Crypto Group Buys Rare Copy of “Dune” Book for 100 Times Its Value in Weird NFT Plot

Spice DAO apparently thinks buying the book gives them carte blanche to do whatever they want with the book's contents

One of the ten Alejandro Jodorowsky's epic 1970 Dune storyboard copies is displayed to the public three days before an auction at Christie's Paris gallery, on November 19, 2021
One of the ten copies of Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1970 "Dune" storyboard, auctioned at Christie's in November.
Alain JOCARD / AFP / Getty

If I buy a copy of Dune, I do not own a copyright on it.

It’s a very simple concept to understand, but seemingly lost on a bunch of crypto buyers who recently paid $3 million at a Christie’s auction for a copy of a book about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to make his film version of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi tome Dune in the 1970s. That was far, far over the asking price.

The book could be worth five figures on its own as a collector’s item; there are apparently only about 10 copies left. But the crypto group Spice DAO apparently believed they could buy the rare, physical book and turn the pages into (ugh) NFTs, produce an animated series based on the book and support other “derivative projects” related to the work. Oh, and burn the actual copy of the book.

As Dazed noted, “They paid one hundred times the estimated value for a non-unique collectible that has been fully scanned and available online for free since 2011, and doesn’t give them the legal right to produce anything.”

Also, why burn the book? Spice DAO gave three reasons on their blog: “Because the book remains on-chain, the book does not die, but crosses the boundary of physical to digital. Enhances the value of the on-chain NFTs which are now the only transferable/own-able copy of the book. Incredible marketing stunt which could be recorded on video. The video even sold as an NFT itself.” Also, they refer to detractors of this book burning idea as “normies.”

While the crypto group claims part of the reasoning behind this was to allow people to actually see pages from the rare printing (which you can already do here), an article in Buzzfeed last month also notes the group raised about $12 million from strangers to accomplish these goals, which will never happen because copyrights/lawyers/common sense. Side note: I’m not claiming Spice DAO won’t somehow make money on this, or, based on the above, hasn’t already. I’m saying none of their greater plans are going to work as far as copyrights go.

Thankfully, while we won’t get a limited series or a movie out of this transaction, we did get the wrath of the interwebs:

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