February 17, 2012 12:35pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Philip K. Dick Estate Drops 'Adjustment Bureau' Copyright Lawsuit (Exclusive)
The estate of author Philip K. Dick has agreed to dismiss its high-profile lawsuit against The Adjustment Bureau producer Media Rights Capital and filmmaker George Nolfi after a judge threw out key parts of the case.
The dismissal papers were filed today in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
As we first reported in October, the estate of the late sci-fi author sued MRC and Nolfi claiming they were refusing to pay millions of dollars in roylties from the 2011 film starring Matt Damon because they believed the story that formed the basis for the film was in the public domain. A judge tossed portions of the case on Feb. 8, ruling on a motion to dismiss that it didn't have jurisdiction over several key claims.
The backstory on this case is interesting: the Dick estate claimed Nolfi approached it in 2001 seeking rights to The Adjustment Team, Dick's 1953 story about a group of men who "adjust" the lives of ordinary citizens. The estate agreed to license the story, with Nolfi saying he would make "substantial payments" to the trust if the movie ever got made.
Years later, Nolfi and MRC paid the estate $1.6 million to exercise an option to produce the movie for Universal Pictures. But a month after the film was released in March 2011, Nolfi and MRC claimed they discovered that Adjustment Team was in the public domain, which should have allowed them to make the movie without paying the trust anything.
The issue came down to when the Adjustment Team story was first published. MRC and Nolfi claimed the story had first been published in an periodical called Orbit Science Fiction in September 1954. The Dick estate claimed that the 1954 publication was a mistake (even though it was apparently authorized by Dick's longtime agent), and that the actual first publication came in 1955. The difference between publication in 1954 and publication in 1955 is huge because it would mean that under federal law, the story fell into public domain before the Dick estate filed for a copyright renewal in 1983. (He died in 1982.)
With the judge declining to exercise jurisdiction over contract claims in the case, the Dick estate faced an uphill battle. The dismissal without prejudice on Friday suggests it's a battle the estate doesn't want to fight.
MRC and Nolfi are represented by Michael Kump and Jeremiah Reynolds at Santa Monica's Kinsella Weitzman firm. Justin Goldstein and Jay Handlin of LA's Carlsmith Ball firm rep the estate.
MRC issued the following statement to THR: "We could not be happier for our partner George Nolfi now that the lawsuit concerning The Adjustment Bureau, brought by the heirs of the Philip K. Dick estate, has been dismissed. George is not only a talented artist but an individual of the highest integrity and to claim or suggest otherwise is both offensive and completely unwarranted."
Estate lawyer Goldstein issued the following statement: "The judge's ruling and our decision to dismiss the remaining portions of the federal case had nothing to do with the merits of any of the claims. The judge only concluded that state court is the appropriate venue for the dispute."
The Dick estate might decide to re-file the case in state court to pursue contract and other claims, or it could refashion the entire suit.