Some Buffoons Bought a 'Dune' Book and Mistakenly Thought They Owned the IP

'Jodorowsky's Dune'Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
More like Jodorowsky's "Doom," am I right? 

One of my favorite documentaries of all time is Jodorowsky's Dune, about the failed attempt by Alejandro Jodorowsky to adapt Dune. Some of the lookbooks from that movie have been floating around Hollywood. One recently went to auction.

The assumption is that it would fetch $30,000 to $40,000—a high price, but a fair one for Hollywood history. What happened next was... unpredictable.

The bidding began and the price soared, fetching close to $3 million. 

Were these just rabid Jodorowsky fans? No, they were an ether-backed collective known as TheSpiceDAO, and they had one goal for this purchase: make their own Dune. They tweeted their goals out with a plan for how to tackle this idea. 

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Here's the main problem... they can't do that.

Owning an expensive book means only that. You have the book. The rights to Dune lie with Warner Bros., who are deep in creating its own Dune franchise. And the studio would sue them into oblivion if they tried to circumvent that. 

The gap in knowledge and understanding here is astounding. 

There were some good intentions behind the idea—the collective wants to make the lookbook free online for people to check out.

But if they stopped to Google that idea, they'd learn that most, if not all of the book is online already. And free. You can look at it on OpenCulture right now.

While it's not totally complete, it's still free. I admire the effort into making knowledge free for all, but only if real efforts are made to understand the rights behind those things and the already available material. 

It would be easy to continue dunking on these people, but instead, I'll address anyone or any collective with this much money. Change is not something you can buy. It takes action, forethought, and leadership. If you really want to disrupt a network or pathway, you have to find a new way in, not buy yourself through an old way. Use your cash to fund creatives and original ideas. Build out a studio that makes money, and then make more things. You could decentralize pitching and diversify Hollywood in so many ways. 

But if you want to ignore all that and buy some big intellectual property, let me know, I've got an original copy of Harry Potter from 1997 to sell you.      

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Your Comment


Great information. happy to read this article.

January 20, 2022 at 6:07AM, Edited January 20, 6:07AM

Allen Thompson
Academic Researcher | Writer

I happen to be a former college Lecturer in TV production - off the back of being a properly trained, properly qualified broadcast professional with (now) in excess of 40 years industry experience. Media Law - specifically media law as it applies in Scotland (and much of the rest of the UK) was something I taught.

I make low-budget corporates as one of the 'bread and butter' aspects of what I do... in excess of 50% of the new business I see from that side of the business comes from people who have been mislead by 'fake it till you make it types' with little or no understanding of (or care for) the implications of IP actually being a type of property - or how its protected. - Many clients come at me waving lawyer's letters which demand monies and threaten to sue, often over very minor properties. A clip here, a photo there, etc. They seek miracles ...but the only 'fix' for their problems (apart from paying off the predators) is to remake their materials, this time with a proper audit trail and legitimate clearances.

Even amidst an otherwise legitimate production, I still get people 'demanding' I include the unclearable - that way, because it would either cost too much or is simply unavailable. Often, they've got some stupid idea off the internet about 'fair use' and/or start quoting foreign (usually American) exception laws... which (other than being enforceable via Berne provisions) simply do not apply here. - Yes! That's right! to most of the rest of the world, America is a foreign county and its laws and ways are actually alien!

What's more (bearing in mind the word has previously been proved in a court of law to NOT be a profanity, but one with legitimate meaning) - most of the myths and legends on the subject that percolate through the internet are basically complete bollocks!

Against that background - it's easy to see how, in the online world, a lot of the people can be easily fooled for a lot of the time - and duly parted from their cash.

So. Buffoons you say? - Alexa Heah, writing on designtaxi dot com asks;

"Could the US$3 million bid have been an overly-ambitious mistake? Or did the collective really believe it would own the rights to producing content from the franchise just because it owned the director’s pitch book? We’ll never know."

- "The collective" being "a cryptocurrency group" and the implication here being that this little project was effectively 'crowdfunded'. - Personally I'm drawn to form the opinion that the 'buffoons' might more likely be scam artists. ...Which is something also (often) true of the bottom-feeders that, at the other end of the scale, so often lead the people I see up the garden path. - They prey on people's ignorance, misleading them to take the fall while they extract the cash. In a while they burn themselves out of course, and it's on to the next hokkani boro - that's great trick or scam to you.

Of course it's quite convenient for them to seem to be buffoons, rather that a bunch of utter Shysters leading some complete eijits along by the nose!

January 22, 2022 at 3:35AM, Edited January 22, 3:47AM

Matt Quinn
Cameraman, Director, Producer... Business owner/manager and