Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Attorneys for the estate of iconic science fiction author Philip K. Dick have filed suit in US District Court in California against Media Rights Capital over what it alleges is an attempt to get out of payments for the rights to use Dick’s short story as the basis for the Matt Damon thriller The Adjustment Bureau. The complaint alleges that MRC is using the argument that the material is in the public domain. The heart of the complaint is this: When writer/director George Nolfi optioned the material from the estate in 2001, he agreed to pay $25,000 against a $1 million-$1.85 million purchase price, depending on the film’s budget, as well as 2.5% of net profits.

MRC, which bought the project in 2009 and executed the purchase of the material, paid the estate $1.4 million. The estate believes it is owed more than $500,000 that should have been paid when the film reached break even. Instead, The suit alleges that MRC has breached the contract and tried to slip out of these obligations by challenging the copyright status of the underlying material. Turns out the short story was first published on a science fiction magazine in July, 1954, but the estate claims it was done without the knowledge of the author. The first authorized publication of the material, the estate claims, came in 1973 in a collection of Dick’s stories. The complaint claims MRC concealed it would challenge the copyright until after the film was released. The estate wants MRC to live up to the terms agreed to in the original deal agreed to by Nolfi and his partner, Michael Hackett.

Justin. M. Goldstein, the attorney from Carlsmith Ball LLP who is pressing the case for The Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust, issued this statement: “Philip K. Dick’s trust and heirs were partners every step of the way in lending time, support and cooperation during the development, production, marketing and release of The Adjustment Bureau. Almost immediately after the movie was released and the money started to roll in, the filmmakers and Media Rights Capital attempted to cut the Trust out entirely, and grab every last dollar for themselves.  To try to justify this greedy move, they claim that contracts and copyright filings which they, their lawyers, and agents reviewed and approved — and which the U.S. Copyright Office blessed not once but twice — are now wrong. On behalf of the millions of fans worldwide of this visionary science fiction author, it truly saddens us that the matter had to reach this point.”

MRC could not immediately be reached for comment. Deadline will add a statement if and when it comes in.