Spice DAO, a cryptocurrency-backed consortium that purchased concept art for an unmade film adaptation of Dune, has claimed that its animated version has gone into development despite questions over copyright.
The group paid £2.2million – 100 times the estimate – for the book of art, created by director Alejandro Jodorowsky in the 1970s, at auction in November.
Following the purchase, Spice DAO said it planned to “make the book public (to the extent permitted by law)” and that it was going to “produce an original animated limited series inspired by the book and sell it to a streaming service”.
However, ownership of a copy of a book, no matter how much was paid for it, does not grant any intellectual property rights to either distribute copies of it or to adapt it into another medium.
Frank Herbert’s Dune novel has been adapted on screen three times: David Lynch’s 1984 film, a TV mini-series in 2000, and Denis Villeneuve’s version released last year.
The announcement by Spice DAO was roundly dismissed as a stunt by social media users who suspect the group’s ultimate plan is to sell the individual pages from the book as NFTs – digital images with ownership rights – especially as there was speculation on a Spice DAO internet forum that the physical book could be burned as a publicity stunt after the NFTs have sold.
We won the auction for €2.66M. 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 derivative projects from the community pic.twitter.com/g4QnF6YZBp
— Spice DAO (?,?) (@TheSpiceDAO) January 15, 2022
In a Medium post on Thursday (January 20), Spice DAO appeared to concede that it did not have any rights to adapt Herbert’s 1965 novel – and instead are moving forward with creating an original animated series.
“After two months of outreach, conversations with former business partners and consultations with legal counsel we have not been able to reach an agreement with any of the rights holders involved in the creation of the contents of the book of collected storyboards of Jodorowsky’s Dune,” the group wrote in the post.
“Our research over the past two months has only increased our respect for their project and we were so inspired by the book and learning more about its creation that we saw how we could develop our own intellectual property that we own 100% and control all aspects of the production of an original animated limited series.”
Spice DAO claims the series is in the development phase and that it has meetings set up with writers, producers, tanimation studios, graphic novel publishers, and the “entertainment attorney for Drake” – presumably the Canadian rapper.
Kirsty Stewart, legal director and trademark attorney for Thorntons law firm, wrote on the company’s site: “Unfortunately for Spice DOA, the collective who purchased the Jodorowsky Dune bible, Frank Herbert died in 1986, meaning copyright persists in the base text of Dune until at least 2056. Similarly, the book they purchased, as it was produced to sell the idea to studios at the time, is likely protected by copyright until at least 2092, as Jodorowsky, one of the authors of the book, remains alive.
“As such, in order to produce or authorise derivative works such as an animated series, Spice DOA would need 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 Jodorowsky book. Similar to how buying a Batman comic does not give you the inherent rights to produce a new Batman film, the purchasing of this director’s bible does not give Spice DOA any intrinsic rights to produce new material.”
Spice DAO was asked for comment by The Guardian via social media, after which they allegedly blocked the journalist who reached out.
A sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s Dune has been officially announced after the new film earned over $40million at the US box office in its opening weekend.
Dune was officially billed as ‘Part One’ of a duology – despite a sequel not being greenlit by studios Legendary and Warner Bros ahead of its release.
After a successful opening weekend, a sequel was officially announced with a theatrical release set for October 2023, with Villeneuve returning at the helm.