The anime "Dune" DAO learns about copyright
Read to the end for two great photos of a dog
A Miss Officer And Mr. Truffles Disaster For The DAO Age
I truly believe that there are no new forms of internet drama. Between 2005-2010, a handful of websites basically outlined every possible scandal and controversy that could play out inside of an internet community. And those scandal and controversies, were, themselves, just upgraded versions of what was already sketched out during the Usenet era.
Whether we’re talking about Myspace, Tumblr, 4chan, and Something Awful or we’re talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, the things that cause the biggest online meltdowns tend to stay the same. Influencers are “canceled,” power users are exposed as liars or frauds or abusers or hypocrites, weirdos and fetishists accidentally interact with normies, trolls attack and brigade each other, and, of course, people raise a bunch of money that goes nowhere.
And one thing the crypto age has made much easier is raising absolutely unfathomable amounts of money. Which has, of course, caused a lot of drama. Case in point: The Spice DAO.
The Spice DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization, is a Discord-based crowdfunding project that has been completely overwhelmed with drama this week. The group, which has about 2,600 members, used a token called $SPICE to buy a copy Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune.
This is a bit thorny, but from what I can understand, the DAO paid 2.6 million euros at Christie’s auction for a copy of the book which was actually listed for only 35,000 euros. The copy of Dune they bought wasn’t Frank Herbert’s original Dune, but actually a storyboard and production bible for a failed adaption of Herbert’s novel that Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted to produce in the 70s. For what it’s worth, Jodorowsky’s Dune sounds sick (It was 14 hours long, Salvador Dali was going to play the emperor, with a soundtrack featuring Pink Floyd, and character designs by H.R. Giger.)
As the tweet above states, the group believed that by buying Jodorowsky’s Dune, they would be able to “make it public” and then turn it into an animated series that they could sell to a “streaming service”.
Now, here’s the thing. Buying an NFT does not mean you own the image or the copyright to that image. An NFT is a digital address that represents a piece of media, but if an NFT hosting platform crashed tomorrow, the media associated with that NFT would likely 404, but the NFTs would still exist. There are ways to link media content to an NFT, but it is expensive and complicated and not typically how an NFT is done. For instance, I minted an NFT on a platform called Mirror last year. The site crashed while I was minting it and it ended up minting my NFT as a broken file. The Mirror team was nice enough to go into their CMS and manually upload my animated GIF so the NFT would point to it, but make no mistake, the NFT existed completely independently of my animated GIF. And NFTs exist independently of copyright, as well.
Buying a Bored Ape NFT for $10 million or whatever does not mean that you own the copyright to it. Similarly, if you were, in this case, to pay 100-times the asking price for the storyboard of an unproduced film based on someone else’s intellectual property, you do not suddenly own the copyright to that intellectual property, nor do you even have the ability to produce that film. In fact, Jodorowsky wasn’t even funding his own Dune adaptation. The rights were acquired by a group of French producers, who picked him to be the director.
Anyways, it seems like reality is beginning to set in for the members of Spice DAO, who are slowly beginning to realize how badly they fucked up. In the screenshots below, users debate how many years it would take for the current copyright to expire so they could produce a Dune adaptation — which, once again, the book they bought does not give them the right to do.
You should click through on the above tweet, because the thread is amazing. The DAO can’t set up proper voting and there’s a ton of infighting (and requests to turn Dune into a 10-hour anime lol.) The community is also now fighting about whether or not they could make derivative works that aren’t officially based on Dune.
About midway through last year, NFT evangelists started transitioning into DAO evangelists. The speculative art scene started to feel kind of stale and many of these people started brainstorming ways to use the same technology to build communities. Spice DAO was spearheaded by an internet collective called the Remilia Corporation, which is basically a loosely affiliated group of NFT artists and Web3 devs. Their website is admittedly pretty cool, but also completely illegible, which I guess it what makes it cool. They appear to advise several DAOs.
But there’s another curious wrinkle with all of this. It seems like the founder of Spice DAO, an NFT influencer named Soban “Soby” Saqib, spent his own money on the book and now wants to be reimbursed for it. The DAO raised just under $12 million. The founder spent $2 million to buy it.
He told Decrypt, "People like us never had a seat at the table to decide what was culturally relevant. And now we do." Which sort of makes sense, I guess. A group of internet people got together and did something so confounding and expensive that everyone on Twitter is making fun of them, which I suppose is a form of being culturally relevant. But it doesn’t explain why they would pay so much money for something that doesn’t actually achieve the goal they were after.
As I see it, there are two possibilities here. One, is that a Discord of cryptocurrency investors raised millions of dollars on the shared incorrect belief that owning a book was somehow the same as owning its copyright. It’s possible that at no point did anyone involved realize that Spice DAO, which was organized specifically to buy an unproduced story bible for a Dune adaptation and turn it into an anime, could not achieve that goal in anyway. The other possibility is far more cynical.
Saqib bid on the book from Christie’s with his own money. And he’s now requesting the DAO reimburse him. Which means you could look at this as Saqib investing $2 million to start an organization that is now worth $12 million. And, wow, isn’t that weird, the initial goal that organization was built on is actually legally possible. So now they have to do something else with all that money.; That’s an incredible coincidence!
It’s unclear what will happen next with Spice DAO. The book is still being processed and hasn’t yet made its way into Saqib’s possession. And, also, the group hasn’t worked out exactly what will happen once he hands it over. Store it? Display it publicly? Burn it?
A growing contingent of users want to digitize it and then burn it, and turn each page into an NFT. Which, even if you’re super into NFTs, doesn’t make a ton of sense. Wasn’t the whole point of the DAO to get ahold of the storyboards and do something with them? I mean… you could just scan it and email everyone a PDF. (Or torrent it?) But that probably isn’t a very sexy idea because it doesn’t require the blockchain.
Last year, I interviewed an artist going by A, who was behind the fan art that turned into the epic Tumblr crowdfunding disaster, Miss Officer And Mr. Truffles. Like the Spice DAO, Tumblr users who did not understand how intellectual property or copyright worked decided to raise money to make their own animated TV show.
A told me that she hoped that people would learn from her mistakes.
Well, the Miss Officer And Mr. Truffles Kickstarter was only able to raise about $6,000, which is nothing compared to the $12 million Spice DAO raised. So I can confidently say that, no, people didn’t learn from Tumblr’s mistakes. But imagine how different the internet would be if they did?
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Behold: The Zillow Castle
Author Rebecca Makkai tweeted an INCREDIBLE thread about this absolutely deranged Zillow listing. The house has a moat and also was apparently used to shoot Hallmark Movies in.
You can check out the listing for the Zillow castle here. It’s currently on the market for $35 million and has nine bedrooms and a moat. Who wants to start a DAO to turn this into the Garbage Day hype house?
A Cool Stool
NPR’s Hyperpop Correspondent Defends The Genre
If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you go check out NPR’s absolutely SCATHING review of frack lord Rupaul’s new terrible hyperpop single. What I think is most interesting about NPR critic Reanna Cruz’s excellent takedown of Rupaul’s “Smile” is that it acknowledges where hyperpop started and where hyperpop is going. Long-time Garbage Day readers know how interested I was in that whole scene in 2020. Here’s an excerpt from the review:
Had "Smile" came out in 2019, I would've thought it came with a Dylan Brady production credit — however, in 2022, the scene has already moved on, giving "Smile" the mark of bleak corporate reappropriation. It's a reminder that everything that made the OG hyperpop scene interesting and different is quickly being swallowed up and watered down for a larger audience, particularly one that embodies hegemonic, straight-approved forms of LGBTQ expression.
You can read the whole thing here.
Columboposting Is 2022’s Hottest New Meme
It’s the question that everyone is asking. The buzz in the streets. The hot new trend that everyone wants to jump on. The beating drum at the heart of 2022. The new era in culture. Gen Z is here and they are screaming one thing:
We love Columbo. Give us more content about Peter Falk’s iconic detective!!!
How did Columboposting take over Tumblr, and thus, the rest of the internet? Well, I think I have a decent timeline sorted out. But, also, the internet is non-linear and memes, especially so. So, really, who knows. Here’s what I’ve got for you…
Interestingly, Know Your Meme says that Columbo memes started in 2020 with the Twitter account @smallercolumbo, which imagined if Columbo was, you know, small. The account didn’t go super viral, but it did create a trend on YouTube where people did dramatic reads in Columbo’s voice. One YouTube channel, a voice actor named Gianni Matragrano, became the de facto YouTube voice of Columbo.
The trend died down a bit until last May when Alasdair Beckett-King posted a YouTube video titled, “If Columbo Were Anime,” which really kicked things up a notch.
In November, Tumblr user liatreppe posted a thread about how Columbo would fare in the anime, Death Note. And then that turned into a YouTube video from Matragrano.
The main joke btw about Columbo being in the anime Death Note is that to use a death note, a magic book that instantly kills anyone whose name you write in it that you’ve seen the face of, is that nobody knows Columbo’s first name.
We’re probably a few weeks — or maybe even days — away from “why is Columbo a meme” thinkpieces, so let me plant my flag on this topic first: Teenagers love random stuff and they’re also fascinated by old media. There’s also something incredibly funny about Columbo interacting with modern subcultures like anime or video games. I think the Columbo meme resurgence is similar to when Tumblr users in 2017 started mocking up what a Golden Girls version of Persona 5 would look like. I would also say that Columboposting has a lot in common with the “King Of The Hill is anime” trend from a few years ago, as well. For some reason, the internet really likes imagining how TV dads and just older men from TV, in general, would react to internet culture!
A Very Cool Wiki Project
Finally, a Wordle-like timewaster game for someone like me, who spends my free time reading Wikipedia articles. The game was made by a software engineer named Tom Watson and I love it. This newsletter took longer to put together than usual today because I got completely sucked in playing. The screenshot above is from one of my playthroughs. Sorry, actor Mary Steenburgen, I, for some reason, thought you were older than Stone Cold Steve Austin!!!
You can play the game here.
Is This Song Following Anyone Else Around YouTube?
The song is called “edamame” and it was written by bbno$ and Rich Brian. It came out in July, but it has become absolutely stuck in my algorithm. What’s interesting though is that the original version, embedded above, isn’t what’s being promoted. Instead, I’ve become inundated with mashups and remixes of it.
Part of this seems to stem from the fact that bbno$, the main artist behind the song, has released a bunch of his own mashups, including this extremely good Smash Mouth version. Apparently, bbno$’s name is pronounced “baby no money,” in case you were curious.
To piggyback off the hyperpop Rupaul item above, it feels like the combined forces of TikTok remix culture, hyperpop — bbno$ has collaborated with Rebecca Black — and the YouTube music video economy have made music very weird! And basically brought back what we used to call Soundcloud rap? idk let me know what you think!
A Good Tweet
Some Stray Links
P.S. here are two great photos of a dog.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***