NFT Group Spent $3 Million For A 'Dune' Book, But Mistakenly Believing It Acquired Its Copyright


NFT (non-fungible token) is still in rage, and many people are doing many things to earn money by selling tokenized regular items.

And this time, an NFT Group that goes with the name Spice DAO (decentralized autonomous organization), acquired a rare book that details film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction novel Dune.

The book was offered in a Christie’s Paris sale on 22 November with an estimate of €25,000-€35,000. The group bought it for more than 100 times its low estimate (€2.6 million, or $3 million, including fees).

The group believed that the purchase granted them the copyright of the book, which they intended to splice it bits by bits, and sell them as NFTs, before burning the original physical copy.

The group stated that its goal is to “issue a collection of NFTs that are technically innovative and culturally disruptive, a first-of-its-kind," and that burning the book would be an "incredible marketing stunt which could be recorded on video."

Spice DAO also said about its plans to digitize the book and make it public, and said that it would also produce an original animated series based on the book for a streaming service, and that it would "support derivative projects."

And this is where the group got it wrong.

Spice DAO's plan was to acquire unique assets so that the group owns them. The strategy is to prevent the asset from being lost forever to a private collector, using crowdfunding to raise the money required to acquire the assets. Then, the plan is to turn the assets to NFTs.

But this time, the group got it all wrong.

First, the purchase of the book at the auction does not grant Spice DAO the rights to produce or recreate the works based on its content.

In other words, if ever members of Spice DAO create an NFT item based on the book and sell it with the intention of giving the buyer the holder of the copyright, Slice DAO would meet a lawsuit from the actual copyright holder, which is at this time, Herbert Limited Partnership.

In the U.S. and The European Union, copyright typically extends throughout the life of the last surviving co-creator and an additional 70 years after their death.

In this case, the original copyright owners Jean Giraud and H.R. Giger are deceased.

However, at the moment of the purchase, Jodorowsky is still alive.

What this means, as mandated by the law, Spice DAO must seek Jodorowsky consent. If Jodorowsky grants them the permission, it is only then that the group can make the animated series inspired by the book.

If not, the group has to wait 70 years after the death of Jodorowsky. And only by then, that the work would enter the public domain.

The second blunder is that, the book is already available to view online for free since at least 2011.

The third mistake is the book's price.

The group bought it for $3 million. If ever the group wishes to resell the book in order to regain what they have lost, they have to resell it at a market value. Previous copies circulated to producers and executives in the 1970s have sold for around $25,000.

Dune, Christie's
The book was sold in Christie's auction for a price that is more than 100 times its low estimate.

Regardless of the blunder, the book is indeed rare.

According to the records, only 10 copies of the book, in which the French-Chilean director compiled his concept artwork and notes for the film, are believed to exist. The book itself became widely known after the release of the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, a film that chronicles his ambitious but ill-fated production.

The project was scrapped once it was deemed too long and too expensive.

In the mid-1970s, Jodorowsky envisioned a 14-hour film produced in collaboration with Herbert, who released the novel in 1965. Jodorowsky famously tapped Salvador Dali to act in the film for $100,000 per hour, with Pink Floyd and others set to produce the soundtrack.

Unfortunately for Jodorowsky, his Dune was adapted by David Lynch in 1984.

Because of this, Jodorowsky’s plans for Dune never see the real light of day.

As for Frank Herbert’s sci-fi franchise Dune, it is considered one of the most beloved stories in its genre. Over the years, the original book has sold over 20 million copies and has been adapted into two blockbuster movies as well as a TV movie.

While Spice DAO may have committed a $3 million blunder with its plans for Dune NFTs, Christie's said that the book is "one of the most legendary objects in the history of science fiction cinema and pop culture, a precious relic of a cursed project that has inspired several generations" which helped "brought together some of the greatest artists of [Jodorowsky’s] time."