Pulp Fiction, NFTs and Copyright Digital Art

Pulp Fiction, NFTs and Copyright Digital Art

Miramax and Quentin Tarantino have decided that 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 compilation, which contained unreleased scenes and images of the script along with the director’s comments. Miramax hit Tarantino with a lawsuit in November 2021. The studio claimed that Tarantino not only owned the rights to his film, but that his efforts would interfere with Miramax’s own NFT plans.

Much was made of the tiff, with some believing the lawsuit could help shape how entertainment law deals with 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 to the cancellation of the six remaining planned drops.

Despite harsh words thrown in the media—Miramax called the project greedy, the filmmaker branded the studio insensitive—the parties reached an agreement. In a joint statement, Tarantino and Miramax said they may make NFTs together in the future.

Miramax isn’t the only entertainment company looking to turn its old work into NFTs – National Lampoon recently announced that it would be mining its filmography for crypto content. The whole NFT film and TV trend is a different beast, and celebrities face separate legal issues with NFT endorsements.

The waters are still unclear when it comes to intellectual property rights and NFTs. Here are some ongoing lawsuits navigating trademark, copyright and IP laws in the digital realm.

Nike and StockX

In February 2022, online sneaker retailer StockX released an NFT series based on Nike sneakers. The athletic brand filed a lawsuit in response, alleging that StockX infringed on its trademarks by selling unauthorized NFTs of Nike shoes. StockX’s tokens, Nike claims, contain digital versions of Nike sneakers at prices beyond the actual cost of the shoes — diluting the Nike brand by causing StockX buyers to doubt Nike’s legitimacy. Nike later threw in counterfeiting charges, stating that they were able to purchase four fake shoes from StockX. The retailer denies these claims and insists that NFTs help 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 for their use of the Nike Air Max 97s in Lil Nas X’s “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 was using his likeness to raise money, infringing his trademark rights over his work. This is a bit of a she-said, she-said situation: Lil Yachty said initial talks about his involvement in the project went nowhere, while Opulous insists he gave the go-ahead. Opulous failed to have the lawsuit dismissed on jurisdictional grounds after unsuccessfully arguing that the California-based lawsuit does not cover the Singapore-based company or the Georgia-based rapper.

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Yuga Labs and Ryder Ripps

The creative minds behind Bored Ape Yacht Club, who have 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 “society built on racist and neo-Nazi dog whistles.” How this lawsuit plays out could shape NFT IP laws – an area that has yet to solidify in Web3. –Christine Snyder

Today’s newsletter is sponsored by Fenwick, one of the world’s top technology and life sciences law firms, including leading gaming, digital media, entertainment, blockchain and NFT practices. Attorneys in Fenwick’s Santa Monica office and nationwide represent more than 1,000 major Los Angeles-based startups, established companies and venture capital investors in corporate, IP, litigation, regulatory and tax matters.

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