In what might be a landmark case for intellectual property and digital rights, Miramax has this week filed a lawsuit claiming Quentin Tarantino has violated the terms of the contract agreed to by the two parties in relation to the rights of sale and distribution of the film Pulp Fiction.
Tarantino announced the sale in a November 2 press release. The plan is to auction off NFT (non-fungible tokens) of the original handwritten screenplay by Tarantino, accompanied by commentary. Miramax claims this is a violation of the existing contract, and that Tarantino’s team are guilty of a “deliberate, pre-meditated, short-term money grab.”
“This group chose to recklessly, greedily, and intentionally disregard the agreement that Quentin signed instead of following the clear legal and ethical approach of simply communicating with Miramax about his proposed ideas,” Miramax’s attorney, Bart Williams said. “This one-off effort devalues the NFT rights to ‘Pulp Fiction,’ which Miramax intends to maximize through a strategic, comprehensive approach.”
Uncharted Legal Territory
However, the suit itself seems to hinge on the fact it was written in 1993, where the Internet was in its infancy and things like NFTs were at the time impossible to predict. According to the original contract, Miramax does indeed hold most of the rights in terms of distribution and sale of the film itself – however, Tarantino maintained a set of his own rights, the Reserved Rights. These include the right to sell copies of the screenplay.
So the argument, in essence, boils down to this: is Tarantino within his rights to sell excerpts from the screenplay to members of the public? Miramax claims that the one-time NFT sale falls out of the categorization of the right to sell published copies of the screenplay.
What further complicates the lawsuit is the fact the NFTs are “secret” – meaning only the owner will be able to access the information on them, according to the way they are programmed. This means the studio is suing the director over content it hasn’t seen.
Regardless of the result, this will be an interesting court case to watch unfold as it will be covering some as yet uncharted territory for the legal system. The contract does not mention any kind of digital distribution, and this is probably where the case will be won or lost – the outdated nature of the language in the contract. Also covered in Tarantino’s “Reserved Rights” is interactive media, for which an argument could feasibly be made that this is the closest the contract comes to mentioning a platform like the Internet.
Miramax has issued Tarantino with a cease and desist letter, however, Tarantino has ignored this and is “aggressively” promoting the NFT auction on social media.
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