Pulp Fiction NFTs at Center of Miramax IP Lawsuit Against Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction NFTs at Center of Miramax IP Lawsuit Against Quentin Tarantino

Director Quentin Tarantino’s attempt to cash in on the ongoing popularity of his film Pulp Fiction may result in liability to him instead...

Director Quentin Tarantino’s attempt to cash in on the ongoing popularity of his film Pulp Fiction may result in liability to him instead. Miramax LLC recently filed a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit against the director for listing uncut scenes from the film as nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

Understanding NFTs

An NFT is a unique, non-fungible digital asset recorded on a blockchain (a type of distributed ledger). Unlike Bitcoin, where every unit is exactly the same, each NFT is one of a kind and can only be owned by one person. Due to their unique characteristics, NFTs have a wide range of uses, which includes enabling owners to access specific digital content associated with the NFT. In the first quarter of 2021, NFT sales exceeded $2 billion, largely fueled by an increase in use by memorabilia and art dealers.

Likely seeking to capitalize on the rising popularity of NFTs, Tarantino recently announced his plans to auction off seven “exclusive scenes” from Pulp Fiction in the form of NFTs (“Pulp Fiction NFTs”). According to the official website for the auction, “[t]he collection holds secrets from Pulp Fiction,” and “[e]ach NFT contains one or more previously unknown secrets of a specific iconic scene from Pulp Fiction.” According to the website, the Pulp Fiction NFTs will also include scans of some pages of the Pulp Fiction script. Additionally, Tarantino plans to sell “the Artifacts Collection of up to ten iconic props from Tarantino’s films,” including “one from Pulp Fiction.”

Miramax’s Allegations Against Tarantino

On November 16, 2021, Miramax filed suit against Tarantino, seeking to halt the sale of the Pulp Fiction NFTs. The complaint contains claims for breach of contract, copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition.

According to Miramax, Tarantino did not consult with the production company prior to announcing the Pulp Fiction NFTs. Miramax further contends that such consultation was warranted pursuant to the parties 1993 Original Rights Agreement, under which Tarantino granted Miramax “all rights (including all copyrights and trademarks) in and to the Film (and all elements thereof in all stages of development and production) now or hereafter known including without limitation the right to distribute the Film in all media now or hereafter known (theatrical, non-theatrical, all forms of television, home video, etc.).”

Under the Original Rights Agreement, Tarantino reserved certain rights, which included 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.”

On November 4, 2021, Miramax sent Tarantino a cease-and-desist letter, putting Tarantino on notice that his purported licensing of rights to develop and sell the Pulp Fiction NFTs constitutes a material breach of the Original Rights Agreement, as well as copyright infringement. According to Miramax’s lawsuit, Tarantino’s attorney responded, contending that Tarantino was acting within his “Reserved Rights,” specifically the right to “screenplay publication” (which is written in the definition of Tarantino’s Reserved Rights as a subset of his “print publication” Reserved Right).

In its subsequent lawsuit, Miramax maintains that none of the rights Tarantino reserved apply to the NFT. “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,’” the suit contends. “The right to sell NFTs of such excerpts of any version of the screenplay to Pulp Fiction is owned and controlled by Miramax.”

Miramax further argues that its broader rights under the Original Rights Agreement encompass the high-tech tokens. “While Miramax’s rights include ‘all rights . . . now or hereafter known . . . in all media now or hereafter known,’ Tarantino’s Reserved Rights, which are a narrowly-drafted, static exception to Miramax’s broad, catch-all rights, do not contain any forward-looking language,” the complaint states. “Tarantino’s Reserved Rights do not encompass any rights or media that were not known at the time of the Original Rights Agreement.”

In its complaint, Miramax also expresses concern about the precedent the Pulp Fiction NFTs could set for other filmmakers. “Left unchecked, Tarantino’s conduct could mislead others into believing Miramax is involved in his venture,” Miramax maintains. “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.”

Key Takeaway

While the lawsuit is generating headlines due to the celebrity parties involved, it is also noteworthy because it involves the unique interplay between NFTs and intellectual property rights. As musicians, artists, and other content creators increasingly look to NFTs to monetize their works and exploit their IP rights, IP owners will also be stepping up enforcement to ensure that their protected content is not used without their permission. Accordingly, similar lawsuits involving this evolving area of IP law are likely on the horizon.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Jill Michael, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.


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Pulp Fiction NFTs at Center of Miramax IP Lawsuit Against Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction NFTs at Center of Miramax IP Lawsuit Against Quentin Tarantino
Author: Jill A. Michael

Director Quentin Tarantino’s attempt to cash in on the ongoing popularity of his film Pulp Fiction may result in liability to him instead. Miramax LLC recently filed a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit against the director for listing uncut scenes from the film as nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

Understanding NFTs

An NFT is a unique, non-fungible digital asset recorded on a blockchain (a type of distributed ledger). Unlike Bitcoin, where every unit is exactly the same, each NFT is one of a kind and can only be owned by one person. Due to their unique characteristics, NFTs have a wide range of uses, which includes enabling owners to access specific digital content associated with the NFT. In the first quarter of 2021, NFT sales exceeded $2 billion, largely fueled by an increase in use by memorabilia and art dealers.

Likely seeking to capitalize on the rising popularity of NFTs, Tarantino recently announced his plans to auction off seven “exclusive scenes” from Pulp Fiction in the form of NFTs (“Pulp Fiction NFTs”). According to the official website for the auction, “[t]he collection holds secrets from Pulp Fiction,” and “[e]ach NFT contains one or more previously unknown secrets of a specific iconic scene from Pulp Fiction.” According to the website, the Pulp Fiction NFTs will also include scans of some pages of the Pulp Fiction script. Additionally, Tarantino plans to sell “the Artifacts Collection of up to ten iconic props from Tarantino’s films,” including “one from Pulp Fiction.”

Miramax’s Allegations Against Tarantino

On November 16, 2021, Miramax filed suit against Tarantino, seeking to halt the sale of the Pulp Fiction NFTs. The complaint contains claims for breach of contract, copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition.

According to Miramax, Tarantino did not consult with the production company prior to announcing the Pulp Fiction NFTs. Miramax further contends that such consultation was warranted pursuant to the parties 1993 Original Rights Agreement, under which Tarantino granted Miramax “all rights (including all copyrights and trademarks) in and to the Film (and all elements thereof in all stages of development and production) now or hereafter known including without limitation the right to distribute the Film in all media now or hereafter known (theatrical, non-theatrical, all forms of television, home video, etc.).”

Under the Original Rights Agreement, Tarantino reserved certain rights, which included 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.”

On November 4, 2021, Miramax sent Tarantino a cease-and-desist letter, putting Tarantino on notice that his purported licensing of rights to develop and sell the Pulp Fiction NFTs constitutes a material breach of the Original Rights Agreement, as well as copyright infringement. According to Miramax’s lawsuit, Tarantino’s attorney responded, contending that Tarantino was acting within his “Reserved Rights,” specifically the right to “screenplay publication” (which is written in the definition of Tarantino’s Reserved Rights as a subset of his “print publication” Reserved Right).

In its subsequent lawsuit, Miramax maintains that none of the rights Tarantino reserved apply to the NFT. “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,’” the suit contends. “The right to sell NFTs of such excerpts of any version of the screenplay to Pulp Fiction is owned and controlled by Miramax.”

Miramax further argues that its broader rights under the Original Rights Agreement encompass the high-tech tokens. “While Miramax’s rights include ‘all rights . . . now or hereafter known . . . in all media now or hereafter known,’ Tarantino’s Reserved Rights, which are a narrowly-drafted, static exception to Miramax’s broad, catch-all rights, do not contain any forward-looking language,” the complaint states. “Tarantino’s Reserved Rights do not encompass any rights or media that were not known at the time of the Original Rights Agreement.”

In its complaint, Miramax also expresses concern about the precedent the Pulp Fiction NFTs could set for other filmmakers. “Left unchecked, Tarantino’s conduct could mislead others into believing Miramax is involved in his venture,” Miramax maintains. “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.”

Key Takeaway

While the lawsuit is generating headlines due to the celebrity parties involved, it is also noteworthy because it involves the unique interplay between NFTs and intellectual property rights. As musicians, artists, and other content creators increasingly look to NFTs to monetize their works and exploit their IP rights, IP owners will also be stepping up enforcement to ensure that their protected content is not used without their permission. Accordingly, similar lawsuits involving this evolving area of IP law are likely on the horizon.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Jill Michael, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.