I was at the Secret Network event at NFT.NYC where Quentin Tarantino announced plans to take portions of his handwritten screenplay for “Pulp Fiction” and turn them into NFTs. Referring to the screenplay, he correctly stated, “It’s just my handwritten notebook gathering dust on a shelf in my house.” Why would an excerpt from that handwritten work have value as an NFT? Scarcity? Bragging rights? Belief that one day it might be worth more than you paid for it? Just because it’s cool? Insert your hypothetical reason here: _______. The point is that there are people who love Quentin Tarantino’s work and would jump at the opportunity to get a unique collectible directly from the artist himself.
Now… who owns the rights to the handwritten screenplay? Miramax clearly owns the content. Miramax clearly owns the rights to the story. But, do they own a specific page of a handwritten script sitting on the author’s shelf? The NFT will not grant any rights in and to the copyrighted work. It will simply grant the right to say (and provide a method to prove) that the buyer owns the NFT, which (in this case) will be a digital image of a page or two of the handwritten script. Since the NFT grants no rights to use the script or the story of “Pulp Fiction,” this case is about how much of Tarantino’s work Miramax has contractual rights to. Surely Miramax owns some rights to collateral material, swag, collectables, etc., but do they own (or have rights to) the author’s handwritten workpapers? If so, why are they in Tarantino’s possession and not stored in a vault at Miramax?
This case is a metaphor for the entire decentralized movement. No matter how it ends, contracts for copyrighted works will never be the same.
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.