Miramax sues Tarantino over planned 'Pulp Fiction' NFTs

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Miramax sues Tarantino over planned 'Pulp Fiction' NFTs
Quentin Tarantino, right, and Uma Thurman, , a star of “Pulp Fiction, at the National Board of Review annual awards gala at Cipriani 42nd Street, New York, Jan. 8, 2020. The Hollywood studio Miramax filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, Nov. 16, accusing the director of copyright infringement for his plans to sell nonfungible tokens based on the screenplay for his 1994 movie “Pulp Fiction.” Krista Schlueter/The New York Times.

by Johnny Diaz

NEW YORK, NY.- The Hollywood studio Miramax filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing director Quentin Tarantino of copyright infringement for his plans to sell nonfungible tokens based on the screenplay for his 1994 movie “Pulp Fiction.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, also accused Tarantino of breach of contract, trademark infringement and unfair competition, according to court documents.

The director announced the sale of the NFTs — blockchain-based collectibles whose popularity is currently booming — at an annual crypto-art event in New York this month.

“I’m excited to be presenting these exclusive scenes from ‘Pulp Fiction’ to fans,” Tarantino said in a news release, adding that the goal was to auction a collection of seven uncut “Pulp Fiction” scenes as “secret NFTs,” meaning their content would be hidden except to the owner.

The content includes the first handwritten scripts of “Pulp Fiction” and commentary from Tarantino “revealing secrets about the film and its creator,” according to the release.

But in its suit, Miramax contended that Tarantino did not consult the production company and said that it had certain “broad rights” to “Pulp Fiction” because the director had “granted and assigned nearly all of his rights” to Miramax in 1993.

On Nov. 4, lawyers for Miramax sent a cease and desist letter to stop the planned December sale of the NFTs, according to court documents.

The director “remains undeterred and has refused to comply with Miramax’s demands to cancel the sale of Pulp Fiction NFTs,” the suit said.

Bryan Freedman, a lawyer for Tarantino, said that “Miramax is wrong — plain and simple.” Tarantino “has the right to sell NFTs of his handwritten script for ‘Pulp Fiction,’” he said, “and this ham-fisted attempt to prevent him from doing so will fail.”

The studio also said in its suit that consumers could be confused into believing that Miramax was associated with Tarantino’s sale of the NFTs, which could interfere with the company’s own plans to sell NFTs from its library.

“Miramax will defend all of its rights in regard to its library, including rights relating to NFTs, and will not allow Quentin’s representatives to deceive others into believing they have the authority to make similar deals in violation of the rights agreements they signed,” said Bart H. Williams, a lawyer representing Miramax in the suit.

The company is seeking a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages.

“Pulp Fiction,” perhaps more than any other Tarantino film, has developed a cult following among fans, who have created memes, videos and costumes based on scenes and characters. Directed and written by Tarantino, the movie, which starred John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, followed two mob hit-men, a boxer, a gangster and his wife as their lives intersected.

Tarantino won an Academy Award for screenplay writing for the film, and it received several other Oscar nominations, including for best picture, best director and for acting by Travolta, Jackson and Thurman. The movie grossed more than $213 million worldwide, according to the studio.

Tarantino’s foray into the wealthy and sometimes eccentric world of NFTs comes as a variety of celebrities and athletes have embraced the tokens. The market for them has exploded this year, and owners of popular videos and memes have been cashing in, selling their rights to digital art, ephemera and media.

In February, Nyan Cat, an animated flying cat with a Pop-Tart torso that leaves a rainbow trail, sold for about $580,000. In April, “Disaster Girl,” a meme from a photo of a child smirking at the camera as a house burns in her neighborhood, sold in an NFT auction for $500,000. And in May, the original 2007 video “Charlie Bit My Finger,” in which an infant bites the finger of his older brother, sold as an NFT for $760,999. The family who created it said it would remove the original from YouTube.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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