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Miramax and Quentin Tarantino have decided it really is more exciting when you don’t have permission, as Mia Wallace said in “Pulp Fiction.”
The filmmaker and his former studio have settled a lawsuit over his “Pulp Fiction” NFT collection, which featured unreleased scenes and images of the script along with the director’s commentary. Miramax hit Tarantino with a lawsuit in November 2021. The studio claimed that not only did Tarantino not own the rights to his film, but his efforts would interfere with Miramax’s own NFT plans.
Much was made of the tiff, with some believing that the lawsuit could help shape how entertainment law handles Web3. Tarantino claimed that “Pulp Fiction” gave Miramax the success it has today. The first drop sold for $1.1 million, but market volatility led the six remaining planned drops to be canceled.
Despite harsh words thrown in the media—Miramax called the project greedy, the filmmaker labeled the studio callous—the parties reached an agreement. In a joint statement, Tarantino and Miramax said that they may create NFTs together in the future.
Miramax isn’t the only entertainment company looking to turn their old work into NFTs—National Lampoon recently announced it would mine its filmography for crypto content. The whole NFT movie and television trend is another beast entirely, and celebrities are facing separate legal issues with NFT endorsements.
The waters are still murky regarding intellectual property rights and NFTs. Here are a few ongoing lawsuits navigating trademarks, copyright and IP law in the digital realm.
Nike and StockX
In February 2022, online sneaker reseller StockX released an NFT series based on Nike sneakers. The athletic brand filed a lawsuit in response alleging that StockX infringed its trademarks by selling unauthorized NFTs featuring Nike shoes. StockX’s tokens, Nike claims, feature digital versions of Nike sneakers at prices beyond the actual cost of the shoes—diluting the Nike brand by making StockX buyers doubt Nike’s legitimacy. Nike later threw in counterfeit accusations, stating that they were able to buy four fake shoes from StockX. The reseller denies these allegations and insists NFTs help to authenticate a shoe.
It’s worth noting that Nike released its own virtual sneaker line in April. And trademark infringement is common in the sneaker industry, such as Nike suing MSCHF over their use of Nike Air Max 97s in the Lil Nas X “Satan Shoes.” This case just brings it to the virtual plane.
Lil Yachty and Opulous
Lil Yachty filed a lawsuit against NFT seller Opulous in January. The rapper claimed the company used his likeness to raise money, infringing on his trademark rights over his work. This is a bit of a he said, she said situation: Lil Yachty said that initial conversations about his involvement with the project went nowhere, while Opulous insists he gave the go ahead. Opulous failed to get the lawsuit dismissed on jurisdictional grounds after claiming the California-based lawsuit doesn’t cover the Singapore-based company or the Georgia-based rapper, failed.
Yuga Labs and Ryder Ripps
The creative minds behind Bored Ape Yacht Club, which has taken the NFT world by storm, are suing artist Ryder Ripps over his “copycat” NFT collection based on their images. Yuga Labs claims his work confuses consumers and devalues their art. As BAYC’s value falls, Ripps claims his work is “appropriation art” meant to criticize a “company built on racist and neo-Nazi dog whistles." How this lawsuit plays out could shape NFT IP laws—an area that hasn’t yet solidified in Web3. -Kristin Snyder
The sponsor of today's newsletter is Fenwick, one of the world's top law firms focused on technology and life sciences, including leading games, digital media, entertainment, blockchain and NFT practices. Attorneys in Fenwick’s Santa Monica office and nationwide represent more than 1,000 greater Los Angeles-based startups, established companies and venture capital investors in corporate, IP, litigation, regulatory and tax matters.
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