Friday, June 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Miramax sues Quentin Tarantino over ‘Pulp Fiction’ NFT plans

Like cryptocurrency, NFTs — digital tokens connected to a piece of media — have taken off as an asset class in the last year, and Miramax wants Tarantino stopped from cashing in.

(CN) — Miramax filed a lawsuit against filmmaker Quentin Tarantino on Tuesday in a bid to halt his plans to sell non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, depicting handwritten pages of the screenplay to his 1994 film "Pulp Fiction," as well as drawings "inspired by some element from the scene” — one of seven iconic scenes the filmmaker plans to highlight with the digital offerings.

"Left unchecked, Tarantino’s conduct could mislead others into believing Miramax is involved in his venture," Miramax says in its federal complaint. "And it could also mislead others into believing they have the rights to pursue similar deals or offerings, when in fact Miramax holds the rights needed to develop, market, and sell NFTs relating to its deep film library."

Lawyers for Miramax did not respond to requests for an interview. Tarantino, who now lives in Israel, likewise could not be reached.

"The essence of the dispute is who owns the rights to the 'Pulp Fiction' handwritten screenplay, and who gets to publish an NFT version of it," said Moise Peltz, an attorney at Falcon Rappaport & Berkman in New York. "When the contract between Miramax and Quentin was written, they were probably not thinking about NFTs."

According to the complaint, Tarantino signed a contract with Miramax in 1993 giving the studio the rights to the name "Pulp Fiction." The complaint cites many of the products it licenses for sale: T-shirts, lipstick, tiki statutes, Halloween costumes, and the like. But the 1993 agreement gave Tarantino certain rights as well, including print publication of both a novelization and the original screenplay.

"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,'" Miramax says in its complaint. "The right to sell NFTs of such excerpts of any version of the screenplay to 'Pulp Fiction' is owned and controlled by Miramax."

NFTs are unique digital tokens often connected with a piece of media such as a photograph, painting or video. Ownership of the NFT is stored on a digital ledger called a blockchain, the same kind of technology on which cryptocurrency relies.

Though NFTs have been around since the 2010s, they have taken off as both an object of media fascination and an asset class in the last year. Work by the digital artist Mike Winkelmann — aka "Beeple" — sold for $69 million at Sotheby's this past March. Whistleblower Edward Snowden sold an NFT of artwork made up of court documents for $5.4 million and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold an NFT of his first tweet for $2.5 million.

In June, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z sued Damon Dash, with whom Jay-Z had co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records, for selling an NFT of Jay-Z's first album "Reasonable Doubt."

"I think there’s probably still some more NFT-related lawsuits to come," said Peltz.

Founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein in 1979, Miramax helped bring American independent cinema into the mainstream with such films as the "The Crying Game," "Clerks" and "Shakespeare in Love." Its slate of films dominated the Academy Awards for more than a decade.

But the company is much diminished since its 2016 sale to the Qatari-owned beIN Media Group and revelations of Harvey Weinstein's serial sexual abuse.

Categories:Arts, Entertainment, Media

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.