M. Imtiaz Karamat is an IP Osgoode Alumnus and Associate Lawyer at Deeth Williams Wall LLP. This article was originally posted on E-TIPS™ For Deeth Williams Wall LLP on December 8, 2021.
On November 16, 2021, Miramax filed a lawsuit against Quentin Tarantino for his planned auction of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) based on his original hand-written script of the film Pulp Fiction. In the lawsuit, Miramax alleges several causes of action, including breach of contract, copyright infringement, and trademark infringement.
In early November, Tarantino announced that he would auction off NFTs containing scenes from a handwritten screenplay of the film and personalized audio commentary from Tarantino. The sale is said to be for a new type of “secret NFTs” with programmable privacy features that allow the owner to withhold certain content from being publicly available. Thus, the purchaser will have the choice to share the NFT’s associated content or keep it to themselves.
In its complaint, Miramax alleges that Tarantino breached his contract with the company because he does not have the right to develop or sell NFTs related to the film. According to the complaint, Miramax was granted extensive rights in the parties’ contractual agreements for the film, and only a limited set of rights were reserved for Tarantino. Miramax argues that these reserved rights are far too narrow to allow Tarantino to unilaterally produce, market, and sell the NFTs.
Miramax also alleges that the NFT auction infringes its intellectual property rights in the film. The company claims that, except for Tarantino’s limited set of reserved rights, it is the exclusive owner of all copyright to the film, including the finished production and all elements in its stages of development. Consequently, Tarantino allegedly infringed Miramax’s copyright with the NFT auction and any preparation and reproduction of works based on the film during the auction’s marketing campaign. Miramax’s complaint also includes a claim for trademark infringement based on its unregistered and registered trademark rights in the name PULP FICTION. It alleges that the sale of the Pulp Fiction NFTs will cause confusion, mistake, and deception among consumers as to whether the NFTs originate from, are associated or affiliated with, or are otherwise authorized by Miramax.
Despite largely being a contractual dispute, the inclusion of NFTs in this lawsuit may allow for exploration of new ground in the technology space. There are many questions surrounding the minting of NFTs in existing films and the contracts for these projects do not offer a clear solution. This makes not only the movie Pulp Fiction, but also its associated lawsuit, one to watch.