading cards in April, heavily diluting the initial project’s value.