Monday, September 10, 2007

Problems with the PKD Society Newsletters

I received an email from Isa Dick yesterday morning explaining that the estate owns the rights to the Philip K Dick Society Newsletters. I spoke with Laura Leslie, the estate's trustee this morning and she asked that I remove the first newsletter from the blog. Apparently the trust may have arranged for much of the content of the newsletters to be published elsewhere (details of this are very fuzzy but I hope to learn a bit more in the next few days).

I have to say I'm a disappointed - and frankly I don't agree with the estate's decision but I have to respect their wishes. I do hope that the estate makes the contents of the newsletters more widely available sometime soon. Paul Williams worked so hard to keep Dick's legacy on life-support for those first few years after his death and the newsletters represent the first serious examination and appreciation of Dick's work. They're such a great resource for those of us doing serious academic study of PKD's work.

I'm willing to wait until the Newsletters become public domain.

I won't let the newsletters become kipple.

Please keep those messages and well wishes for Paul Williams coming. Either email them to me or post them in the comments section of this post.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did you make any attempt to make sure they do in fact own the copyrights to the material? Not trying to be lame, it's always good to be ethical, but it wouldn't be the first time someone claimed ownership over something that wasn't theirs.

Another approach might be to quote short passages and discuss the implications of the passages from a "fair use" perspective.

Wavedeform said...

I wonder if they really own the material? I would think that Paul Williams has a better claim. Maybe the PKD estate made a deal with Paul that slipped through Paul's memory cracks, though.

philipkdicktrust said...

To all you who follow David's blog - you may wish to know the reason why we asked David to remove the PKDS newsletter. Here is the text of my email to David:

David,
Thanks so much for the email.

Unfortunately, we can't put the newsletter online. It causes problems for us with our publishers as we've now worked out ways to publish much of the material with them. Also, the people who wrote the letters and graciously provided the photographs did so with the understanding that they were only for the newsletter.

Out of respect for these PKD supports who have come before you and helped PKD to be remembered today (publishers, family, friends and those who provided the photos) I ask that you remove the first issue as well.

Thank you so much for supporting this.

Laura A. Leslie

Henri said...

Do androids milk the electric sheep?

palmer_eldritch said...

henri, you genius! I did laugh. So they're going to put out an 'official' load of PKDS stuff are they?

philipkdicktrust said...

David,
I have to comment further to say that I think putting the newsletter out on web is a great idea. But before that's done I want to be respectful of all those wonderful people who have been so gracious and supportive of my father since he died. I really feel obligated to clear their material with them in advance. So someday, it will be out there! But as a mom of two teens and trying to fulfill all the other needs of PKD's legacy this might take some time! But it's on my (big) action item list, along with finding a way to publish the Exegesis.

Laura

palmer_eldritch said...

Ask 'em via here, Laura. Anyone out there who contributed material to the PKDS society newsletters who doesn't want to see it on this blog, raise your metal hands.

I'm not being completely facetious here, btw. Just mildly.

Henri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MDK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MDK said...

First of all, Thank you David and Paul for coming to this agreement to post the newsletters online. I hope your feeling better, Paul.


Yes, it is unfortunate that we can't currently read them online. I believe Phil would have wanted them to be freely posted.

Were the contributers paid for the information that they released to Paul at the time the Society newsletters were first published?
If not, then it should be Paul's decision as to whether or not they are posted, as well as when they are posted.

I will concede, however, that I may not be privy to all the needed information as to form a well regarded opinion.

By the way, Laura & Isa, when will any new material be released on the PKD website? It's been a while ;)

David Keller said...

IIRC, general copyright of the PKDSN was held by the estate. After the first issue the newsletter increasingly included material whose copyright was retained by the individual contributers such as myself, Tim Powers, Gregg Rickman, Bernie Kling, Greg Lee, Dave Hyde and *many* other people. I don't know if any of us anticipated internet distribution of the PKDSN so can't state whether any would object to free distribution of the PKDSN issues here, other than the one objection which has been made. I was certainly pleased by the announcement the issues would be here and glad to reread the first issue without having to locate and dig it out of whatever box it's been stored in since I moved.

Apparently Paul, who was formerly literary executor of the estate of Philip K. Dick, unintentionally exceeded his authority when he gave permission to post the newsletters on your site. The trust certainly holds copyright to enough material in all issues to prevent posting the full issues here if it chooses. I'm disappointed by the choice which has been made.


"I have to comment further to say that I think putting the newsletter out on web is a great idea. But before that's done I want to be respectful of all those wonderful people who have been so gracious and supportive of my father since he died. I really feel obligated to clear their material with them in advance. So someday, it will be out there!" seems disingenuous at best. I am unaware of anyone from the trust attempting to contact any of us who do hold copyright to material in the newsletters and I'm in contact with at least a few others. I don't believe it will be possible to contact all copyright holders of material in the issues of PKDSN even if the attempt is made. Too many people have changed addresses, changed phone numbers, changed names and/or died in the intervening years.

I had no objection to you eventually using whatever material I may hold copyright to in an issue or two of PKDSN. Your intended posting of the newsletters online was in the spirit of the hard copy newsletter.

The newsletter did have a subscription price and I believe Paul has been making the hard copy back issues available for the equivalent of the subscription price with no objection from anyone. This has always seemed to be covering costs rather than for profit although the estate always seemed to have an indirect financial benefit from the newsletter (publicity, goodwill and such).

I find it disturbing that the trust is objecting to free public distribution of the newsletters online now apparently because it would interfere with the trust making money from publication of some material in the newsletters elsewhere, stating that "I really feel obligated to clear their material with them in advance." and states a future intention to place the issues online when it obviously will not be able to contact and "clear" material in advance with many people.

Does copyright law require additional permission from copyright holders to publish the newsletters online in addition to hard copy publication? I don't know. But if it does I also don't know how the trust can put them online later without infringing copyright when it doesn't hold copyright to all contents of the newsletters. An explanation from the trust could go a ways to showing the respect mentioned in the emails from the trust.

"Unfortunately, we can't put the newsletter online. It causes problems for us with our publishers as we've now worked out ways to publish much of the material with them." by itself would have been better IMO. Indeed, it might have been more palatable if more specific depending on what those problems are. Could involve a contract violation, for example.

palmer_eldritch said...

Thanks Mr. Keller, that's the kind of answer I was after. Just whip out the photos of PKD and any writing of his or his relatives that were in the newsletters, then post them back up, is what I say. A compromise and capitulation, but so what? Life's too short.

cal said...

Does copyright law require additional permission from copyright holders to publish the newsletters online in addition to hard copy publication?

Yes, it does. There's very little ambiguity in this matter. As Paul Williams did not negotiate copyrights from authors, nor did he purchase reprint rights in perpetuity, then each contributor must approve the re-publication of their contributions, whether in print or electronic format.

But if it does I also don't know how the trust can put them online later without infringing copyright when it doesn't hold copyright to all contents of the newsletters.

Prior to such a publication, the publisher would obtain clearance from all associated contributors. David did not obtain clearance from either the estate or the contributors. He acted on the good faith assumption that Paul Williams owned the copyright to all material in the newsletters. (Or perhaps he didn't think about copyright at all. Either way, he acted without malice.) The estate and/or publishers would be in a far better position to contact those contributors, regardless of address changes or other difficulties. If a print publication was being sought, the estate/publisher would be in the position of offering remuneration to the contributors.

Those wishing to denigrate the estate ought to keep in mind that there would likely be no PKD books to read were it not for the continued work of the estate. It is the estate which pushes the legacy of the author. As for the financial remuneration the estate receives (and is thus in the interest of protecting), anyone who would begrudge the estate of profits from their work is, in my view, quite petty (not to mention naive).

Henri said...

Thank you Cal for enlightening us on the copyright laws.
You are such an intelligent android.

I am sure you would fail the the Voight–Kampff empathy test.

Darryl Mason said...

Paul Williams was kind enough to give me a number of hours of his time back in 2001 and 2002 when I was doing interviews for a coming biography. It's terrible news to hear he is not well, but it explains the unanswered and bounced back e-mails.

I still think Paul's Rolling Stone piece on PKD is probably the best short or long biographical work I've read on the man, the writer and the wildly imaginative myth-maker. It's all PKD, even the bullshit.

Even though the section where Paul and Phil chew through the various conspiracies and theories they've concocted about what happened during the infamous 'break-in' should be viewed as possibly PKD's best collaborative fiction effort, it is still pure PKD - a dash of fact, lots of fantasy and plenty of wild humour.

Sometime after the book is published, I will make available the Paul Williams interview transcripts to this blog. The interviews with Paul were easily some of the best interviews I did during the research period, and the biography is more complete for Paul's help in drawing the facts from the myths of PKD's life and the creation of some of his novels.

The Society newsletters would be a wonderful addition to the online archives of PKD's work, as would all of his letters. Just because they're published online doesn't mean people won't buy them in book form. There are plenty of PKD fans who are becoming completists and avid collectors. As long as the prices charged for collections of his writings aren't over the top, and the presentation of the books make them must-haves, fans will snap them up.

But having re-read the entire collection of Society newsletters a few months ago, I can see why the Trust would want to hold back some of the information, particularly some of the accusations made against Phil in the letters sections.

On Laura's question about what to do with the Exegesis - Scan every page, register a website, ask for volunteers to help build the pages, do a web page for each page of the Exegesis and provide a typewritten version of Phil's sometimes spidery handwriting on the same page.

Then open up the comments for the Exegesis' pages so readers can contribute footnotes on the references PKD makes on each page, helping to explain the esoterica, or to fill in the knowledge gaps on how what he wrote in the Exegesis ties back to his published work. There really is no other way to do it.

It's questionable whether these deeply personal notes of an author wrestling with his art and his soul should have ever been published in the first place, but since a slab has already been edited and published by Larry Sutin, the rest may as well go online.

Who knows what gold some Gnostic researcher or biblical scholar or quantum scientist may find in all those scrawlings.

Also, the official PKD site is horrifically barren of material. Surely there are a few more stories than can be published there, or at least a few dozen letters, perhaps one or two a month to keep people coming back.

And why not First Chapters from some, or all of his novels? Particularly on the back of the New American Library editions.

Why not invite well-known writers to contribute essays to the site? 50 writers choose a novel or short story each and write a few hundred words. One goes up each week for a year. It's a hell of a way to promote the novels and short story collections.

If someone like William Gibson wrote a short essay on The World Jones Made, for example, and it was published on PKD.com, it would be instantly linked to hundreds of websites and blogs across the world. An instant audience in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.

PKD.com should be a site for building and expanding the PKD 'community' across the world.

But you have to give people a reason to keep returning, each and every week, if not each and every day.

philipkdicktrust said...

If I spent a lot of time reading all the criticism leveled at "The Philip K. Dick Trust" and the "Philip K. Dick Estate" I'd probably kill myself.

So many of you are so incredibly harsh with so little information.

You clearly all know better than I do what is right and what actions should be taken. And you suspect everything I say. So I guess I'm going to give up trying to communicate it's simply too painful.

I don't have the time or emotional energy or strength to take all of this.

Getting the benefit of the doubt doesn't seem to be the way things go here.

You all have simply no idea.

It's frustrating and disappointing.

Laura

palmer_eldritch said...

I'm really sorry you feel that way Laura - is it just based on the comments here or are you getting shitloads of flak all the time? I don't know. I certainly didn't intend my comments to be hurtful, so if they were, I truly apologise. I mean, I'm just a fan and not a particularly hardcore one at that. There's just something in your father's writing that speaks to me, that's all. And it speaks in different ways every time I read it but always in the right way, for me.

The legal ramifications of copyright I know less than nothing about. Cal's comment is equally informative and scary, to me. As is his/her nom de plume, but I guess I have a childhood reading 2000AD to thank for that! My suggestion was genuinely aimed at keeping everyone happy in the situation as I see it. And I apologise yet again for my ignorance.

Mr. Mason's ideas are much more encouraging and positive, I think, but no doubt something about them would upset someone. The first name that springs to mind for what he suggests is the 'Dickipedia', which itself could start yet another argument...

MDK said...

Laura - I can only speak for myself - I am truly sorry for all the pressure and negativity you feel from some of your father's fans. I don't believe it is personal. It's OK. You're OK.

You have impossible shoes to fill and no one will ever be fully satisfied. But, please,PLEASE, press on. You ARE doing the right thing.

Your father would be, IS, proud of you. I know, sometimes you wish you weren't born into this situation. Me too, but it is a necessary thing we all must do.

Please visit my website, Laura. Perhaps you may find reason and purpose in my Impermanent Insanity.

cal said...

Laura:

The know-nothings probably don't even buy the books. For every mouthy twit like Henri, there are dozens of sensible and polite readers, scholars, and other admirers.

When safely hidden behind internet anonymity, people are often harsh, even cruel, in their comments. What would be perceived as petty selfishness in "real life" is sometimes magnified into obsessive megalomania online.

You have done great work for Phil, Laura. Your service to his legacy has, in my view, demonstrated more respect and love than offered by grubby fanboys who just want more for less (and are probably downloading copies of books, films and other materials even now). Sociopathic babies like Henri think they're clever, but someday, when he surpasses the age of 14 (mental or physical), he may see the light.

Thanks for all your hard work, Laura. As they used to say back in the day, KEEP ON TRUCKIN'!!!

x/o
yr pal cal

David Keller said...

"As Paul Williams did not negotiate copyrights from authors, nor did he purchase reprint rights in perpetuity, then each contributor must approve the re-publication of their contributions, whether in print or electronic format."

Cal, I hope you aren't stating hard copy back issues of the newsletter can't continue to be sold at a nominal price or given away (presumably by whoever the trust chooses to handle that matter). Back issues have been available since the first issue. I don't know if publication rights were purchased from anyone or negotiated with anyone other than to ask permission to use material. It would seem all contributors had a reasonable expectation the newsletter issues would be printed and available indefinitely (as an inexpensive fanzine)and implicitly consented to this--barring any contributors who may have stipulated some limitations which I suppose is possible. I hope you are only refering to publication outside the context of the hard copy newsletters as a nominally priced fanzine when you refer to reprint rights in perpetuity and need for contributor approval of re-publication. Keeping back issues available of a fanzine feels like continuous publication rather than re-publication to me but I don't know what the legal position is in regard to this situation.

Publication at a price that changed the nature of the newsletter from a normal fanzine to a commercial venture would seem to be a different matter but there are no indications this will become an issue. It would be a shame if this fine fanzine became completely unavailable except for used copies.

Did you include me among "Those wishing to denigrate the estate"? I did criticize something specific in a derogatory manner (and regret the lack of tact) but that is different than denigrating the estate/trust, per se.

Well, I may have written more than is of general interest already. Feel free to contact me by private email or on the list if you want to discuss matters that may not be of general interest here further. I'd definitely like a clarification of your take on the law concerning re-publication versus "continuous publication" since it would also be important in regard to back issues of Radio Free PKD.

Darryl, you wrote, "But having re-read the entire collection of Society newsletters a few months ago, I can see why the Trust would want to hold back some of the information, particularly some of the accusations made against Phil in the letters sections." Perhaps the trust is more protective of PKD's image now but let's not forget the estate was behind the publication and editing of the PKDSN when that information was chosen to be printed and the trust has stated a desire to put the issues online. Anyway someone from the trust has stated that. I don't know how the trust is structured, administrated, what contractual obligations may limit or require actions by the trust, to what extent different members agree on various matters or can speak officially for the trust. However protective of PKD's image the trust actually is now it may feel so much weird stuff gets written about Phil nowadays that overall the newsletters would be more beneficial than harmful anyway.

Darryl Mason said...

I also think the Trust has done a spectacular job of keeping PKD's legacy alive, and making sure that his 'straight' fiction novels of the 1950s got the kind of release they deserve.

I've seen In Milton Lumpky Territory and Mary And The Giant on the shelves of tiny bookstores in outback Western Australia. The last place in the world I expected to find lesser known PKD books like these.

I hope Laura didn't take offence at my suggestions, or desires, for what philipkdick.com could become. Like all dedicated, or addicted, PKD fans I want as many people as possible to share in the experience of discovering his novels and short stories, and then spreading the word.

We do live in a very PKD reality today. Lucky then we have the work of PKD to help us get through it. That is, to be able to find the humanity amongst so much inhumanity. Or perhaps that should be anti-humanity.

The news that there is a TV series, anthology, on its way (based on twelve PKD short stories) is wonderful, and a major step forward in the mainstreaming of Philip K Dick's work. The family trust should be congratulated for helping to make that a reality.

cal said...

I hope you aren't stating hard copy back issues of the newsletter can't continue to be sold at a nominal price or given away (presumably by whoever the trust chooses to handle that matter)

I'm not saying that at all. First, I don't have the complete details of what rights were negotiated between Williams and the contributors, so cannot accurately comment on what rights Williams does retain. But assuming nominal or standard publication rights - such as First North American serial rights - were negotiated, then Paul has the right to reproduce and sell the newsletters for many, many years. (And his own estate will likely retain those rights.)

By "reprint" I meant in another edition, such as a volume collecting the newsletters, or a CDROM containing the newsletters (assuming electronic/digital rights were not negotiated). "Back issues" would be covered under the original rights negotiation, but a new publication would likely require re-negotiation of rights.

Did you include me among "Those wishing to denigrate the estate"?

No. You appear to be a gentleman who, thought critical of the estate's action, manage to be respectful of the intent of the action. Your follow-up post also demonstrates sensitivity to the feelings of the family and others involved with the estate.

palmer_eldritch said...

FWIW I don't think anyone here is denigrating the hard work of Laura, Isa and anyone else involved in the PKD Estate. The conflict seems to have come about from ignorance of copyright law with respect to posting/publishing the newsletters on this blog, not some 'grubby fanboys' attempt to get something for nothing. And Henri's remarks are certainly facetious but his heart's in the right place, so to speak. You've only got to look at his web site to see that.

tuffy777 said...

I realize that this is a very old blog post, but I just now came across it. If the PKD Trust reissues a certain letter to the editor in the PKD Society newsletter, and they know which one I'm talking about, then they are opening themselves up to a lawsuit for libel. I will pursue it quite vigorously. I don't mind being criticized, but that letter is a great big lie that libels both me and Phil.
~~ Tessa
~~~