The popularity of non-fungible tokens, NFTs for short, has reached new highs over the past year.
This has also drawn the attention of celebrities, some of whom agreed to tie their names and creations to these digital collectibles.
Last fall, Quentin Tarantino joined in as well. The movie director announced that he would auction ‘Pulp Fiction’ NFTs to the public. These NFTs will unlock handwritten scripts and exclusive custom commentary from Tarantino, assets that could prove valuable to collectors.
Miramax Sues over Pulp Fiction NFTs
Not everyone was happy with this plan though. Movie studio Miramax, which owns most of the rights to the film, sees the plan as a contract breach and copyright infringement. In a lawsuit filed at a California federal court last November, the movie company accused the director of attempting to cash in on something he doesn’t own the full rights to.
“Eager to cash in on the non-fungible token (‘NFT’) boom, as widely reported in the media, Quentin Tarantino recently announced plans to auction off seven ‘exclusive scenes’ from the 1994 motion picture Pulp Fiction in the form of NFTs,” the complaint read.
Despite this legal dispute, the first NFT was put up for auction early this year, selling for over a million dollars. After that, the project was put on hold, perhaps in part to await the outcome of the lawsuit.
Tarantino Wants the Lawsuit Dismissed
According to Tarantino, Miramax’s claims are ungrounded. His legal team previously described the claims as “offensively meritless” and this week they submitted a motion for judgment, seeking dismissal of the complaint in its entirety.
“Miramax’s copyright claim fails because it misapprehends fundamental principles of copyright law and ignores the clear language of the agreements and assignments,” Tarantino’s lawyers write.
The movie company suggests that by assigning the film’s copyright to Miramax, the director also gave up the rights to his screenplay. That’s not the case, the lawyers counter.
The Film is a Derivative
Tarantino sees the film as a derivative of the screenplay he personally wrote and still holds the rights to, not the other way around.
“Miramax’s complaint assumes that an assignment of copyrights in a motion picture encompasses an assignment of exclusive rights in the underlying screenplay for that motion picture. That turns copyright law on its head,” the lawyers write.
Even if Miramax could somehow show that, by giving up the film’s copyrights, Tarantino also transferred the exclusive rights for the underlying screenplay, that wouldn’t be sufficient. The agreements both parties have signed make it clear that the director didn’t give up the screenplay rights.
“At every turn, the parties bent over backwards to make clear that Mr. Tarantino was not assigning any rights in the Screenplay to Miramax,” Tarantino’s lawyers note.
Tarantino’s legal team makes it clear that the NFTs will not include any content from the film. They will be based on the screenplay which is still owned and copyrighted by the director.
“The Film is a derivative work created from the Screenplay, not the other way around. Because Mr. Tarantino never assigned any rights in the Screenplay to Miramax, Miramax’s copyright claim fails,” the lawyers reiterate.
It is worth noting that when the TarantinoNFTs.com first launched, it included several film-inspired elements.
For example, the early artwork featured iconic depictions of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, which have since been replaced with an image of Tarantino himself. The original artwork was labeled as copyright-infringing by Miramax so this change appears to be a direct response to this claim.
In addition, several tweets from the Tarantino NFT team with alleged copyright-infringing material were deleted as well. These tweets are also listed as infringing examples in the legal paperwork.
It is now up to the court to decide whether there are sufficient grounds to dismiss the complaint or not. Before that happens, Miramax is expected to formally respond to Tarantino’s arguments.