Hollywood film studio Miramax recently filed a lawsuit against director Quentin Tarantino and others over his plans to auction off non-fungible tokens (NFTs) based on the 1994 film, Pulp Fiction.
This dispute began on November 2, when Tarantino announced at the NFT.NYC crypto-art conference that he would be auctioning off seven uncut Pulp Fiction scenes as Secret NFTs. Secret NFTs are built on the Secret Network, the first Layer 1 blockchain with privacy-by-default for applications. Typically, images that are featured in a collector’s NFT wallet are visible to the public, with no option given to the creator or owner to have the images remain private. Secret NFTs are different, in that they enable NFTs to contain both public and private metadata and they allow the owner to choose between publicly displaying ownership or keeping it a secret. Tarantino’s NFTs that are up for auction contain one or more previously unknown secrets of a specific iconic scene from Pulp Fiction that are only viewable by the owner of the NFT, including the uncut first handwritten scripts and exclusive custom commentary from Tarantino. The NFT’s public metadata—the “front cover” of this exclusive content—is also a one-of-a-kind, unique, never-before-seen, public-facing work of art.
The complaint states claims for breach of contract, copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition. The suit appears to turn on the issue of whether selling NFTs based on, among others, excerpts of a handwritten screenplay qualifies as a “screenplay publication” or “print publication.” According to the complaint, Tarantino asserted in response to Miramax’s cease and desist letter that he has retained a limited set of “Reserved Rights” with respect to the film, and he is acting within his “Reserved Rights,” specifically the right to “screenplay publication” (which is a subset of his Reserved Rights to “print publication”) through the NFT auction. Miramax contends that Tarantino’s proposed sale of NFTs are a one-time transaction, which does not constitute publication, and does not fall within the meaning of “screenplay publication” or “print publication.” Miramax therefore claims that it owns the exclusive right to sell NFTs of any version of the screenplay for Pulp Fiction.
This dispute is not the first lawsuit over NFTs and it will not be the last. No matter the outcome, contracts governing intellectual property rights will definitely take NFTs into consideration going forward.
The complaint can be found here.