Quentin Tarantino NFT Battle With Miramax Will Change Creators’ Rights
- Quentin Tarantino plans to sell “Pulp Fiction” NFTs giving access to scenes from his screenplay.
- Miramax sued Tarantino claiming the studio holds the rights to sell NFTs related to the film.
- The legal battle will have consequences for studios and artists exploring NFTs in the future.
Nearly 30 years after “Pulp Fiction” debuted in theaters, Quentin Tarantino finds himself facing a legal battle with Miramax over publication rights as he prepares to auction off a batch of NFTs tied to the film — a case that is being closely watched by studios and artists.
The dust-up arrives at the tail end of a banner year for Hollywood and NFTs. Disney sold a batch of “Golden Moments” NFTs in early November as part of Disney Plus Day; Lionsgate tried its hand around Halloween at a series of “Saw”-related NFTs. And Fox Corp.’s Bento Box Entertainment group in June created Blockchain Creative Labs, which identifies NFT opportunities and offers tools for launching and selling NFTs.
Whether Tarantino prevails will have ramifications for artists and studios exploring NFTs of their own, as well as for studio rights contracts with creators, two top Hollywood attorneys told Insider.
Hollywood NFTs have seen mixed results
An NFT, or “non-fungible token,” is a one-of-a-kind digital token, often purchased with cryptocurrency, that grants ownership over a unique physical or virtual item: a piece of music, a work of art, a video clip, even a tweet.
The NFT is not the item — think of it instead as the digital equivalent of the deed to a house, which serves as proof of the buyer’s ownership.
An NFT can fetch the equivalent of millions of dollars, depending on the item. Digital artist Beeple sold one of his works through a Christie’s auction for $69.3 million; former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold his first-ever tweet for $2.9 million.
Celebrity NFTs, however have had mixed results, with NFTs from Grimes and rapper A$AP Rocky, for instance, losing much of their value after being sold, according to a Bloomberg report.
Quentin Tarantino is planning NFTs tied to his ‘Pulp Fiction’ screenplay
In Tarantino’s case, the filmmaker plans to sell seven NFTs that give each buyer ownership and access to one digitally scanned scene from the handwritten “Pulp Fiction” screenplay, as well as audio commentary about the scene from the director.
These NFTs were designed with privacy and security in mind, so owners can choose to view and keep the scene and commentary to themselves, share it with a few individuals, or share it publicly.
Miramax contends that Tarantino doesn’t hold NFT rights to the script
In mid-November, Miramax, which produced “Pulp Fiction,” sued Tarantino for unspecified damages over his NFT plans, stating that he failed to consult the studio beforehand and that Miramax holds the rights to develop, market, and sell NFTs relating to its film library.
However, Tarantino’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, has argued that Miramax’s claim was without merit because the filmmaker’s contract with Miramax includes print publication rights to the film, including screenplay publication.
Miramax contended in its complaint that the director’s NFT efforts don’t fall under his contracted rights. (The studio, now run by CEO Bill Block, has changed hands several times since “Pulp Fiction” premiered in 1994, with Qatar-based beIN Media Group now sharing ownership of Miramax with ViacomCBS.)
“The proposed sale of a few original script pages or scenes as an NFT is a one-time transaction, which does not constitute publication, and in any event does not fall within the intended meaning of ‘print publication’ or ‘screenplay publication,'” the Miramax complaint stated.
Miramax hasn’t asked for an injunction to stop Tarantino from selling his NFTs, as Puck News’ Matthew Belloni recently pointed out, suggesting the studio might seek a settlement. Why? Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” NFTs would likely to fetch huge sums of money (or in this case, Ether) and Miramax presumably wants a cut of the winnings, Belloni speculated.
Miramax did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The legal outcome will accelerate — or halt — Hollywood creators’ NFT efforts
Stephen Saltzman, head of international entertainment group, media for Fieldfisher predicts the two parties will settle.
“Is this a form of screenplay publication, or is it not?” said Saltzman. “That’s the argument. That’s the fight. And that’s ultimately what a court is going to have to decide.
“It’ll be in everybody’s interest to settle it before it gets to that point,” Saltzman added.
Another prominent entertainment lawyer, who requested to remain anonymous because of their business ties, believes Miramax will ultimately win. This could set a precedent in which studios by default have the NFT rights to their IP moving forward. With artists at a disadvantage in this scenario, Hollywood’s love affair with NFTs may slow down with fewer IP owners and creators capable of launching NFTs on their own.
Studios “are just going to start saying in all these deals, they have NFT rights,” said the lawyer. “Very few people are going to be able to fight back against that because … as an actor, I want this job. I want to be on this TV show. I want you to buy my screenplay. … That’s more important to me than what we do two years from now in an NFT market.”
If Tarantino prevails, however, then creators, depending on the language in their contracts, may have more control to sell NFTs. That, in turn, would lead to more artists releasing more NFTs — at least in the short term, based on whether many NFTs retain their resale value.
Regardless, studios and artists are paying close attention to the legal battle.
“I promise you the heads of business affairs in each of the studios has either already said as a consequence of this or within the last several months, ‘You make sure that our agreements protect against this,'” added the lawyer. “‘Make sure that anything we’re sending out now clearly says, ‘We have all these rights — and you don’t.'”