Just two months ago, the Philip K. Dick estate seemed to be admitting defeat by dropping its lawsuit against the producers of the 2011 film The Adjustment Bureau. But it turns out they're not done yet. The $500,000 lawsuit has just been re-filed, and the producers will have to try to prove all over again that they don't owe the Dick estate anything.
Justin Goldstein, the estate's attorney, filed the lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court. He told The Hollywood Reporter that the Dick family expects a different result this time around.
"The Philip K. Dick Trust continued its litigation today against producer Media Rights Capital in Los Angeles County Superior Court, filing a complaint to enforce its agreement related to the motion picture The Adjustment Bureau. We had hoped to avoid having to take this step, but are left with no choice because Media Rights Capital continues to ignore its contractual obligations. We are confident that the court will find that Philip K. Dick's heirs are entitled to receive what they were promised in return for the right to use their father's work and name in producing and distributing The Adjustment Bureau."
This particular legal mess started back in 2001, when director George Nolfi secured permission from the estate to adapt Dick's story "The Adjustment Team" for the big screen, with the understanding that he would make "substantial payments" to the estate if the film ever happened.
Nolfi and his partner company Media Rights Capital paid $1.6 million to the estate for the option to produce the film, but the estate claims that further payment was still owed based on the film's earnings. Nolfi and MRC refused to pay more, claiming that "The Adjustment Team" had actually been in the public domain all along, and that therefore they shouldn't have paid the estate a dime.
The question of whether the story is a public-domain property is still a matter of debate. Nofli and MRC claim "The Adjustment Team" first appeared in Orbit Science Fiction in 1954. The estate claims that the first official publication of the story actually came a year later. The year's difference is important, because if "The Adjustment Team" did appear first in 1954, that would mean it fell into the public domain before the estate filed a copyright renewal in 1983.
The Dick estate dropped their federal lawsuit against Nolfi and MRC back in February after the judge hearing the case threw out several key elements of their argument. The same judge also claimed that state court was the "appropriate venue" for the dispute. It seems the estate agrees with that assessment, hence the new lawsuit.
So will the Dick estate prevail the second time around? Stay tuned.