Miramax’s lawsuit against Quentin Tarantino over plans to release non-replaceable tokens based on: Pulp Fiction opens a new front in the battle for NFTs. The studio argues it’s a zero-sum game: only one side should benefit from the new frontier of TV and movie exploitation. But the case may call for a more nuanced outcome in the form of a ruling allowing both parties to sell NFTs based on ownership of certain copyrights.
The suit asks whether Tarantino, who wrote and owns the copyright to the screenplay for? Pulp Fictionhas the right to publish parts of the work through the sale of NFTs.
The case could swing over contract interpretation. Tarantino says the publication of the NFTs is within his reserved rights. Under its deal with Miramax, Tarantino has the rights to “print publication (including but not limited to publication of screenplays, ‘making of’ books, comic books and novels, including in audio and electronic formats, as applicable)” and ” interactive media.”
“The allegations in Miramax’s complaint make it clear that the primary content associated with the NFTs being auctioned off to the public consists of electronic copies of ‘the uncut first handwritten scripts of ‘Pulp Fiction,'” writes Bryan Freedman, who Tarantino, in a June 21 motion for adjudication on the pleas. “There is no doubt that this is an electronic publication – a distribution of one or more electronic copies – of the screenplay.”
Miramax, meanwhile, claims that its rights extend further and take into account technology not yet created in 1996 when the deal was closed. The company, which owns the copyright to the film, puts the umbrella language in its contract stating that it “all rights . . .
Tarantino aims for an early win in the case and urges the court to focus on copyright. He states that he is not infringing Miramax’s copyrights, as the NFTs will misuse the screenplay for Pulp Fiction and not the movie itself.
“The screenplay for a movie is an original copyrighted work that precedes the movie, and exclusive copyrights to the screenplay — including elements such as dialogue, characters, plot, and scene descriptions — rest with the screenplay author,” Freedman writes. “The film created from the screenplay is a derivative work of it.”
Miramax’s copyrights to the film only extend to new elements not directly derived from the screenplay, such as the presentation of the film, the actors’ interpretations of the characters, and any added music or sound effects. However, the NFTs he plans to release are a derivative of the scenario. The primary content of the NFTs to be auctioned consists of electronic copies of the first handwritten scripts of Pulp Fictionsays Tarantino.
A possible outcome of the case could be an injunction allowing both parties to sell NFTs based on their copyrights.
“Both parties have their reserved rights and both parties have the option to use NFTs to exercise those rights – Miramax with regard to the film and Tarantino with regard to the screenplay,” said Jeremy Goldman, a partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz who focuses on entertainment and technology law.
But this outcome will result in an injunction that NFTs are not considered in rights reserved by either party. Miramax leans on contract language and states that it has “all rights . . . now or hereafter known . . . in all media now or hereafter known,” but NFTs are not traditionally considered media.
“NFTs are not a form of distribution or media — that’s Miramax’s misunderstanding,” Goldman says. “They see NFTs as a medium for distribution, part of how people view content. That’s not what it is. It’s just proof of ownership.”
Miramax’s complaint about Tarantino’s plans could stem from the director’s initial inclusion of elements from the film in his NFTs. Early artwork, for example, includes images of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, who likely infringed Miramax’s copyright in the film. They have since been replaced with images of Tarantino.