I have genuinely spent 10 minutes starting at this but, no, it really DOES appear to be true that a bunch of cryptobros just spent €2.6 MILLION – 100x the asking price – for a book at auction in the mistaken belief that they would therefore own the copyright in it. https://t.co/2HmaGWHKWF
— Gary Brannan (@garybrannan) January 17, 2022
My personal suspicion is that the end goal is some variation on ‘NFTs’, which may or may not involve ‘money laundering’ but quite possibly premises some variation on ‘affinity fraud’.
Verge, understandably, is kinder towards the Spice Collective:
Last year, a collective of cryptocurrency fans pooled millions of dollars to buy a copy of the story bible for director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s legendary never-made adaptation of the novel Dune. After winning a November auction, the group voted last week on a direction for the project and got promptly roasted online for allegedly not understanding what they’d bought. Their plans included an animated series inspired by Jodorowsky’s Dune, and as any good collector likely knows, buying a commemorative copy of a script or storyboard doesn’t give you the right to shoot your own version.
The actual situation seems more ambiguous than some critics are suggesting. The Dune story bible’s owners, known as Spice DAO (short for “decentralized autonomous organization”), appear perfectly aware they don’t own Dune itself. Instead, they’re committing to an original series “inspired by” the book. The whole scheme might help illustrate why art can’t be reduced to a neat series of copyright licenses — rather than simply showing that “crypto bros aren’t sure how rights work.”
That said, a lot of them probably aren’t…
Spice DAO outlined its future plans in an inaugural governance proposal that was approved by 95 percent of token-holding voters. In addition to electing a four-person core management team, it commits the DAO to a set of four goals between January and March of 2022: “gain physical custody of Jodorowsky’s Dune book by arranging shipping and storage,” scan every page of the book, hire a social media agency, and “present a film treatment and budget by Roble Ridge Productions for the original animated limited series inspired by the book for a community vote.” (The series was previously announced in December.) On Twitter, Spice DAO noted that it planned to “sell it to a streaming service” in the long term…
Spice DAO obviously wouldn’t need to own a copy of the Dune bible to make a Dune-like series that wasn’t explicitly derived from Jodorowsky’s work. But I haven’t seen public statements indicating that the central parties involved believe otherwise. From the outside, the auction purchase looks plausibly like a publicity and funding strategy, not a botched attempt to buy a copyright. After all, anybody can write a script indirectly inspired by Jodorowsky’s Dune — if you want yours to get noticed, hooking up with a group of fans to purchase a rare collector’s item isn’t a bad gambit.
It’s unfortunately hard to tell how many people backing Spice DAO are on the same page about what they’re funding. Ryan Broderick’s Garbage Day newsletter, for instance, outlines some significant confusion around voting, copyright, and what “adapting” the script should mean…
So, I guess, if you’re a big fan of Dune and/or cryptocurrency, this is an exciting opportunity to advance new visions of an sf masterwork. And if you’re not, well, there’s plenty opportunity for multiple amusing-from-the-outside train wrecks?