Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Copyrights and Wrongs

From: The Philip K. Dick Bookshelf
(where Adjustment Team first appeared in 1954)

"Plot outline for a Philip K. Dick story:
     Hollywood buys film rights to obscure short story by famous author. Makes movie. Movie makes money. Producers then claim they never needed to buy rights in the first place. Demand their money back.
Emblematic Philip K. Dick story elements: Attempt to turn back time and murkiness of reality. Extra mind-bending plot twist: Author of original story is named Philip K. Dick.
     As Laura Dick Coelho, one of the late author's daughters, told me: 'Everything in the Philip K. Dick world is complicated.'
     She was talking specifically about the personal life of her father — she's the offspring of the third of his five marriages. But her observation applies well to the dispute over the 2011 Matt Damon film The Adjustment Bureau, which was based on Adjustment Team, a short story Dick wrote in the 1950s.
     If you haven't heard of Philip K. Dick, you're at least familiar with his work. He produced a huge corpus of visionary fiction before his death in 1982, including stories that became the basis for the films Blade Runner, Minority Report and Total Recall.
     The Dick estate, which is managed by Coelho, 51, and her half-sister Isa Dick Hackett, 44, optioned the film rights to Adjustment Team to writer/director George Nolfi in 2001 for $25,000. Nolfi, who subsequently wrote the screenplay and directed the retitled film version, had transferred the rights to Media Rights Capital, an independent studio. The producers exercised the option by paying the estate $1.4 million, with at least $500,000 more due once the film achieved its break-even point.
     But the rest was never paid. Media Rights Capital says it has learned that Adjustment Team first appeared in a cheap pulp sci-fi mag in 1954 and that the copyright was never renewed. That means the story has been in the public domain since 1982 and is available for anyone to exploit for free, like a play by Shakespeare.
     Along with refusing to pay the remaining $500,000, Media Rights is demanding return of the money it already laid out, according to the sisters."
— Michael Hiltzig, Los Angeles Times

"An award-winning Spanish novelist claims that the illegal downloading of ebooks has forced her to give up writing and start looking for a new job.
     'Given that I have today discovered that more illegal copies of my book have been downloaded than I have sold, I am announcing officially that I will not publish another book for a long time,' Lucía Etxebarria announced on her Facebook page.
     Etxebarria told the Guardian that Spanish authors faced a difficult future as online piracy spreads from music and film to literature.
     She pointed to Spain's position at the top of the world rankings for per capita illegal downloads. 'We come after China and Russia in the total number of illegal downloads but, obviously, there are a lot more of them so we win on a per capita measure,' she said. [...]
     Etxebarria, who has won several of Spain's best-known literary prizes, said she could no longer justify devoting three years of her working life to producing a book.
     Her latest novel, The Contents of Silence, was published in October and although previous books have been bestsellers, this one is ranked low down the sales list on Amazon's Spanish site.
     It is not available as a legal ebook but can be downloaded in pdf format from numerous websites. The print edition costs more than €20.
     'We decided against publishing it as an ebook because that is easy to pirate. It would have been like throwing it straight to the lions,' Etxebarria said."
 Giles Tremlett, Guardian

Buy books by Philip K. Dick and Lucía Etxebarria  here...

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