NFT Investors Blow $3 Million On 'Dune' Book Believing It Gave Them Copyright

To say that the world of finance has only become murkier the more it has intertwined with technology is an understatement. The rise of digital money and cryptocurrencies like bitcoin has only made it all that much stranger, too. Where dollars — or pounds, rand, yen, euros, and so on —are issued by nations, cryptocurrencies exist online, out in the ether. They're not quite the same as cash — you can't hold them in your hand, for example, and few businesses accept bitcoin for payment, let alone dogecoin or ethereum or any of the various other cryptocurrencies.

It's all a bit difficult to grasp unless you have a lot of free time on your hands to really get in depth.

And, as it turns out, even those who think they know what they're doing with digital money can get pretty confused.

We've all heard of NFTs, right?

Unsplash | Arstin Chen

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital pieces of art linked to the blockchain, the ledger that records and tracks bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions.

Basically, NFTs are an investment much like rare coins, trading cards, sneakers, or real-world artwork, just in a digital space, and they come with certificates of authenticity to prove that they're original and unique.

NFTs are big business.

In 2021, an NFT (pictured above) sold at auction for a mind-boggling $69 million. Obviously, most NFTs aren't in that category, but people have paid $388,000 for a short video by Grimes and $200,000 for a clip of a LeBron James dunk, and Jack Dorsey's first tweet sold for $2.9 million.

The key to NFTs is their uniqueness.

Unsplash | Rumman Amin

Think about it: you can get a print of the Mona Lisa for $50, but trying to buy the actual painting hanging in the Louvre is a much different transaction because there's only one of it, and there will only ever be one of it.

Nothing compares to the original.

Which brings us to Spice DAO, a group of crypto and NFT investors who apparently thought they'd stumbled into an incredible investment opportunity.

Back in November 2021, Spice DAO made a splash by spending 2.66 million euros (about $3 million USD) on a book — yes, a real-world book, not an NFT of a book — at an auction.

The book contains notes and concept drawings from Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky's doomed attempt to adapt the Frank Herbert classic Dune for the big screen back in the '70s, made popular by the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune.

And, up to now, it wasn't clear exactly what Spice DAO had planned for their big purchase.

They had quite notably overpaid for the book. It's certainly a rarity — about 10 copies, made for producers and execs of the film before it failed — are believed to exist, but previous copies had only sold for about 25,000 euros, a far cry from the 2.66 mil Spice DAO paid.

The group announced their plan for the book in a tweet — which also made clear how confused they were.

They want to "make the book public (to the extent permitted by law)," "produce an original animated limited series inspired by the book and sell it to a streaming service," and "support derivative projects from the community."

The group added on their forum that they wanted to turn the pages of the book into NFTs and then burn the original they had just purchased.

Unfortunately for Spice DAO, that's not how any of this works.

As many pointed out on Twitter, buying a book doesn't give you ownership of the copyright — as one person wrote, "You bought a collectible for 100X estimated value. Do you think if you bought a Spider-Man comic you could start making Spider-Man movies as well?"

So, best of luck sneaking any "animated limited series" past any lawers.

More importantly, the book isn't quite as unique as Spice DAO might have hoped.

It is, in fact, free to dive into on the internet. As @CTropes pointed out on Twitter, Jodorowsky's book was scanned and put on Google years ago. Go ahead, check it out right here, it's gorgeous.

So, turning the pages into NFTs isn't the best plan for Spice DAO to recoup their investment.

Which means that, in the end, they've got...a book.

It's a nice book, and certainly a rarity to have in its original, physical form, but not by any means worth $3 million, and so it's hard to see how Spice DAO could possibly see that money again.