Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Which May Be When the Copyright Claims are Worked Out

The character of Anthony “Buck” Rogers first appears in Philip Nowlan’s 1928 novel ARMAGEDDON 2419 A.D. (itself a combination of two novellas that appeared in the AMAZING STORIES magazine) and serves as an origin story for the character. Rogers, after a mine cave-in, falls into a state of suspended animation and wakes up in the 25th century amidst a futuristic war.

The ARMAGEDDON novel is out of copyright, as under US copyright law, it was entitled to protection until 1956, at which point the copyright needed to be renewed by either the author or owner. It never was, and entered in to the public domain in the U.S. at that time. It currently can be read for free on Project Gutenberg.

Under most non-U.S. copyright laws based on the Berne Convention, a work is covered for a period of “life plus 50.” Nowlan died in 1940.

There is little doubt that the character of Buck Rogers originated from the original ARMAGEDDON novel, yet that hasn’t stopped the Dille Family Trust, an entity representing the estate of the John Dille, from asserting copyright claims over him.

Above is the introduction to a 2015 Boing Boing article about copyright hassles surrounding the Buck Rogers character.

That original Boing Boing summation was two and a half years ago. Now they have posted an update.

It seems Flint Dille and the Dille Family Trust (of which he is a part) are fighting over who, if anyone, has the rights to “Buck Rogers”. And the Nowlan Family Trust, descendants of the original author of the character, have introduced trademark claims into the copyright fight.

Two things to keep in mind:
Rogers Anthony, the author of the essays, obviously favors author Flint Dille’s claims.
And “Rogers Anthony” is a pseudonym, riffing on the name of fictitious hero Anthony ‘Buck’ Rogers.


Here’s the first years of the Buck Rogers comic strip as produced by Phil Nowlan and Dick Calkins beginning in 1929.