🗞️ Quentin Tarantino Isn't Done With NFTs, FinTech Deflates, & Uber Delivers A Mess
This Week: Quentin Tarantino's NFT troubles are changing once again, FinTech goes through its own boom & bust cycle, and Uber gets heat from more than one group in Europe. Plus, are big layoffs coming to Big Law? Unions hit the Minor league, and the data swings in on "quiet quitting."
Butch Coolidge won't find himself in another messy fight anytime soon, nor will Quentin Tarantino. The writer/director of 1994 hit Pulp Fiction was facing a lawsuit over his sale of NFTs based on the film. The auteur retained rights to his script, and the NFTs were to give buyers access to exclusive handwritten drafts, commentary, and more, but Miramax (who owns the film and its IP) saw it as a breach of contract. This month, however, both sides have reached a settlement and are expected to file dismissal papers within the coming weeks.
As The Verge notes, Miramax claimed Tarantino's NFTs constituted an “emerging technology” and sued on grounds that “whatever limited rights Mr. Tarantino has to screenplay publication, they do not permit the minting of unique NFTs associated with Miramax’s intellectual property.”
The first Pulp Fiction NFT (“Royale with Cheese”) was sold in January 2022 for $1.1 million to a collective known as AnonDAO. Shortly thereafter, the auction for the remaining NFTs was suspended due to “extreme market volatility,” reports Gizmodo.
“The parties have agreed to put this matter behind them and look forward to collaborating with each other on future projects, including possible NFTs,” a comment attributed to both Miramax and Tarantino said of the suit.
Pulp Fiction definitely is not the first film to be used for NFTs. Both Space Jam and The Matrix series have been leveraged by Warner Brothers to mixed success. Meanwhile, forward-looking movie moguls have announced that they will be using NFTs (and the Decentralized Autonomous Organization, or DAO) as a structure to produce new projects, says Deadline.
As high-profile cases involving Nike and Hermes (and now Pulp Fiction) have illuminated, the IP question has not been fully solved for NFTs. And this, like several other issues, requires substantially more legal precedence as well as increased government regulation to protect stakeholders and investors alike. As NFTs continue to undergo a market correction, it seems like the opportune time for the SEC/FTC to roll out its rules and enforcement.
🎧 What We’re Listening To
ICYMI, last Thursday, we hosted yet another fantastic panel discussion with three leaders in the in-house space. The hot topic? Litigation … and the hefty price tag that follows. Listen in for the inside track on how you can keep costs low while reining in outside counsel.
Mitigating Litigation Costs of Outside Counsel, Lawtrades
As the last few years have seen a rise in Financial Tech (FinTech) start-ups, federal regulators are beginning to take a keen interest in their business ties with traditional banks. A recent deal collapse between Swiss banking giant UBS and the FinTech “robo-advisor” firm Wealthfront has some believing regulators were eyeing the merger, thereby spooking the two companies. “A source familiar with the situation says the deal collapse came suddenly,” Axios writes of the news, “with unspecified regulatory concerns being raised in just the past several weeks.” It remains unclear what, if anything, regulators were concerned by.
In lieu of the scuttled deal, Wealthfront CEO, David Fortunato, told Reuters, “we are continuing to explore ways to work together in a partnership and UBS has given us $70 million in financing at a $1.4 billion valuation.”
The $1.4 billion has some raising eyebrows. In 2017, VC investment put the company's valuation at $500 million, with roughly $70 million in annual revenue, says CityWire, before noting that “the firm’s latest $1.4bn valuation represented a multiple of more than 21x revenue.”
Boom & Bust
One in every five dollars VCs invested in 2021 went to a FinTech start-up, reports The Economist. So, it's no secret the industry is exploding. However, many of the industry's innovations (like the free stock trading of Robinhood, or the buy-now-pay-later solution of Affirm) have been co-opted by bigger players. “Way too many venture-backed fintech start-ups waiting in the wings trying to go public,” Josh Brown, a financial advisor, told CNBC. “Most of them are overlapping each others’ business and most of the problem is that there is just not enough growth to go around for all of them.”
Just as we saw with Crypto and NFTs over the last two years, the incredible rush of investment into FinTech firms also means that firms and their products were not scrutinized. As the industry deflates and regulators turn their attention to these start-ups, it may be a net positive for everyone involved.
When food delivery requests soared during the pandemic, platforms like Uber Eats scrambled to meet demand. In France, many undocumented immigrants found this work easy to secure. Now, as delivery app usage is falling, unions across Europe are accusing Uber of exploiting migrants in boom times and dumping them after. Since the beginning of the summer, Uber Eats has deactivated and blocked some 2,500 accounts. Union leaders argue these measures won't stop migrants from working, but rather they will push them underground. “These undocumented migrants, who had accounts in their name, most often obtained with Italian residence permits, will find themselves renting accounts on the black market,” Jérôme Pimot, president of the Collective of Platform Couriers (CLAP) in France, explained to Wired.
Uber spokesperson, Matt Keirle, told Wired the deleted accounts were “part of our commitment to fight document fraud and illegal work,” adding that an audit of 60,000 accounts in France found that 4% were fraudulent. He did not address why the audits were conducted over 2 years and thousands of deliveries later.
Moritz Altenried, who researches labor at Humboldt University in Berlin, says this exploitation of labor is common among digital companies despite their claims otherwise. “Platforms [also] need these workforces, otherwise they’d be struggling to find workers doing jobs under these conditions.”
Still, as food delivery orders plummet, Uber is struggling to maintain stock value. “Investors have written off food delivery as the next shoe to drop as consumers tighten up their wallets,” Nikhil Devnani, an industry analyst at Bernstein, told Reuters.
While Uber faces these allegations from undocumented migrants and unions, they also face protests from taxi drivers in Europe. As Politico writes, the protestors are angry with “how Uber circumvented regulations and courted lawmakers, including French President Emmanuel Macron, as it expanded its business.” The drivers are demanding accountability for the firm.
Whether Uber's claims about its workforce culling are true or not, this pattern of under-the-table hiring of migrants, then dumping them to be shielded from legal issues is played out again and again across Europe and North America. And this two-pronged attack against Uber in Europe is not a great look for the company either.
🎊 A Moment of Gratitude
We’re SO happy to be where we are at today! And, we couldn’t have done it without you — the Lawtrades’ community. Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for helping us reach this milestone. We can’t wait to see what’s in store next.
📤 What Else We're Forwarding
Cool-Down Period: The boom times for law firms seems to be winding down as the economy itself is cooling off. After a 2-year hiring-and-bonus spree, Above The Law wonders if layoffs are now looming across Big Law.
Minor Victory: Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, has said the organization will voluntarily recognize the M.L.B. Players Association as the formal union representative of minor league players, writes The New York Times. This marks the first players' union for the minor leagues in 100 years.
Quiet Quitters: Four in ten young workers say that they don't know what's expected of them on the job, and 18% of US employees are “actively disengaged” at work, The Hustle reports citing a new Gallup poll. The findings support a growing trend among American workers post-pandemic called “quiet quitting.”
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