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A $3m mistake?

A $3m mistake?


An anonymous crypto group thought they bought the rights to Dune. They were wrong.

Nimo omer, narrating:

Hi I’m Nimo and this is the Sensemaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world.

Today, a story about art, ownership and a very expensive book.


In November a rare book went on sale at an auction house in Paris.

There are probably only about 10 copies of it in the world. 

And for people who are fans of the sci-fi novel Dune, it is very much a collectors item. 

This book is a collection of artwork, storyboards and costume designs for a 1970s movie based on the novel by Frank Herbert.

But that movie wasn’t made…

The Sensemaker spoke to Gabriella Angeleti, a journalist at the Art Newspaper… 

“So what sort of remained of this dream project…was this concept book for Dune that had, uh, hundreds of illustrations and concept artwork…And, it’s really the only relic that we have of this movie that was never made, but that nonetheless gained us huge cult following among Dune fans.” 

Gabriella Angeleti

The last time one of these books was sold, it went for $42,500…. 

But the one we’re talking about sold for $3 million dollars. 

And it was bought by a mysterious anonymous organisation…

A group called Spice DAO. 

So who are they ? And why did they spend so much on this book? 


Before I get on to Spice DAO and the book they bought, I’d like to introduce you to Alejandro Jodorowsky, the director behind the failed 70s Dune movie. 

“Movies have heart, have mind, have ambition, have power. I wanted to do something like that.

Alejandro Jodorowsky

He had an amazing vision for the film. 

“Pink Floyd was approached to produce the soundtrack. Salvador Dali was going to be playing the master of the universe. Mick Jagger was also billed to be in the movie.”

Gabriella Angeleti

But most of all it was going to be an unbelievable visual experience. 

Here’s Alejandro Jodorowsky talking about it in a documentary in 2014:

[In Spanish] “I wanted to create a film that  gives LSD hallucinations, without taking LSD”

Alejandro Jodorwosky

He’s saying: “I wanted to create a film that  gives LSD hallucinations, without taking LSD” 

Alejandro Jodorowsky hired a whole team of artists to bring his creation to life in storyboards and costume designs.

But to get this movie made, Alejandro Jodorowsky needed money.

So he collected all the artwork into a set of books he could show off to Hollywood studio executives. 

“The book itself was close to 300 pages. There was the script, there was concept artwork. It was pretty much the Dune Bible.”

Gabriella Angeleti

But… like I said, this film never actually made it to production…in the end, no one would fund it. 

Still, for sci-fi buffs, the unmade Dune film is the stuff of legends. People call it “the greatest movie never made.”

So you can see why the sale of one of Jodorowsky’s Dune books would attract a lot of interest….

And that’s where Spice DAO comes in.


Spice DAO is a decentralised autonomous organisation. It’s a concept that is tied up with the world of blockchain and cryptocurrencies… 

So it’s a little complicated to explain…

Spice DAO was set up by a crypto millionaire.

“The main person in Spice DAO is a 25 year old in California, who, along with some tech savvy friends, amassed a lot of crypto very early on” 

Gabriella Angeleti

He’s a big collector of digital artworks called non-fungible tokens – or NFTs. And his co-founders are NFT pioneers too. 

Spice DAO was founded with a mission to raise money from its members to buy Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune book – and to fund a series of creative projects. 

And last week they revealed that they had bought the book. 

In a thread on Twitter, they said they wanted to make it available to the public.

And they said they wanted to create an original animated series “inspired by” the book. 

But there was lots of speculation that Spice DAO’s real intention was to turn the book into a series of NFTs…after all, a lot of the founding members are NFT experts. 

But it seems pretty obvious that they can’t do that because of copyright laws.

“Allegedly the group that bought it, didn’t fully understand that buying the book didn’t really give them the rights to make any work based on the contents. And, uh, didn’t give them a right to sell individual artwork in the book as NFTs.”

Gabriella Angeleti

The rights still belong to Alejandro Jodrowsky and the artists he worked with…


So what can Spice DAO do?

In a post on the blog site Medium the Spice DAO founders said they had been in discussions about the Dune book with the rights holders – and hadn’t got anywhere. 

But they said they were still forging ahead with an animated series inspired by the book. 

Spice DAO says they want to create something “inspired by the intent and vision of Jodorowsky’s Dune.” 

And Alejandro Jodorowsky’s vision was certainly ambitious…

“You want to make the most fantastic art of movie. Try. If you fail it is not important. You need to try.” 

Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sony Pictures

So if Spice DAO were true to their word, they’d need to create something startlingly original.

But can a group of crypto bros really pull it off? 

Plenty of people are sceptical…

Although Spice DAO does seem to have something that Alejandro Jodorowsky lacked…money.

Today’s story was written and produced by Ella Hill.