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Jodorowsky’s Dune Bible Owner Maybe Doesn’t Understand Film Rights

Back in 1974, filmmaker and polarizing figure Alejandro Jodorowsky acquired the film rights to Frank Herbert‘s seminal work of science fiction. His plan was to adapt and create a “Dune” film, using incredible designs by Mobeius and H.R. Giger. All of which was chronicled in a bound book, referred to as a ‘bible.’ As we know, Jodorowsky’s film never happened, which a 2013 documentary follows. (Although in 1984, David Lynch directed a version, and of course Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 version.)

Cut to November 2021, and a big piece of “Dune” history sold at auction for over $3 million USD. It was Jodorowsky’s bible, and mystery shrouded the purchaser. That is until yesterday, when The Spice DAO, a group of…crypto enthusiasts…claimed to have won the item. (This is the same group who crowd funded the capitol to secure the bible.)

What’s really interesting is what the group is proclaiming as their missionaria protectiva-

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

Pages from the Bible, from the Christies’ listing
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But here’s the thing- just because they purchased the bible doesn’t mean they now suddenly own the rights to the franchise. Those rights- film, television, gaming, merchandise and more- lay in the lap of Legendary Entertainment. There have been some pretty impressive licenses granted though, like Gale Force 9 for gaming, and BOOM! Studios for comics, for starters.

This continues to be part of the entire NFT craze that baffles us. You’re not, except for very specific circumstances, purchasing the rights to use, sell, reproduce etc. said item. You’re literally just buying a non fungible token of the item. The Verge has a pretty good explanation of what that all means, without the annoying cryptobro aspect that always seems to pop up in conversations like this.

The point is, The Spice DAO CAN’T do the things they’re saying are their “mission.” Not without a lot of legal and monetary hoops being jumped through.

It’s like if someone were to buy a Star Wars” script at auction, and suddenly decide they want to make their own version of the film. You can imagine how that’d go, right? Disney money, Lucasfilm lawyers…yeah. It’d be a no-go.

It’ll be interesting to see what Legendary Entertainment and the estate of Frank Herbert (headed by his author son Brian Herbert) say and do in response.

Documentary “Jordowosky’s Dune” is available to watch on Amazon here. Pick up a copy of Lynch’s film on Amazon here. And, the most recent Villeneuve version on Amazon here.

“Dune” 1984, Universal Pictures

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