SpiceDAO Roasted for Spending $3.8 Million on Jodorowsky’s ‘Dune’ Book

It's not clear what the group will do with the book, but it seems like the spice cannot (legally) flow.
SpiceDAO Roasted for Spending $3.8 Million on Jodorowsky’s ‘Dune’ Book
ALAIN JOCARD / Contributor

In an embarrassing but predictable turn of events, a group of cryptocurrency investors's bid to purchase one of the few remaining copies of Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune adaptation is shaping up to have been a letdown despite actually winning the auction.

For months now, members of the SpiceDAO—a decentralized autonomous organization dedicated to buying and developing projects based on Jodorowsky’s vision—have been ecstatic about the possibility of buying the pitchbook and finally bringing Jodorowsky's unfulfilled vision to the public. Jodorowsky, who directed surrealist films such as El Topo and The Holy Mountain, was at one time slated to direct the film adaptation of Dune, but the wildly over-budget project died and the creative work allegedly went on to inspire sci-fi film for decades to come. Jodorowsky's struggles making Dune were rehashed in the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune


Over the weekend, SpiceDAO reminded the internet that it won the auction in November and had plans to “make the book public (to the extent permitted by law)” as well as create an "original animated limited series" "inspired by" the book to sell to a streaming service and "derivative projects from the community." It was quickly and widely ridiculed.

One such derivative project proposed on January 14th featured burning the book to enhance the value of NFTs made from images of its pages. In the group’s forum and DAO, this particular proposal has become a lightning rod for a host of arguments over whether this (and the rest of the project) are legal considering SpiceDAO doesn’t actually own the rights to the contents of the book, just the physical copy.

Jodowosky’s Bible (as the pitchbook is sometimes called) was listed for auction at Christie’s and valued at $30,000, so a crowdfunding effort sought to raise $750,000 to buy the bible. To avoid the fate of ConstitutionDAO―a similar plan to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution that was outbid at the last-minute by investor Ken Griffith because his son asked him to―the DAO’s co-founder Soban Saqib, a 25 year old NFT collector, bought the pitchbook himself for nearly $3 million in November.

A week later, the DAO was asking its members for $6 million: $3.8 million to buy the pitchbook from Saqib and compensate him for taxes and legal fees, as well as another $2.2 million to fund an animated film "inspired" by the book. Seemingly, it was always clear even to the DAO that the purchase didn't actually give them any of the copyrights to Jodorowsky's Dune. Jodorowsky hasn't given up his rights, nor have the estates of Moebius―the legendary French Illustration who was a frequent collaborator of Jodorowsky's―or the estate of H.R. Giger, who died in 2014.

“While we do not own the IP to Frank Herbert’s masterpiece, we are uniquely positioned with the opportunity to create our own addition to the genre as an homage to the giants who came before us,” the DAO said on its Medium page on December 1. Undeterred, the group sketched out plans to work with Remilia Collective, a "crypto-native art collective and production studio;" The Film Society of San Gaspare, a "web3.0 FilmDAO currently producing the first NFT-funded feature film;" and Roble Ridge Productions, which is a a production house in Los Angeles.

In an interview with Buzzfeed News, a member of the Remilia Collective who co-founded the SpiceDAO remarked that this was all necessary because they "can't just scan it and put it on the internet” if they hope to convince the estates and stakeholders to let them do this. Ignoring the DAO’s proposal to do this very thing, someone already did it years ago. A significant chunk of the pitchbook has been online since 2015 as well as a Google Photos library stretching back to 2011. 

Without the rights to the actual contents of the pitchbook, it’s not clear yet if it’s worth talking about this project as being anything other than a magnificent waste of time and money. Legally, the spice cannot flow.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated when H.R. Giger died. He died in 2014.