Production company Miramax has sued director Quentin Tarantino over his non-fungible token or NFT collection based on Pulp Fiction. The lawsuit, filed yesterday in California court and noted online by attorney Mark Jaffe, says NFTs don’t fall under Tarantino’s reserved rights for the film. Miramax accuses him of violating the company’s copyright and trademark, and it’s demanding a halt to the upcoming sale.
Tarantino’s NFT collection is supposed to include blockchain tokens associated with high-resolution scans from his original handwritten screenplay of Pulp Fiction, plus a drawing inspired by some element of the scene. But Miramax alleges that Tarantino’s limited contractual rights for Pulp Fiction — including interactive games, live performances, and other ancillary media — don’t cover NFTs linked with the film’s screenplay.
“Tarantino’s conduct may mislead other creators into believing they have the right to exploit Miramax films through NFTs”
Among other things, Miramax objects to Tarantino using Pulp Fiction branding and imagery, saying that it’s likely to confuse buyers into thinking the NFTs are official Miramax products. And it says that while Tarantino has the right to “publish” pieces of the screenplay, NFTs don’t fall under that umbrella. “The proposed sale of a few original script pages or scenes as an NFT is a one-time transaction, which does not constitute publication,” the lawsuit says.
The bigger issue isn’t Tarantino’s NFT lineup, specifically, but the precedent it could set for other filmmakers. “Tarantino’s conduct may mislead other creators into believing they have the right to exploit Miramax films through NFTs and other emerging technologies, when in fact Miramax holds those rights for its films.” Major film companies have released their own NFT collections for movies like Space Jam, so that’s not an abstract concern.
While this isn’t the first NFT-related lawsuit, it’s one of the first legal tests of what an NFT actually is — or at the very least, whether it’s comparable to any of the options Tarantino reserved. Miramax claims his rights include a static set of exceptions that “do not encompass any rights or media that were not known at the time of the original rights agreement,” while its own rights are “broad” and “catch-all.” By contrast, in a response to a cease and desist letter, Tarantino alleged that he’s basically publishing sections of a screenplay with additional embellishments like the drawing.
NFTs are a frequently baffling but highly lucrative technology that’s provided an alternate revenue stream for people to profit off media outside traditional licensing deals. Tarantino’s NFTs are supposed to add a layer of “privacy and access control features” that will hide previously unknown secrets about his work — apparently inspired by a description of NFTs as having hidden “matrix code” inside of them.