What is the ‘Pulp Fiction’ NFT Lawsuit?

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino is a reliable source of controversy for the content of his movies but has lately been making headlines for a different reason. He’s currently engaged in a fierce dispute with Miramax over his plans to auction off NFTs based around his 1994 classic Pulp Fiction. Both sides have lawyered up and with the auctions imminent, things could get messy very fast.

So, here’s how it’s all going down.

On 2nd November 2021, Tarantino announced plans to sell seven uncut scenes from Pulp Fiction as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These will consist of his own handwritten scripts and will include his own audio commentary. NFTs are controversial in their own right for many reasons, so this alone caused something of a fuss.

A week later, Miramax stepped in. The studio produced Pulp Fiction and claims that Tarantino doesn’t own the rights to his script. They promptly launched legal action, with their complaint alleging that:

“Tarantino’s conduct has forced Miramax to bring this lawsuit against a valued collaborator in order to enforce, preserve, and protect its contractual and intellectual property rights relating to one of Miramax’s most iconic and valuable film properties.” 

And that:

“Left unchecked, Tarantino’s conduct could mislead others into believing Miramax is involved in his venture 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.”

Tarantino’s lawyers shot back, releasing a statement saying they’re confident that “Tarantino was acting within his ‘Reserved Rights,’ specifically the right to ‘screenplay publication’ with the NFT plan”.

The first Pulp Fiction NFT auctions are scheduled to begin next week, and a few days ago Miramax lawyer Bart H. Williams sent a letter warning of dire financial consequences for Tarantino if he proceeds:

“Whatever limited rights Mr. Tarantino has to screenplay publication, they do not permit the minting of unique NFTs associated with Miramax’s intellectual property, and his contrary position is the subject of a pending lawsuit … What your press release calls Mr. Tarantino’s ‘never-before-seen handwritten screenplay’ cannot yet be ‘iconic; or a ‘fan favorite,’ so it is transparent that you and Mr. Tarantino are trying to capitalize on Miramax’s content, intellectual property rights, and brand.”

And:

“Assuming that you (like Mr. Tarantino) plan on going forward with the auction, please be on notice that you are doing so at your own risk, including the risk that you will later owe the proceeds of any sales to Miramax along with other potential damages. We would hope that you also inform prospective purchasers of the risks of purchasing these unauthorized NFTs, including that purchasers may have to return the NFTs to Miramax and forfeit the price they paid for such NFTs, and that purchasers may incur additional liability in the event they later sell the unauthorized NFTs (including the potential for statutory damages).”

Tarantino’s lawyer Bryan Freedman succinctly responded:

“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.”

The first court date is scheduled for February 24 with a substantive hearing to follow later in the year. Over the next few days, the big question will be whether Tarantino blinks. After all, he doesn’t need the money, the prospect of paying heavy damages to Miramax is a genuine risk, and the NFT purchasers finding that their sales were unauthorized may present such a headache that he backs down.

But, given what we know of his personality, I doubt he’ll change course. In December, he dismissed Miramax’s action as “offensively meritless” and hinted that this is all because the studio’s reputation has been destroyed by Harvey Weinstein’s rape convictions.

Either way, we’ll know for sure on January 17 when the first Pulp Fiction NFT goes on sale, with subsequent auctions taking place until January 27. Expect fireworks.