Philip K Dick Estate Sues Over “Adjustment Bureau”

The family of Philip K. Dick is suing Media Rights Capital and filmmaker George Nolfi claiming over royalties from this year’s The Adjustment Bureau.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claims Nolfi approached the estate 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 at a “bargain” rate of $25,000 per year, but in exchange, Nolfi said he would make “substantial payments” to the trust if the movie ever happened. These payments totalled several million dollars when budget and box office bonuses are factored in, according to the suit.

Eight years later, Nolfi set the movie up as a writing and directing vehicle for himself at Media Rights Capital with Damon starring and Universal Pictures releasing. But a month after the film was released in March 2011, Nolfi and MRC allegedly said they discovered “an issue with the copyright chain of title for Adjustment Team” that the defendants now claim allows them to make the movie without paying the trust anything. The suit calls this theory absurd: “So, despite having gotten their benefits of the bargain, defendants seek to deprive the trust of its side of the deal,” the complaint alleges.

The trust claims the filmmaker and MRC capitalized on the value of Dick’s name and negotiated a deal in good faith, and thus should be required to pay up.

“Using heavy-handed means, they seek to ‘adjust’ agreements entered into long ago, ‘adjust’ determinations made long ago by the U.S. Copyright office, and even ‘adjust’ history so as to hoard any and all monies rightfully earned by the estate of the man whose genius inspired what is indisputably a highly successful film,” the complaint states.

The defendants are MRC II Distribution Company, MRC Holdings, Oaktree Entertainment, Nolfi and Michael Hackett. Universal is not a defendant.

The suit alleges causes of action for breach of contract, money had and received, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, as well as declaratory relief as to copyright rights and rights under contract.

Comments

  1. Tyler M. says

    This will be an interesting case to follow. Because the original copyright was never renewed for Adjustment Team it is technically Public Domain. The direction the court decides on this will be one to watch.

  2. says

    Hmm, The Adjustment Bureau always struck me as such a great ‘thing:’ regardless of quality, it was a PKD adaptation that was successful; should serve as a template for the future (Ubik, please), but alas, it too had issues surrounding it

  3. James W. Barclay says

    There should be a “Ripoff” award given to the most blatant usurpation of a writer’s works for a movie or television series. If there was one I would hand it enthusiastically to the producers of the film “Adjustment Bureau”. though this movie has made $126 Million it will not pay the $500,000 for the assistance and work of the Philip K. Dick Trust (a nonprofit), administered by the family of Dick, and the use of PKD’s name. Further, its corporation, MRC, counter sued and won based upon its claim that the Trust had “abandoned” the suit in Federal Court (Probably because the trust could not withstand the legal expenses). It stated “it couldn’t be happier” with the decision. This is not a review of the movie, but a comment on the seemingly greedy and pscyo-pathological behavior that is the ‘sine qua no’ of today’s version of a capitalistic society (and not the one envisioned by Aaron Burr, Adam Smith or Thomas Payne). Writers get thee to the mostest and bestest Entertainment Contract lawyer you can find before you sign your works away. And urge others to do the same. Meanwhile, lets have that “Rippy”.

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