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Crypto Collective Spent Millions on Copy of Dune Book Thinking It Gave Them IP Rights

The owners want to "Produce an original animated limited series inspired by the book and sell it to a streaming service"

crypto dune ip alejandro jodorowsky ip intellectual property
Via Spice DAO
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    Cryptocurrency collective Spice DAO purchased a rare copy of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dunespending millions — more than one hundred times the estimated auction price — because they were apparently under the mistaken impression that owning a book was the same as owning intellectual property rights.

    Christie’s auction house thought that the book would sell for between €25,000 and €35,000, or about $28,000 to $40,000 USD. That’s still a lot for a book, which is based on a cinematic adaption of Frank Herbert’s Dune that acclaimed avant-garde director Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted and failed to make in the 1970s. This copy is one of about ten bibles Jodorowsky created in an attempt to convince studios to finance the project. He didn’t succeed, but the curios have gained a cult following, and as recently as 2019 one sold for $42,500. Spice DAO left that number in the dust.

    “We won the auction for €2.66M,” or about $3 million, the DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) wrote on Twitter. “Now our mission is to: 1. Make the book public (to the extent permitted by law) 2. Produce an original animated limited series inspired by the book and sell it to a streaming service 3. Support derivative projects from the community.”

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    This, to put it mildly, is outrageously stupid. It’s as dumb as purchasing a second-hand copy of Lord of the Rings and assuming you have the rights to make a a Frodo and Gandalf VR porn, and almost as idiotic as buying a url link to a JPEG and thinking you own all versions of the art. Perhaps these people have had their brains broken by the NFT craze, and spent millions of dollars when googling “intellectual property” was free. As lawyer Ken White wrote of the auction, “I appreciate the boldness of charting a course utterly unconfined by professional advice or basic subject matter knowledge.”

    However, as Buzzfeed points out, we might not be witnessing idiocy so much as a scam. Fueled by the promise of Dune IP, the DAO set up the crypto equivalent of a GoFundMe, asking their community to purchase voting rights on what to do next. In the process, Spice DAO raised about $12 million (!). It’s hard to tell whether the creators knew they were running a hustle, or were wildly mistaken but lucked out. But so far, nobody has gone broke underestimating NFT collectors.

    As for the real Dune IP, that was used to produce the blockbuster film Dune last year. A sequel has already been greenlit, and director Denis Villeneueve is busy plotting a third movie.

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