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A crypto group spent $3 million on a ‘Dune’ book thinking it would get the rights to the story

If fear is the mind killer, then stupidity must be the wallet killer. Just ask the crypto brothers who made a three million dollar mistake by not reading the fine print.

An anonymous NFT group called Spice DAO (Decentralized Anonymous Organization) made waves last week when it triumphantly tweeted about its recent acquisition of a rare art book: Jodorowsky Dunethe guide to an ambitious but ill-fated film adaptation by Frank Herbert Dunes. These Spiceheads had big plans to convert the book to NFT, burn the physical copy, and adapt the story into an animated series. There’s just one problem: they didn’t know they didn’t own the copyrights to Dunes. All they have is a very, very expensive book.

Before we get too deep into this story of crypto madness, a bit of a primer on the book: In 1974 director Alexander Jodorowsky decided to make a film adaptation of Dunes. Two years into the process, the project was killed due to a lack of funding, but not before it became a cinematic legend. Jodorowsky imagined the film at two o’clock, with a score by Pink Floyd; meanwhile, Salvador Dalí signed on to play Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino, though his exorbitant salary may have been the project’s kiss of death. Determined to become the highest paid actor in history, Dalí demanded to be paid $100,000 per minute of screen time. Orson Welles was set to play the villainous Baron Harkonnen, and even Mick Jagger signed on for an unspecified role. Ironically, the unmade film was later made into a documentary in 2014.

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Before the project was finally canned, Jodorowsky present studio executives with a comprehensive concept art book, which included sets, character designs and a storyboard of the entire film drawn by Moebius, the legendary French cartoonist. It is estimated that between ten and twenty copies of Jodorowsky Dune still exist in the wild; periodically they come up for auction, fetching somewhere around $25,000. Last November, one of these copies has climbed at auction at Christie’s, where appraisers expected it to sell for around $40,000.

Imagine everyone’s surprise when Spice DAO stepped in with an offer that went down well, path above the asking price. Spice DAO paid more than a hundred times the modest estimate, winning the book for $3 million. According to a survey by BuzzFeed Newsthe money was crowdfunded Dunes-cryptocurrency enthusiasts Spice DAO, who have promised to vote on the future of the book. Spice DAO declared that its goal was “to release a collection of NFTs that are technically innovative and culturally disruptive”. Burning the book would be “an incredible marketing stunt that could be videotaped”; the video itself would then be sold as NFT. (Looks like these crypto bros got too much spice, right?)

When Spice DAO touted their purchase on Twitter, the internet was quick to set them straight. Purchase Jodorowsky Dune does not confer the copyright necessary to produce Jodorowsky’s vision; he only confers a very old and very expensive book. Spice DAO also intended to make the book public, which is a lofty goal – or it would be, if the book wasn’t already free and available on the Internet by Steve Jobs. Ultimately, Spice DAO made a very costly mistake, illustrating how some crypto brethren with millions to burn don’t even know what they’re buying.

But Spice DAO doesn’t want to hear it. In a post on Medium after the blowback, the group provided an update on its master plan: “After two months of outreach, conversations with former business partners and consultations with legal counsel, we were unable to reach an agreement with any of the rights holders involved in the creation of the content of the storyboards book collected from Jodorowsky DuneSounds like a dead end, right? But Spice DAO won’t be shut down. According to the post, they’re having “a whirlwind week of meetings with industry professionals,” including Drake’s attorney, a producer animation on Kill Billa writer on Netflix love death and robots, three Los Angeles animation studios, a science fiction publisher, and “Roble Ridge Productions, which has relationships with famous Hollywood actors.” Spice and meetings must flow.

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According to trademark attorney Kirstey Stewart, Spice DAO is about to have a rude awakening every time they come to their senses. As Stewart said The Guardian“In order to produce or license derivative works as an animated series, Spice DOA would have to obtain licenses from the Herbert Estate, as well as potentially Jodorowsky (and any other authors such as Michel Seydoux) if the adaptation was based on the Similar Much like buying a Batman comic doesn’t give you inherent rights to produce a new Batman movie, buying that director’s bible doesn’t give Spice DOA any inherent rights to produce new material.

    In Dunes, Herbert envisions a world without computers; according to tradition, “thinking machines” were once humanity’s greatest adversary. Maybe Herbert was onto something there?

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    Margarita W. Wilson

    The author Margarita W. Wilson