Thursday, September 29 2022

By 1974, Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky had become a cult figure among moviegoers. His first two photos, Topo and The Holy Mountain, had mixed surreal and psychedelic imagery with crazy storylines and obscure religious symbolism, establishing him as one of the most important names in underground cinema.

His next work was to be his biggest yet. A French consortium had purchased the rights to Dunes, Frank Herbert’s much-loved sci-fi novel (and recently brought to the big screen), and asked Jodorowsky to direct it. He went to town on the draft. Salvador Dalí, Mick Jagger and Orson Welles were offered as cast members, Pink Floyd was to do the soundtrack, and the final script arrived at 2 p.m. Unsurprisingly, no studio would find the money to finance it. The project collapsed.

Yet a fascination with the project’s ambitious and ambitious vision remained, so much so that a documentary was made about it in 2014, and a rare book about the unmade film – containing the script, concept art and other pre-production material – has become a collector’s item among Dune-heads.

So much in demand in fact, that from time to time one of the estimated 20 surfaces for sale is bought for big money. And that was the case at the end of November, when Christies sold one of the copies for 2.66 million euros, almost 100 times its estimate.

Which brings us neatly to this announcement from Spice DAO on Sunday:

If you don’t know what a DAO, or Decentralized Anonymous Organization, is, let us explain. In effect, it is a governance structure where each member of the organization – a membership often granted by simply purchasing a cryptocurrency linked to it (in this case, named SPICE) – becomes a decision maker in the governance of the organization. The governance rules are defined in smart contracts written beforehand by the original organizers, but after that, every decision of the entity is decided by the token holders. Touted as an antidote to the centralized governance of modern tech companies, it’s like being a shareholder in a crowd-funded project, but without being able to delegate any decision-making to a CEO or management team. (And that’s arguably the least of the model’s problems. Read Izzy or Stephen Diehl for more.)

Yet the problem with Spice DAO is not so much philosophical as legal.

We don’t know why we have to report this, but purchasing a copy of something doesn’t give you the exclusive right to monetize its content. It is literally the foundation of intellectual property law and, therefore, of large swaths of capitalism.

So, has SpiceDAO solved this? The copyrights to the book’s script and illustrations, according to BuzzFeed, belong to Jodorowsky himself, as well as artists Jean Giraud and HR Giger. Both have died within the last decade. So without their estate’s approval, SpiceDAO is Spice dead in the water.

Even then, Spice DAO’s first stated action – “making the book public” – has already been rendered useless as Jodorowsky’s Dune was made available for viewing on Google Photos before the auction closed. Whoops.

So, indeed, buyers of the SPICE token are currently holding a $3 million book that last sold for $42,500 in March 2019. That might not be the craziest thing to have. we have heard of in the deep and troubled annals of the kingdom. crypto. But it’s definitely up there.


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