Public Domain Philip K. Dick Stories

I sense something brewing with the issue of incorrectly managed copyright renewals and Public Domain Philip K. Dick stories. We have already seen the news about the producers refusing to finish paying for the rights to Adjustment Team and there are eleven stories that have been put into Project Gutenberg that I have archived on this site also. These facts appear to be generally known.

At SFFaudio.com there have been two articles that makes me believe first that they are researching the topic and second that there are many other short stories that are now in the Public Domain that few people realize. Their article Commentary: Philip K. Dick’s PUBLIC DOMAIN short stories, novelettes and novellas is the most stunning for me. The article details the status of each story and I count twenty-six in the Public Domain with seven more likely.

These are the stories in the Public Domain:

  1. Beyond Lies The Wub
  2. The Gun
  3. The Skull
  4. The Defenders
  5. Mr. Spaceship
  6. Piper In The Woods
  7. Second Variety
  8. The Eyes Have It
  9. The Hanging Stranger
  10. Tony And The Beetles
  11. Beyond The Door
  12. The Crystal Crypt
  13. The Golden Man
  14. Prominent Author
  15. Small Town
  16. The Turning Wheel
  17. Breakfast At Twilight
  18. Exhibit Piece
  19. Shell Game
  20. Adjustment Team
  21. Meddler
  22. The Last of the Masters (aka Protection Agency)
  23. Progeny
  24. Upon The Dull Earth
  25. Foster, You’re Dead
  26. Human Is
These are the stories likely in the Public Domain:

  1. Roog
  2. James P. Crow
  3. Survey Team
  4. Time Pawn
  5. The Chromium Fence
  6. A Surface Raid
  7. Vulcan’s Hammer

Another article,Copyfraud by the Philip K. Dick estate for Philip K. Dick stories published in 1954 and 1955, color codes a copyright form and most of the stories are listed to be in publications or issues that they do not appear in. The vividness of this image jumps out at the reader.

This is the list of incorrect entries:

  1. Shell Game
  2. James P. Crow
  3. The Golden Man
  4. Small Town
  5. Survey Team
  6. Foster, You’re Dead!
  7. Upon the Dull Earth
  8. The Turning Wheel
  9. Prominent Author
  10. Sales Pitch
  11. Breakfast at Twilight
  12. Of Withered Apples
  13. Jon’s World
  14. The Crawlers
  15. Time Pawn
  16. A World of Talent
  17. Adjustment Team
  18. Souvenir
  19. Progeny
  20. Human Is
  21. Meddler
  22. The Last of the Masters (aka Protection Agency)
  23. Strange Eden
  24. Exhibit Piece
  25. The Father-thing

There is some overlap but I think that the years covered are 1952-1955 and that the research beyond those years hasn’t occurred yet. At the rate this is going there won’t be much that isn’t in the Public Domain. This would be a huge waste of potential revenue that Electric Shepherd Productions will lose if they no longer own the rights to all these stories. And I’m not aware of the legal aspects or issues if any of the films made have recourse to sue for fraud.

17 Responses to “Public Domain Philip K. Dick Stories”

  1. Lord Running Clam Says:

    I was doing some PKD research this morning and came across this site. They seem to have VALIS and several other PKD novels published in full!
    http://www.naderlibrary.com/dick.VALIStoc.htm
    I, too, wonder what is going on with copyright on PKD writings. Is it a free-for-all anymore as sites like the Ralph Nader Library indicate?

  2. David Keller Says:

    Hey there Lord RC,

    I don’t know what that website said but VALIS is copyrighted. AFAIK, all his novels are unless you count “Time Pawn” and the magazine version of “Vulcan’s Hammer” as novels. I don’t know if you’re familiar with how the US copyright system worked back when it was reasonably rational. Copyright wasn’t compulsory. Greatly oversimplified and relevant to the years 1952-1963 it was like this. From 1909 until the late 1970s if you wanted copyright protection for something you had to apply for copyright and meet certain requirements to have it granted for 28 years. You could renew a copyright once if you applied for a renewal during the last year before it expired. Copyrighted works still in their first term when the law changed profoundly were given automatic renewal (whether you wanted it or not) which is why 1963 is the relevant cut off year. Under the old system once the copyright term(s) ended the work entered the public domain–theoretically that happens under the new system also though I’m more likely to see the term extended again before I die than to see things start going into the public domain. A lot of PKD’s early works didn’t get renewed and entered the public domain. Compare Copyright Renewal Registration Number RE0000190631 to a bibliography and you’ll see it includes 12 works published in 1955 plus 25 works alledgedly published in 1955 that don’t exist but have the same titles as 25 works that were published in 1954 and entered the public domain on January 1, 1983 because their copyrights weren’t renewed in 1982 and copyright expired. These 25 include “Adjustment Team” and “Shell Game”. AFAIK, the estate aggressively claims to own much that it doesn’t and gets away with this because it’s rich and ordinary people can’t even afford the expense of winning a lawsuit. It also gets away with this because the Consolidated Media-Interlocking Boards of Directorate News Outlets don’t choose to report certain fully documented information even when it’s handed to them on a platter.

  3. David Keller Says:

    Things are definitely brewing and I hope will come to a boil resulting in a court order declaring all of Copyright Renewal Registration Number RE0000190631 invalid. Be sure to check out all the links in the article quoted from below.

    I don’t know if any people involved in the suits (or potentially involved as Does) have truly clean hands but am excited to see the bogus copyright issue is going to federal court for a determination of validity.

    One day after the Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust filed their latest Adjustment Bureau suit in state court, defendants Media Rights Capital responded. The company today filed an action in federal court to determine whether “Adjustment Team”, the Dick short story on which the 2011 film was based, is in the public domain or not. (Read the filing here.)

    http://www.deadline.com/2012/04/mrc-fires-back-at-philip-k-dick-trust-with-adjustment-bureau-court-action-of-its-own/

  4. David Keller Says:

    The Hollywood Reporter is on the story also and the legal squabbling has enough oddities, human interest and “show business kids taking movies of themselves” qualities to give me hope it will get coverage in general public oriented news. Maybe even spark some serious discussion of copyfraud and why it’s such an important public issue. I’d love to see Democracy Now! report on this.

    ‘Adjustment Bureau’ Case Takes Strange Turn With Dueling Lawsuits
    UPDATED: Media Rights Capital files suit in federal court over the 2011 film, a day after the Phillip K. Dick estate refiles its own case in state court.
    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/adjustment-bureau-lawsuits-media-rights-capital-315721

  5. David Keller Says:

    I’ve been unable to find a public statement from the estate about Copyright Renewal Registration Number RE0000190631. Has anyone spotted such a public statement that I’ve missed?

    Has anyone even contacted them directly asking them about this copyright registration and received a reply?

  6. Bobby Johnson Says:

    Very interesting.
    I wonder what the situation of the film is away from the country – it’s a movie derived from a PD text, so the movie might be fine but anyone trying to print the story in the UK, Canada, ect – will have to wait 50 to 20 more years.

    Ironic really, 8 years ago Ellen Datlow, editor of the online SciFiction website couldn’t get permission from the estate to print any stories whatsoever, they being sniffy about online access. Would love to see ‘Time Pawn’ and other novellas that were turned into novels but never printed in the collected stories, to be in the PD. Thanks

  7. Puzzles, Bottles, Collaborations, Philip K Dick, & a Dream | Silber Blog Says:

    [...] am in talks with Joe Badon (Built) about doing a comic book version of one of Philip K Dick’s public domain works.  It’ll be a long term thing to work on for sure.  We’ve got it narrowed down to [...]

  8. David Keller Says:

    Bobby Johnson,

    (Reminder: I’m not a lawyer. Also I’m going to ignore some very extraordinary possibilities that are incredibley improbable and bewildering.)

    The movie is derived from a work that is public domain in the United States and countries that don’t apply the law of the shorter term to US public domain works but it is copyrighted in some countries. Where the story is copyrighted the movie is going to be subject to the copyright laws that apply to derivative works including contract and other laws that may be relevant. Distinction between the 3 heirs, the estate and the Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust (don’t be mislead by that name; Phil died intestate) may be important and variable in countries where the story is copyrighted because they may not agree who owns the rights in each country. I believe Canada normally applies the rule of the shorter term which roughly means if something is public domain in its “home” country it’s public domain in Canada but it doesn’t do that to US works because of a NAFTA treaty provison it agreed to although the US didn’t agree to treat Canadian works the same way.

    The estate is presently in two active lawsuits in the US related to the matter with one being a federal suit seeking a determination of the invalidity of the estate’s copyright claim to “Adjustment Team” which is a followup to the estate’s suprising federal lawsuit seeking a determination of the validity of its claim to copyright on “Adjustment Team” and other matters. The court bifurcated (split) that suit dismissing all claims except the copyright one saying they should be handled by the California state court system but agreeing the copyright issue belonged in federal court. The estate dismissed the suit after that so there was no ruling on the copyright issue. Assuming this current suit doesn’t go away I don’t know if the decision will be limited to “Adjustment Team”, some or all of Copyright Registration RE0000190631 or what. I doubt if anyone with enough money and interest to go to court over the copyright in another country would do so before a US decision occurs or fails to occur. I don’t know what’s happening with distribution of the film or whether this is having any publicly apparent effect.

    The federal court documents are fascinating yet mindnumbing. So is the court system. “In a democracy ignorant and meddlesome outsiders, the general public, must be kept specators but not participants.”

    I hadn’t heard about Datlow trying to get permission from the estate to use any of the stories online. It remains very aggressive about suppressing. The Internet Archive, Librivox and many lesser known sites have removed public domain PKD stories due to threats of lawsuits.

    “Time Pawn” may show up here someday.
    Philip Kindred Dick – Wikisource, the free online library
    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Author:Philip_K._Dick

  9. David Keller Says:

    “And I’m not aware of the legal aspects or issues if any of the films made have recourse to sue for fraud.”

    At least one film is recent enough that suits for fraud can and have been filed. I think the subject deserves an article on this site with the public records from the lawsuits (and the Copyright Office) archived on the site and linked to the article so we can attempt to follow along, comment on them, make more informed opinions than possible from just what and how Big Media chooses to report (mostly nothing or press releases), get some insight into how the technical aspects of lawsuits make them prohibitively complicated and expensive for ordinary people to have true access to the court system, be more aware of legal aspects and issues involved and get more insight into the estate which presumably does control access to all the novels and many of the short stories and nonfiction pieces written by Philip K. Dick. This may also give us more insight into what sort of messes the estate may be facing regarding book publishers and others they’ve entered into contracts with and how that could affect us, the fans of PKD. May even give a heads up that it will be time to ignore our budgets and buy copies of any PKD books or other materials we don’t already own in case there may be such a snarl that they become unavailable for some time.

    Also, specially relevant to this site is that its original creator, Jason Koornick, appears to have been a victim. Notice that one of the public domain stories was alledgedly optioned (or whatever) to Jason long ago though the movie wasn’t based on the screenplay he wrote or co-wrote. Think the story was “The Golden Man” and the movie was “Next”. I read about the movie screenplay development in a Wikipedia article some time ago but it can’t be too hard to find if I’ve named the wrong story and movie.

    BTW, the “producers” (to use a label of convenience) aren’t just refusing to pay more money; they are also suing for return of money already paid. I predict many other people and businesses will be filing suits and/or making similar demands if the estate loses the federal copyright suit. Apparently the estate has taken in massive amounts of money from sale of rights it didn’t possess and harmed many people and organizations through legal threats based on claims it possessed monopoly rights it didn’t possess.

    There are two active lawsuits concerning “The Adjustment Bureau”/”Adjustment Team.” An earlier one was dropped.

    The first was a federal suit the estate filed with multiple issues. After the judge split the copyright issue from the other issues which he said should be tried in California state court, the estate dismissed the suit rather than continue seeking a federal court ruling that “Adjustment Team” is not in the public domain.

    That case was Laura Archer Dick Coelho v. MRC II Distribution Company LP et al. See Laura Archer Dick Coelho v. MRC II Distribution Company LP et al :: Justia Dockets & Filings
    http://dockets.justia.com/docket/california/cacdce/2:2011cv08913/515743/

    I intend to get the full set of publically available documents through PACER or someone who has already gotten them from PACER. Information about PACER and Justia is below.

    Now the estate is the defendant in a federal suit over copyright status and fraud as the former defendants want a federal ruling that “Adjustment Team” is in the public domain in the United States and was fraudulently misrepresented as being protected by copyright in the US and internationally. The copyright status in some other countries will vary depending on the copyright status in the US because the US is the “home country” and this is seriously complicated and very important for many reasons. In the case of The Adjustment Bureau, international distribution is an obvious matter where this is important.

    This case is MRC II Distribution Company LP et al v. Dick Coelho et al. See MRC II Distribution Company LP et al v. Dick Coelho et al :: Justia Dockets & Filings
    http://dockets.justia.com/docket/california/cacdce/2:2012cv03539/530403/

    To continue oversimplifying greatly and perhaps inaccurately, my understanding is that a state court can make a decision about validity of a copyright claim as a matter of evidence in a specific case if copyright validity is necessary to decide the issues of the case but it can’t really rule whether a copyright claim is or isn’t valid so that matter wouldn’t really be settled. Copyright is exclusively a matter of federal law so only a federal court has jurisdiction to make a truely binding decision or to order the Copyright Office to cancel a copyright registration. MRC may be seeking a cancellation of Copyright Registration RE0000190631 in its entirety, not just a ruling that “Adjustment Team” is in the public domain in the United States. RE0000190631 is a single registration for a group of contributions first published in a single calendar year in serials (serials means periodicals in this context). Group registrations such as this only require a single filing fee but they have some strict requirements about what can be in the same registration and a ruling about one or more contributions in a registration can affect the whole registration. My understanding of the applicable law is that in cases involving group renewal registrations from the time when renewal was a requirement to extend copyright protect beyond the initial 28 years an invalidation would invalidate everything in the registration in the circumstances alledged due to legal provisions intended to deter fraud. And MRC is alleging 24 of the 37 contributions in RE0000190631 are fraudulent. 25 are demonstrably false by my count but I’ve been known to make errors.

    Here are links to public records from the current federal copyright lawsuit about “Adjustment Team” and Copyright Renewal Registration RE0000190631 obtained from the PACER system. They should be the full set filed so far. The links should be good for 21 days since the last time someone downloaded them if mediafire hasn’t changed its terms for free uploads.
    http://www.mediafire.com/?iaazn73ii1l86c2
    http://www.mediafire.com/?6kcxxrib5ykekrc

    The active suit in California state was filed by the estate and alledges a lot of things. I intend to get whatever documents are available for this case also unless CA court documents are significantly more expensive to get than federal ones. At the moment all the information I can offer is either incorporated in the current federal suit or from The Hollywood Reporter.

    Philip K. Dick Estate Re-Files ‘Adjustment Bureau’ Lawsuit – Hollywood Reporter at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/adjustment-bureau-philip-k-dick-estate-files-315187 has a link to a watermarked copy of the complaint at
    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/custom/Documents/Conformed_complaint1.pdf

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  10. Mike Conan Says:

    “I’ve been unable to find a public statement from the estate about Copyright Renewal Registration Number RE0000190631. Has anyone spotted such a public statement that I’ve missed?

    Has anyone even contacted them directly asking them about this copyright registration and received a reply?”

    I never did end up finding a statement, but there must have been one somewhere. Funny how these things end up dying down, huh?

  11. Greg Weeks Says:

    It’s not dead, it’s just in the middle of an ongoing court case. I’ve not checked when the next deadline is for court filings, but it’s usually months between them.

  12. Greg Weeks Says:

    That sucks. All of the discovery material is now confidential and won’t be posted on PACER.

  13. Greg Weeks Says:

    Interesting. The estate is still trying to pull the “Orbit wasn’t an authorised publication”

    http://ia600702.us.archive.org/23/items/gov.uscourts.cacd.530403/gov.uscourts.cacd.530403.31.0.pdf

  14. David Keller Says:

    Has either side addressed the 1958 publication of “Adjustment Team” in Australia? It would make very good sense for MRC to do this though it’s certainly another bullet the estate would want to dodge.

    A claim the Australian publication wasn’t an authorized publication would seem necessary in order to assert that foreign publication didn’t make it public domain in the US in 1958 if claiming the 1954 Orbit publication in the US with notice wasn’t authorized since there was no US publication within 30 days of the Australian publication.

    A somewhat related question is whether either side has addressed the fact that the estate has been including the 1954 Orbit publication in copyright acknowledgement pages from the 1980s until around the time of the first Copyright Renewal Registration Number RE0000190631 related lawsuit. Unless, of course, the publishers have been using the 1954 Orbit publication in copyright acknowledgement pages without the estate’s knowledge and authorization. ;-)

  15. David Keller Says:

    A year ago in comment number 2, I screwed up editing and wrote, “Copyrighted works still in their first term when the law changed profoundly were given automatic renewal (whether you wanted it or not) which is why 1963 is the relevant cut off year.” I intended to write something like, “Copyrighted works still in their first term when the law changed profoundly needed to have their copyright registrations renewed if published before 1964 but were given automatic renewal if published after 1963 which is why 1963 is the relevant cut off year.” Apparently I meant to cut a digressive comment about compulsory copyright but cut something near it instead which significantly changed the meaning of my statement.

  16. Greg Weeks Says:

    Does anyone have document 40 and 41? That should be the last bit of information we get. I suspect it just says that the case is dismissed with no determination of copyright status.

  17. Joel Richards Says:

    Any updates on this? Has there been a definitive decision or move forward? How can such a landmark issue be buried in obscurity. Is FICA holding trial over Dick’s stories? (Come on you know he’d love that)

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