Last year a collective of cryptocurrency fans millions of dollars bundled buy a copy of the story bible for the legendary, never-made adaptation of director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s novel Dune. After winning an auction in November, the group voted last week on a direction for the project and got quickly roasted online because they supposedly didn’t understand what they had bought. Their plans include an animated series inspired by Jodorowsky’s Duneand as any good collector probably knows, buying a commemorative copy of a script or storyboard doesn’t give you the right to make your own version.
The actual situation seems more ambiguous than some critics suggest. The Dune The owners of the story bible, known as Spice DAO (short for “decentralized autonomous organization”), seem perfectly aware that they do not own Dune yourself. Instead, they commit to an original series “inspired by” the book. The whole scheme can help illustrate why art can’t be reduced to a neat set of copyright licenses – rather than just showing that “crypto bros not sure how permissions work.”
That said, a lot of them probably aren’t.
We won the auction for €2.66 million. 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 Community Derivatives pic.twitter.com/g4QnF6YZBp
— Spice DAO ( , ) (@TheSpiceDAO) January 15, 2022
Spice DAO outlined its future plans in a inaugural board proposal that was approved by 95 percent of voters with tokens. In addition to choosing a four-person core management team, it commits the DAO to a series of four goals between January and March 2022: “Obtain physical custody of Jodorowsky’s Dune book by arranging for shipping and storage,” scan every page of the book, hire a social media agency and “present a film treatment and budget from Roble Ridge Productions for the original animated limited series inspired by the book for a community mood.” (The series was previously announced in Dec.) On Twitter, Spice DAO noticed that it planned to “sell it to a streaming service” in the long run.
Gizmodo, The next weband a little Twitter reviewers have interpreted this as Spice DAO in the belief that they have acquired the rights to “make their own” Dune.But if Gizmodo comments, the group has acknowledged that they are not the owner the intellectual property behind Duneand the term “original” usually refers to something that is not officially part of an existing IP franchise. In other words, it sounds like the script team wants to follow in the footsteps of Jodorowsky, who made several of his additions to Frank Herberts Dune novel in an original comic series called the Incal. As Spice DAO puts it, “While we don’t have the IP of Frank Herbert’s masterpiece, we are uniquely positioned with the ability to create our own addition to the genre as a tribute to the giants that came before us.”
Spice DAO wouldn’t have a copy of the . need to own Dune bible to make one Dune-like sequences not explicitly derived from Jodorowsky’s work. But I have not seen any public statements showing that the central parties involved think otherwise. From the outside, the purchase at auction seems plausible as a publicity and financing strategy, not as a failed attempt to buy a copyright. After all, anyone can write a script indirectly inspired by Jodorowsky’s dune — if you want yours to get noticed, it’s not a bad idea to get in touch with a group of fans to buy a rare collectible.
It’s hard to say, unfortunately, how many people who support Spice DAO are on the same page about what they fund. Ryan Broderick’s garbage day newsletter, for example sketches some significant confusion about voting, copyright and what “modifying” the script should mean.
And the DAO itself is quite reluctant to clarify what it makes. I reached out via Twitter to ask if the board proposal referred to a series that was explicitly based on: Dune or one that was indirectly inspired by it – and if it was the latter, whether it would still be advertised as “inspired by Jodorowsky’s Dune.” (This would almost certainly involve the various parties that own the Dune franchise, even if the underlying series did not infringe their copyright.)
“Why should we share with you before sharing with the community?” the Twitter account responded. A follow-up message went unanswered, so it remains unclear whether the account simply declined to comment, or whether Spice DAO community members have not been finally told whether they have a Dune series or just one Dune-flavored series.
There is a lot of real confusion about crypto and copyright, and many projects are legitimately bad at explaining what crypto “ownership” gets you. You should probably also keep your expectations in check for a Spice DAO series. Creating an animated miniseries is a somewhat more difficult result than sending a book out, and the DAO probably obscures a lot of real-world legal challenges it would face, even with an original script. A lot of intellectual property law is about power, not right – so if a bigger studio wants to shut down something that looks and sounds too much like and sound Duneeven a careful and skilled team can face a lengthy lawsuit.
But many creative projects start with artists building on a favorite book or movie, whether or not they use systems like a DAO. Let’s not encourage the all-too-common assumption that people can only do this if they buy permission – even if the people we’re talking about are crypto-bros.