Miramax’s lawsuit against Quentin Tarantino over non-fungible token release plans based on pulp Fiction opens a new front in the battle of NFTs. The studio argues that this is a zero-sum game: only one party should be allowed to profit from the new frontier of television and film exploitation. But the case may seek a more nuanced outcome in the form of a ruling allowing both parties to sell NFTs based on ownership of certain copyrights.
The lawsuit asks if Tarantino, who wrote and owns the copyright to the screenplay for pulp Fictionhas the right to publish portions of the work through the sale of NFT.
The case could swing on the interpretation of the contract. Tarantino says posting the NFTs is his reserved rights. According to his deal with Miramax, Tarantino has the rights to “print publication (including, but not limited to, publication of screenplays, book making-ofs, comics, and novelizations, in audio and electronic formats also, if applicable)” as well as “interactive media.”
“The allegations in Miramax’s complaint make it clear that the primary content associated with the NFTs to be auctioned to the public consists of electronic copies of the ‘first uncut’ handwritten scripts of ‘Pulp Fiction,'” writes Bryan Freedman, representing Tarantino, in a June 21 motion for judgment on the pleadings, “There is no doubt that this constitutes an electronic publication – a distribution of one or more electronic copies – of the screenplay.”
Miramax, meanwhile, says its rights go further and account for technology not yet created in 1996 when the deal was struck. The company, which owns the copyright to the film, prominently features catch-all language in its contract that says it owns “all rights.” . . experienced now or in the future. . . in all media known or known in the future.
Moving for a quick win in the case, Tarantino urges the court to focus on copyright law. He maintains that he is not infringing any of Miramax’s copyrights since the NFTs will exploit the script to pulp Fiction and not the film itself.
“The screenplay for a film is an original copyrighted work that predates the film, and the exclusive copyright to the screenplay – including such elements as dialogue, characters, plot and scene descriptions – belong to the writer of the script,” Freedman wrote. “The film created from the screenplay is a derivative work of it.”
Miramax’s copyright for the film only extends to new material that is not directly derived from the script, such as the presentation of the film, the cast’s interpretations of the characters and any added music or sound effects, according to Tarantino. The NFTs he plans to release are a derivative of the script, however. The main content associated with the NFTs to be auctioned consists of electronic copies of the first handwritten scripts of pulp Fictionsaid Tarantino.
A possible outcome of the case could be an order allowing both parties to sell NFTs based on their copyrights.
“Both parties have their rights reserved and both parties have the ability to use NFTs to exercise those rights – Miramax with respect to the film and Tarantino with respect to the script,” says Jeremy Goldman, Partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, which focuses on entertainment and technology law.
But that outcome will depend on an order finding that NFTs are not contemplated in the rights reserved by either party. Miramax relies on contract language that it owns “all rights. . . experienced now or in the future. . . in all media known or known in the future”, but NFTs are not traditionally considered media.
“NFTs are not a form of distribution or media – that’s Miramax’s misunderstanding,” Goldman says. “They view NFTs as a means of distribution, part of how people view content. It’s not that. It’s just a property record.
Miramax’s rebuke to Tarantino’s plans may stem from the director initially including elements of the film in his NFTs. Early artwork, for example, featured images of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, which likely would have infringed Miramax’s copyright on the film. They have since been replaced with images of Tarantino.
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