Copyfraud by the Philip K. Dick estate for Philip K. Dick stories published in 1954 and 1955

SFFaudio News

I made this infographic for myself for while researching the Philip K. Dick stories published in the years 1954 and 1955.

I find it rather stunning to look at.

The data in BLACK all comes from the form filed on November 22, 1983 and submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office under Registration Number RE0000190631 (SEE THE ACTUAL SCANS HERE).

The RED and YELLOW highlights are my own notations.

Copyright Renewal RE0000190631 for Philip K. Dick stories published in 1954 and 1955 (the bullshit and the accurate)

As you can see the copyright claimants “Laura Coelho, Christopher Dick & Isa Dick” claimed 37 stories were published in 1955. This is false. Only the 12 stories were published in 1955. The remainder, all 25 of them (highlighted in RED), were actually published in 1954 in other magazines, books, or issues. The 12 stories that were genuinely eligible for renewal are correctly noted, the 25 submitted that were not eligible are false.

What do you make of that?

To me it looks like 25 cases of deliberate fraud. To me it looks like the public has been denied its rights to these stories for nearly three decades.

Maybe there’s a math whiz out there could tell us what the chances of making 25 honest clerical errors only in the 25 cases where the clerk’s client benefits, without, at the same time, making any similar mistakes in the 12 cases where a typo doesn’t accrue a benefit to the clerk’s client (namely in those cases where a story was actually eligible for a legal renewal).

What are the odds exactly?

Posted by Jesse Willis

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9 thoughts to “Copyfraud by the Philip K. Dick estate for Philip K. Dick stories published in 1954 and 1955”

  1. Is there any U.S. IP Attorneys out there that can tell us if this absolutely invalidates the renewal? I would assume so, but remember “assume”ing can make an ass out of you and you. ;) (I have a friend who always said that.)

  2. Rick,

    I’m no attorney but I’ll make a brief response. I think a court order would be required before the entire group renewal could be declared invalid. My impression is that such an order would be the correct application of the relevant law but if such a court order is someday issued there will be delays of various sorts before the entire registration is or isn’t invalidated.

    Pragmatically speaking, I think it would be very unwise to act as if the real 1955 works are US public domain or to make any financial acts as if they are under valid US copyright before the question has been entirely settled. At the moment there is a legal presumption they are copyrighted so treating them as US public domain is definitely begging for big trouble. OTOH, I personally wouldn’t make investments that seem gambles they won’t eventually be determined not to have had their copyrights validly renewed.

    You could try looking up some websites of lawyers with an interest in copyfraud, give them a link to the page and see if any want to stick their necks out and respond to your question. I’d be surprised if anyone ventures more than opinions if there are any responses from such lawyers.

  3. Jesse,

    For another interesting infographic look at the “Short story publication history chart” on this page of The Philip K. Dick Bookshelf at http://www.pkdickbooks.com/shortstories/indexshortstories.php. I believe the years are based on magazine cover dates so a few may differ from the publication/copyright year dates as the magazines were typically published a month or two before the month on the cover but it’s notable no year reaches the 30 story mark and 1955 makes a big drop from the peak publication years of 1953 and 1954. 1955 was the year Philip K. Dick’s first SF novel was published and this chart reflects when Philip K. Dick nearly abandoning writing fantasy and SF short stories in favor of writing SF novels.

    Registration Number RE0000190631 certainly looks like fraud through a form of identity theft to me and I intend to comment about that later.

  4. Jesse,

    I just got a copy of the latest issue of the fanzine PKD Otaku by email today and was wondering if you’d like to submit this as an article for the next issue or some future issue. I’ve no involvement at the editorial level so there’s nothing official about my raising this question. Indeed, I’ve been shamefully uninvolved even as a contributor. I believe PDF versions of the previous 23 issues and maybe this one already are hosted and/or linked to the Philip K. Dick Fan Site at http://www.philipkdickfans.com/. Aha, http://www.philipkdickfans.com/resources/journals/pkd-otaku/ has the first 23 issues but not number 24 yet. You can read past issues and find the contact information if interested.

  5. Hi David,

    I’m satisfied writing for SFFaudio, but if you’d like to take it up and submit it, I’d happily see my own name as a co-author. :)

  6. Check this out, Jesse.

    There will be several shorts adapted from Philip K. Dick works (all taken from public domain stories) and a one documentary featuring his son Chris. The festival will have films from other Science Fiction writers/directors as well.
    http://www.philipkdickfans.com/2012/07/18/the-philip-k-dick-film-festival-announced/

    The article has more information plus a link to the film festival’s website. I’m hoping to see some films based on 1954 works such as Adjustment Team.

    BTW, I genuinely have no opinion about whether PKD’s son, Chris, has any knowledge about RE0000190631. I have an impression he’s not very involved with the estate’s business dealings.

  7. Going back to the March post, I’d be more interested to hear what some lawyers specializing in anti-trust law and/or fraud have to say than what “IP” lawyers have to say about this matter and copyfraud generally. Copyright lawyers seem to constantly refer to the weakness of penalties in Title 17 to deter copyfraud as the major part of the problem but overlook that many copyfraud matters can violate sections of Titles 15 and 18 of the United States Code.

    Also, that the Copyright Office has some powers to cancel or annotate completed registrations under Title 17 but perhaps invariably refuses to use those powers unless compelled to do so by a court order. The C.O. seems to have an official policy of hostility to using this authority and an unofficial policy of refusing to do so or even of informing other agencies such as FTC and FBI about known fraudulent registrations and their ongoing criminal use.

    If the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI’s White Collar Crime Division and other federal bodies with jurisdiction would enforce existing laws concerning unlawful restraint of trade, fraud, false statements, continuing criminal enterprises, extortion and such matters when copyright is involved we’d clean up some of the worst problems and deter many others. Many states also have laws concerning fraud, extortion, tampering with public records, false documents, consumer protection and other matters which acts of copyfraud may violate and which the states can enforce when the acts are committed in a manner giving them jurisdiction.

    I presume Canada and many other countries also have existing laws not specific to copyright they can or could enforce against those who use false claims of copyright in various ways though I never hear about this being done. Maybe my not hearing about it is an artifact of getting nearly all my copyright-related news, information and misinformation filtered through U.S. sources or transnational sources with vested interested.

    “I am the boss of the BBC, the monkey at the top of the media tree
    All your opinions come second-hand from me, filtered by the news we let you see” — probably not a perfect quote but close to the opening lines of “British Colonialism and the BBC” from an early Chumbawamba album.

  8. Here’s a link to a PDF of the complaint MRC filed against the estate in April asking the court to rule on the public domain status of “Adjustment Team”. http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/04/25/DickEstate.pdf

    I’ve spotted the website of a law firm with an attorney who boasts about being a former Copyright Office attorney who helped negociate a number of dreadfull copyright-related treaties and about having approved the chain of title for adapting “Adjustment Team” into the movie The Adjustment Bureau. He sounds like a good candidate for Doe #1.

    Think I’ll browse the comedy tag or Robert Sheckley for something relaxing to listen to. “Bad Medicine” has some appeal to me at the moment. This copyfraud obsession is wearing me out.

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