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back to article Dick estate gets stiffed

The family estate of science fiction writer Philip K Dick has dropped a vexing lawsuit against movie producers Media Rights Capital and filmmaker George Nolfi, the team behind the film The Adjustment Bureau. In October the Philip K Dick family launched a legal attack against The Adjustment Bureau team, which wouldn't agree to …

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Silver badge
Pirate

Do writers dream of electric royalties?

Not when they are dead.

It looks as though the film was timed to avoid royalties but get in before another studio.

There's nothing wrong with that, but who would feel bad about not paying for the film when the film makers rather cynically avoided paying for the story?

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Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

Well, let's not forget one of most people's major beefs with current copyright law is the absurd term length.

Let's note who's suing here: "The Dick estate". That would be because Philip Dick's been dead and gone for a while. So essentially this is some people who happen to be related to a guy who wrote something cool fifty years ago wanting a big pile of money for doing absolutely nothing at all. This is exactly the kind of situation a lot of people believe copyright terms should be reduced to avoid.

In the case of not paying for the film, well, do what you will, but at least the money you would have paid would have mostly wound up in the pockets of those who vaguely had something to do with the making of the work you paid to see.

So in this particular case...I'd say I'm firmly on the side of the evil major motion picture company...

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Re: Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

When you say a lot of people want copyright time changed you should do a little research and find out exactly WHO lobbies the hardest for changes to these supposedly "unfair" laws, hint they're not folks like you and me looking forward to downloading the occasional free public domain ebook and they're not the original writers. Most of the time they're simply the organisations best positioned to both create and exploit the new law for their own gain under the guise of the new laws being 'for the benefit of the public'

Philip K Dick should have registered himself as his own publisher from the beginning, his family could then have re-published his work every 49 years in deluxe uber "extended" writer editions to maintain their rights perpetually like film studios and publishers do.

It sounds like the film producers originally agreed to pay for the property then later decided to reneg once they found a legal loophole to avoid any payment, hardly noble and righteous of them either.

Everyone involved is likely a greedy asshole. while the dead relatives of Dick may just be after money, the studio is hardly on some noble cause to free the world from copyright laws for us plebs.

The ironic thing is that the studios behind this are the last people on earth who want their own 50 year old films to move quietly into the 'free' public domain and will fight to the death and do everything possible to prevent their own loss from happening. In the meantime though though they're quite happy to continue circumventing agreements and twisting, the same laws they themselves rely on for protection to avoid paying creators for the rights to a story.

If they were that opposed to paying they could easily have chosen to write their own original film or re-name the film and not cash-in on the Philip K Dick brand.

The Dick family may be asses but they're not the only dicks or asseholes of this story.

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Silver badge

THE PRODUCERS AND THE STUDIOS..

scream out over copyright every chance they get,

Yet now we see them sneaking and conniving over how to get round copyright so THEY don't have to pay.

Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

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Flame

@AdamWill -- Re: Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

As I said in another post* on copyright earlier today, it's worth checking out this graph on copyright extension creep. There ought to be a popular revolt over something as outrageous as this.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2f/Copyright_term.svg/1000px-Copyright_term.svg.png

For starters, it's not democratic when a person, along with his heirs and successors, gets special exclusive rights and privileges that others don't get for so incredibly long, moreover the rights are FREE too (copyright automatically applies under the law).

You don't get such rights and privileges say to drive a vehicle, you have to pay for the licence and it's for only a year, 5 years or so, and it can be revoked at any time! Copyright, is a very special privilege conned under pretext. (I'm not saying for a moment copyright law should exist, just that it needs much of the privilege pruned away.)

______

* http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1320338

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Mushroom

@secret goldfish -- Re: Re: Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

"Most of the time they're simply the organisations best positioned to both create and exploit the new law for their own gain under the guise of the new laws being 'for the benefit of the public"

Spot on, but being organisations they BUY effective lobbying which we citizens can't. Methinks, we citizens need an organisation that does the same/maintain balance.

"The ironic thing is that the studios behind this are the last people on earth who want their own 50 year old films to move quietly into the 'free' public domain and will fight to the death , etc...."

Only yesterday (as a similar issue came up in posts last week or so), I reread a book of mine titled 'Technicolor Movies - The History of Dye Transfer Printing' by Richard W. Haines, (1993), and you read how the movie studios and Kodak effectively 'colluded' by making films on film stock that was extremely prone to fade (Eastman color negative/positive stock). In some instances, a theatre release print would have faded so much that it was almost useless to do the circuit a second time. Moreover, the master colour negative stock also faded and many of the studios never took precautions to back up to B&W tri-separations (these are RGB separations made onto B&W silver-based prints that do not fade).

Essentially, the studios don't give a damn about old productions unless they can milk something out of them. Moreover, since 1948 when the fade-prone stock became available, literally hundreds of movies have deteriorated to the point where it hurts to watch them because the quality is so terribly bad. The studios don't really want this stuff but its copyright keeps it out of the public domain, thus ceasing to compete against new productions.

Keeping the pool of viewable material as small as is possible and under their control is the main aim of the studios--and it's copyright law (and the lack of cultural heritage laws) that enables them to do so.

In the meantime, old films continue to rot.

Fuck 'em!

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Joke

Re: Re: Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

I believe Team America had it right:

"....Dicks also fuck assholes: assholes who just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way. But the only thing that can fuck an asshole is a dick, with some balls"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

Well I hope they stiff you out of some money someday, they already screw people (and the tax man) over with their "Hollywood" accounting practices.

Lets not forget these are the same crooks who are trying to get the general public to stop pirating their works, while at the same time they're doing their best to avoid paying for the material they use themselves.

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Re: Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

I don't make money by writing stories. The money that *I* make is paid to me up front. Consequently, if any of it is left when I'm "dead and gone for a while" will be available to "people who happen to be related" to me. Unless you are contesting the general principal of people being allowed to leave their worldly wealth to whoever they like, I don't see why authors (who don't get paid up front) should be at a disadvantage in this respect.

The debatable (political) issue is the length of time for which "Philip Dick or his chosen successors" can earn cash off the back of his creativity.

Having said that, the debatable (legal) issue is when the story was published and if the evil major motion picture company can walk into court with a copy of the magazine in question (which is perfectly possible, but by no means certain) then there is really no case to answer.

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Re: @secret goldfish -- Re: Re: Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

"Spot on, but being organisations they BUY effective lobbying which we citizens can't. Methinks, we citizens need an organisation that does the same/maintain balance."

That might work, but a cheaper solution would be to level downwards rather than upwards. Stop the corporations from spending money that way rather than struggle to find a mechanism for poor people to keep up.

I'm sure that once upon a time "lobbying" was called "bribery" and consequently not something that either the corporation or the politician would have wanted to be associated with. Somewhere along the line it seems to have been given a PR job to make it acceptable. That's the real bug with an obvious fix. All else is just symptoms and band-aids. (That rather weak analogy is supposed to be an IT angle, by the way. Apologies if it isn't working for you.)

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Re: Re: Re: Do writers dream of electric royalties?

"Unless you are contesting the general principal of people being allowed to leave their worldly wealth to whoever they like, I don't see why authors (who don't get paid up front) should be at a disadvantage in this respect."

Well frankly, I would, if there were any workable alternative. It's not remotely in line with any workable principle of equality for people to be able to pass on wealth to their descendants. Wealth is supposed to be a reward for work, right? Why should I be able to make a million dollars on my own hard work and then give it to my kid, who has qualified for it by...being born?

However, any alternative system is likely to be even worse, so it's best to leave well enough more or less alone (which has been the policy of governments for generations, except to tax as much of it as they think they can get away with). On the basis of the above, however, in those cases where our existing laws happen to prevent the generational transfer of large piles of wealth, I typically have extremely little sympathy for the 'victims'.

IOW, people who complain loudly about not being able to inherit the giant piles of wealth that are 'rightfully' theirs by birth can, by my ethical lights, fuck right off.

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Pirate

Irony?

One of the main lobbies behind perpetual copyright extensions (the movie industry) went to court to defend its use of public domain works.

Irony or just further proof that they're motivated by nothing other than greed?

IMHO the movie studio and the judge are in the right here. But then if I had my way and could set sensible terms all of PKD's work would be freely available in the public domain, because he's been dead for 30 years.

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Universal

So, the picture was produced for Universal pictures? The same Universal pictures who employed Gus Van Sant to direct a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho to extend the copyright on the original?

According to an article I read in the Evening Standard a couple of years after that remake, the reason it was made is that the copyright on the origjnal had nearly expired. By producing and hyping a new Psycho film, they could argue that the original was still a profitable part of the business and, as such, renew the copyright.

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Holmes

"Copyright law" is just another tool to pull in the rent.

Really, how can something called "The estate of the deceased writer Horselover Fat" pull in the monies on his production thirty years after his heavenly ascent and accuse others of "greed"? It's like a carpenter hammering away and accusing other carpenters of f*cking him over because they also use hammers.

Take those hammers away.

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Anonymous Coward

Beats me why filmmakers option Dick's stories

The only thing that ever makes it into the movie is the title, and sometimes not even that. EG, Blade Runner is an OK movie (though no masterpiece) but it captures little of the book. It's also not noir as is often claimed - noir movies were in focus!

There has yet to be a truly Dickian movie of a Dick story, just Dick-lite (Inception, etc)

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Gold badge

Re: Beats me why filmmakers option Dick's stories

With Blade Runner, they didn't even use the title... Although to be fair I suppose they did use a bit of the story. Not that I'm a fan of the film.

I also thought Total Recall was a fun film, and the short story it was kind of based on wasn't anything special anyway, so that's OK. Again changed the title.

However I think 'A Scanner Darkly' was pretty faithful to the book. I enjoyed it at the time. I was quite alcoholically advantaged when I saw it though (appropriately enough), so I need to watch it again to see how well a sober viewing stands up. It's a magnificently paranoid book, and I don't think the film quite managed to capture that. I watched it with a friend, who hadn't read it, and I don't think the film worked as well for him - but maybe that was the result of the dinner we'd had with our wine.

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Re: Re: Beats me why filmmakers option Dick's stories

Harsh - We Can Remember It For You Wholesale is an awesome short story, although in the anthology I have, it sits in with about another 20 stories with tediously similar "twists", and they do get a little samey. None-the-less, WCRIFYW (whew) stands out as the most interesting (and relentless) variation on the theme. Absolutely nothing to do with Total Recall, though, except in the very highest of high concepts (and you can read that however you like).

A Scanner Darkly was pretty much the book done as a movie. Superb. Well worth another viewing. The style is amazing - you get used to it until it looks photo-realistic and then you snap back to realizing it's drawn, every 15 minutes or so, which to me induced a profound sense of warped reality that matched the story brilliantly.

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Re: Beats me why filmmakers option Dick's stories

Screamers is pretty accurate too.

But hollywood is looking for ideas and inspiration. But nobody wants to do the book without changes, otherwise how can they claim to have contributed?

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Bronze badge

Re: Re: Beats me why filmmakers option Dick's stories

The story-telling tools available are different.

A good book needs a lot of work to become a good script. Even dialogue works differently when an actor can speak it.

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Screamers came the closest

Based on Second Variety. No bad for what little budget there was to make it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: Beats me why filmmakers option Dick's stories

I guess I'm just pining for someone to essay The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Possibly Alejandro Jodorovsky. Or Miike Takashi - in ClayMation

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: Re: Beats me why filmmakers option Dick's stories

And I also plan to avoid this abuse of one of my favourites -

'In May 2009, The Halcyon Company, known for developing the Terminator franchise, announced that after Terminator Salvation, they will next adapt Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said' (Wikipedia)

With any luck, they've failed to get funding

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US Copyright Complications

The original publication, whether 1954 or 1955, was under the old US system which required formal registration, and had provision for one renewal before a 28-year copyright term expired.

If it didn't fall out of copyright by a certain date, it then fell into the current US scheme.

It's that copyright renewal that is the critical issue, and thus whether the work was published in 1954 or 1955. But it is quite possible for the author of a work published under the old system to be alive today, and they would feel rather bitter about Hollywood lawyers if they were in this situation. There were other features which went against authors.

This is actually a rather big issue. It isn't so unusual for registration dates to be some time after the actual publication. Which one counts? And then there is the difference between the date of application and the date the registration is assigned by the Copyright Office.

Get your can of worms here.

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@Dave Bell -- Re: US Copyright Complications

As I pointed out on El Reg earlier today, if copyright were to be shortened to a statistical point where all but a few percent of the total* revenues--which, incidentally, is typically somewhere around 17 years, then in the event of a windfall or where it's an exception to the rule for whatever reason, extensions past this point could be granted on a year-by year basis for the duration of this newly-found popularity.

Also, copyright law could be changed to allow only personal non-profit copying after that statistical point up until a second point where both personal and organisational copyright would be allowed so long as it's for non-commercial (i.e.: direct money-making) use. The next point would be full public domain.

Such a scheme, whilst not ideal, would clean up much of the current mess with hardly any loss to the copyright holders.

___

* In the present life plus 70 years defn.

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Terminus

Whilst people are on a Philip K Dick wavelength, at the beginning of the sci-fi film Terminus (1987) a chauffer driven car has the registration plate "PK DICK".

Due to the nature of the story, see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092070/plotsummary I can only guess that the film has some sort of connection to Philip K Dick, either the writer was influenced by Dick or used a part/idea of one of his stories.

I've not found anything during websearches because the film is quite obscure and only available on VHS (apart from the dubbed Germany DVD), does anyone know if there's an actual connection between Terminus and Philip K Dick?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Terminus

Any good? Worth hunting down?

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Anonymous Coward

Of course if the movie had tanked, the Dick Foundation would have helped cover the losses I bet.

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Childcatcher

Do the copyright mafiaa dream of electric accountants?

Well, the PKD estate should just face up to the facts that movies just do not make money and they would have probably not have received any royalties anyway, after all if Return of the Jedi, possibly the 15th highest grossing films of all time is not yet returned a profit [1] or Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which cost $150M to make, grossed $938 million in worldwide ticket sales, but lost the copyright mafiaa $167M [2]. How did they ever expect a less well known PKD storey to make money? I suppose Cameron's Avatar hasn't made any money either.

Won’t somebody please think of the poor people in the Copyright Mafiaa,

[1] http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110912/13500315912/hollywood-accounting-darth-vader-not-getting-paid-because-return-jedi-still-isnt-profitable.shtml

[2] http://www.worstpreviews.com/headline.php?id=18219&count=0

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Silver badge

One thing is odd

They (the studio, producer, whatever) enter into an agreement with the estate, and now in retrospect they don't want to pay? Can a written agreement be ignored so easily?

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