Miramax is suing film director Quentin Tarantino in an effort to stop him from issuing and selling ‘secret NFTs’ of the cult classic ‘Pulp Fiction’.
A website called Tarantino NFTs is offering up Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) of Pulp Fiction, a cult film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, describing him as “arguably the greatest screenwriter, director, author and filmmaker of all time.”
The film studio Miramax, which distributed the film, is none too happy about this, and has sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter to the director.
The studio received a response that a “collection consisting of 7 NFTs, each containing a high-resolution digital scan of Quentin’s original handwritten screenplay pages for a single scene from his screenplay for Pulp Fiction” would be offered up for sale to the highest bidder, according to the lawsuit document obtained by Deadline.
In the lawsuit, Miramax, a Disney company, asserts that “Consistent with the Original Rights Agreement, in the TarantinoMiramax Assignment, Tarantino again reserved rights only to the “soundtrack album, music publishing, live performance, print publication (including, without limitation, screenplay publication, ‘making of’ books, comic books and novelization, in audio and electronic formats as well, as applicable), interactive media, theatrical and television sequel and remake rights, and television series and spinoff rights.”
Miramax also mentions a company called B25 Productions to which Tarantino assigned “all rights (other than [Tarantino’s Reserved Rights] and those certain distribution rights in the motion picture project currently entitled ‘Pulp Fiction’ . . . granted to Miramax Film Corp.) . . . in, to, and underlying the original screenplay.” Miramax says it was not involved with what it calls “the Void TarantinoB25 Assignment” in any way, and did not consent to it.
The legal suit purports “On September 27, 1993, B25 Productions executed a notarized Notice, dated as of September 20, 1993, acknowledging the terms of the Original Rights Agreement and Miramax’s broad rights under it.”
B25 Productions, according to Miramax, “executed an Instrument of Transfer granting Miramax ““all rights of any kind and nature whatsoever in all media (other than [Tarantino’s Reserved Rights]), in and to the theatrical motion picture currently entitled ‘PULP FICTION’ (the ‘Picture’) and as further specified in [the Original Rights Agreement, as amended] . . . for any and all media and by any means whether now known or hereafter devised throughout the entire universe.””
Miramax adds that B25 Productions, “Having completed its purpose of producing Pulp Fiction, delivering the film to Miramax, and assigning to Miramax all of B25 Productions’ rights relating to Pulp Fiction and all its elements in all stages of development and production (including, without limitation, all versions of the screenplay), excluding Tarantino’s Reserved Rights,” was dissolved on January 8, 1996.
According to Miramax, Tarantino’s rights does not include NFTs of his screenplay for Pulp Fiction, which he is offering up for sale without having checked with the distribution company first. Miramax also objects to the use of Pulp Fiction characters on the NFT site, which are not there anymore, clearly a step taken back by Tarantino and his co-defendants.
As reported in Variety, “Miramax is wrong — plain and simple,” Tarantino’s attorney Bryan Freedman says in a statement. “Quentin Tarantino’s contract is clear: he has the right to sell NFTs of his hand-written script for Pulp Fiction and this ham-fisted attempt to prevent him from doing so will fail. But Miramax’s callous decision to disclose confidential information about its filmmakers’ contracts and compensation will irreparably tarnish its reputation long after this case is dismissed.”
Tarantino first introduced the idea at a recent crypto-art convention called NFT.NYC, a week-long crypto-art conference in Times Square, Artnet reports. The Tarantino NFTs website compares standard and secret NFTs to emphasise why the sale of secret Pulp Fiction NFTs by Tarantino matters.
A blog post by Secret Network explains the nature of the Pulp Fiction NFTs: “Each NFT at auction contains ‘secret’ content viewable only by the owner of the NFT, a groundbreaking and unique feature enabled by Secret NFTs … The public metadata of the NFT - the ‘front cover’ of this exclusive content - is rare in its own right: a unique, never-before-seen, public-facing work of art.”
The reason Miramax is suing Quentin Tarantino is not solely over the contract of Pulp Fiction, which goes back decades – to 1994, before NFTs existed (recent by today’s standards). Miramax is concerned that the sale of Tarantino’s secret NFTs could trigger the sale of other NFTs by its cadre of directors, setting a legal precedent. So Miramax wants to stop the defection before it begins.
Except, of course, Miramax does not call it a defection. According to a statement quoted by Variety, Miramax attorney Bart Williams accuses Tarantino’s team of a “deliberate, premeditated, 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,” Williams says. “This one-off effort devalues the NFT rights to ‘Pulp Fiction,’ which Miramax intends to maximize through a strategic, comprehensive approach.”
Miramax’s lawsuit contends that not only do the “Defendants seek to capitalize, unilaterally, on Miramax’s rights to Pulp Fiction,” but also their “infringing acts have caused and are likely to cause confusion, mistake, and deception among the relevant consuming public as to the source of the Pulp Fiction NFTs, and have deceived and are likely to deceive the relevant consuming public into believing, mistakenly, that the Pulp Fiction NFTs originate from, are associated or affiliated with, or are otherwise authorized by Miramax.”
In response to Tarantino’s defence of having rights to the screenplay publication, Miramax says “The proposed sale of a few original script pages or scenes as an NFT is a one-time transaction … does not constitute publication, and in any event does not fall within the intended meaning of ‘print publication’ or ‘screenplay publication.’ The right to sell NFTs of such excerpts of any version of the screenplay to Pulp Fiction is owned and controlled by Miramax.”
The Miramax lawsuit complains about the publicity surrounding Tarantino’s secret NFT offering, but the main takeaway is “Tarantino’s conduct may mislead other creators into believing they have rights to exploit Miramax films through NFTs and other emerging technologies, when in fact Miramax holds those rights for its films.”
In a digital universe where NFTs fetch from anywhere from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of millions, Miramax is rightly worried about losing control of Pulp Fiction’s NFT rights. Whether it will be able to block the director from offering his screenplay NFTs to the public, however, remains to be seen.
Pulp Fiction garnered Quentin Tarantino a Best Screenplay award at the Oscars, while receiving several other Academy Award nominations, “including for best picture, best director and for acting by Mr. [John] Travolta, Mr. [Samuel L.] Jackson and Ms. [Uma] Thurman,” the New York Times reports. “The movie grossed more than $213 million worldwide, according to the studio.”