Buck Rogers Copyright Suit Moved to Pittsburgh

buck rogers coverHere’s an update to the Buck Rogers copyright lawsuit filed earlier this year.

The lawsuit filed by the filmmaker Don Murphy against the author’s estate (aka Dille Family Trust) has been moved from its original venue, Los Angeles, to what I assume is the estate’s home venue, Pittsburgh:

A copyright fight between a Hollywood producer and a trust represented by a New Castle lawyer over the Buck Rogers name will be heard in Pittsburgh after the case was transferred here from California.

Producer Team Angry Filmworks, run by Don Murphy, … said in a federal suit filed this summer in Los Angeles that the Buck Rogers name is in the public domain, so he can use it.

The case was transferred from Los Angeles federal court to Pittsburgh on Monday after a judge in California said it belongs in Western Pennsylvania because Ms. Geer, who is also the defendant, lives here.


I’ve been following this case for much the same reason that I followed Leslie Klinger’s lawsuit over Sherlock Holmes. That earlier case set precedent for copyright law, and I’m expecting to see this case have a similar impact on the intersection of trademark and copyright law.

To recap, this lawsuit was filed over Armagedden 2419 AD, the original Buck Rogers story. The filmmaker wants to use it as the basis for a movie but can’t because the estate (Dille Family Trust) doesn’t want to grant a license.

According to the estate’s lawyer, Dan Herman, the film maker had twice approached the Dille Family Trust’s licensing agent in the last year to try to get a deal for his movie, but was rejected because the trust has another project in mind. “The trust got a better deal,” Herman said. “I can’t say what it is, but it’’s not a theatrical film.”

And so Don Murphy is suing.

The fun part about this case is that while the original Buck Rogers story is out of copyright, the estate may still hold valid trademarks over elements from the stories. And while the Dastar decision says that you can’t use a trademark as an ersatz copyright, it isn’t clear whether that decision is applicable.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

1 Comment

  1. A Corkman12 December, 2015

    Given Murphy produced such dreadful films as the “Transformers” series and the atrocious travesty of “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, I
    can’t say I blame the Dille Family Trust for not wanting him to get his
    hands on “Buck Rogers”….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top