Galaktika scandal

Piracy by Galaktika: They Are Doing it Since 2004

2016. július 14. 14:16

The legality of the Galaktika magazine was questionable from the first edition, but what may be worse is that its publisher, Metropolis Media also released a book without any sort of permission. We checked all the editions of the magazine stretching back to 2004; we contacted multiple authors, agencies, and estates via email and in doing so we determined that the suspicious practices that we wrote about in March is a tendency that can be perceived since the rebirth of Galaktika. Here is – hopefully – our final article on the Galaktika scandal.

After a considerable amount of correspondance with different authors in March 2016, we published an article dealing with the illegal practices of the fantasy and science-fiction magazine, Galaktika. In 2015 Galaktika reprinted a lot of stories by foreign authors without permission. Not only was there no permission, but in most cases the authors were uninformed about the publication and were therefore exempt from royalties or a contributor’s copy. You can read more about the authors affected in 2015-2016 here.

Either Galaktika reprinted short stories that are available online for free; or the magazine reprinted short stories otherwise found in anthologies. An extra-ordinary example of the first practice can be found when the magazine reprinted a number of tiny stories written by popular authors and located on the website of Popular Science. There were also a number of publications, which did not fit these categories but in which cases these authors were also oblivious to the publications. The chief editor, Burger István then told us that the world of intellectual property is complicated; however, afterwards we spoke with Mezei Péter – an expert on the subject – who cleared up the misconception that although certain stories may be accessed free online, the authors are still protected by copyright laws and this is personified in the countless angry letters originating from affected authors.

As was promised in the previous article, we examined all the editions of the Galaktika magazine dating back to 2004; we also attempted to contact the authors; and in the case of an author’s death we contacted the agencies, publishers, or estates. We were unable to reach all those affected, however we did receive enough letters to establish that since the offset of the magazine there have been cases of unpermitted publications every year. In fact, despite the claims of the magazine, even their book publishing had been similarly affected.

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Galaktika placed emphasis on reprinting stories by the grand masters of sci-fi, fantasy, horror genres dating back to even the 19th century. This can be witnessed from the very beginning when in the first edition in November 2004 authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley and Poul Anderson were included. We were able to reach the agencies of Poul Anderson, Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke, who stated that Galaktika magazine had no right to publish their clients’ work (not only in this case, but in all concerned cases). The agency representing the Asimov estate has only recently taken control and therefore was unable to give a statement.

When we last contacted the agency representing the Anderson estate (and fifteen other affected authors), they claimed that negotiations were underway with the publisher - more on that at the end of the article. The agency representing the Clarke estate stated that after our first article on this issue all previous debt was settled by the publisher. ˝Copyright protection is essential to the survival of these stories and our industry, and we are very reassured to know that there is such a strong SF community in Hungary which is holding those like Galaktika to account for their actions˝ - stated that representative of the company towards Mandiner. We also inquired towards the books of Arthur C. Clarke reprinted by Galaktika. It turned out that besides the reprinted short stories, there was also at least one novel that needed to be discussed between the parties; but we have no further information about this issue. (Sources tell us that this novel may be 2001: A Space Odyssey reprinted last year.)

Coming back to the grand masters: besides Clarke, Anderson, and Baxter, the agencies of Terry Pratchett, George R. R. Martin, Robert J. Sawyer, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, Nancy Kress, Jack Williamson, Michael Flynn, Kim Stanley Robinson, Hal Clement, Leigh Brackett, Cordwainer Smith, Philip José Farmer, Jack McDevitt, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, Jack Vance, Robert Sheckley and Richard Matheson also gave no permission for the reprinting of the authors’ works; similarly, Larry Niven was also not informed that his works were being reprinted. Vance’s agency later informed us that the two parties came to an agreement. A regularly occurring author was Michael Swanwick, winner of the Nebula Award and nominee for many others; he too was oblivious to his works being reprinted; neither were the successors of Philip K. Dick or Tanith Lee informed. These authors alone had a work reprinted nearly every year, all of which were illegal. This however is only the tip of the iceberg.

Tanith Lee – who passed away last year – actually realized that he had been robbed; however, at this time the publisher applied a tactic often used by them: the magazine apologized; paid its debt; and as a gesture of good faith, offered to purchase another work from the author. That is how after two pirated short stories, Ken Liu allowed to reprint a third one. That was also the case with David D. Levine. Galaktika told Tanith Lee that they printed her work without permission in order to test whether her style met the demands of the Hungarian public at all. Such practices do not exist legally, even in such cases the publisher is required to request permission.

Let’s continue with 2014,

and the recent masters of the genre. The magazine in 2014 was also dominated by those short stories found on the internet and anthologies. Helena Bell’s story appeared on Clarkesworld, she too was uninformed of the reprinting; Palm Tree Bandits, written by Nnendi Okorafor originally found on Strange Horizons was also translated and appeared illegally in Galaktika. Other authors were reprinted in the same way: Carrie Vaughan originally on Lightspeed; Dale Bailey on Tor.com; Genevieve Valentine on Futurismic; Damien Broderick on Subterranean Press; Vylar Kaftan on her own site; and finally, Moshin Hamid in the Financial Times. Their short stories later appeared in Galaktika.

Other similar cases can also be observed: Jane Yolen even contacted the publisher but received no answer; Ray Cluley, Karen Jay Fowler, and the previously mentioned Larry Niven, Richard Matheson, Robert Silverberg, Jack McDevitt, Philip José Farmer, George R. R. Martin, Joe Haldeman, and Michael Swanwick all are also part of this group. Furthermore, Kij Johnson who had the same story twice reprinted – once in 2014 and once in 2015 – as well as other works in 2009, 2010, and 2014 was completely ignorant of these instances. Johnson became aware of these illegalities after reading our article; his lawyer later contacted the magazine. Just as in 2015, there were a number of works reprinted out of the There Won’t Be War and the Year’s Best SF ’14 anthology, for example: the works of Kathleen Ann Goonan, Jeff VanderMeer and Paolo Bacigalupi. You can read about these in the previously provided link.

2013: short stories without permission and fake interviews

Just as in previous years, the publisher was happy to pick from internet sources such as Strange Horizons (L.J. Daly, Elizabeth A. Lynn), the New Yorker (Thomas Pierce, Zadie Smith) or Tor.com (Rachel Swirsky). Both Smith and Swirsky confirmed that neither were aware of their works being reprinted, in fact the latter was even surprised that her work was viewed as science-fiction. Madeline Robins, the American writer whose short story was reprinted in June without her permission told us that she is pleased that her work has found its way across the ocean, but feels she deserves to know ahead. Stories originating from Larry Niven (two), Poul Anderson, Michael Swanwick, Jack Vance, Ken Liu, Tanith Lee (two), Richard Matheson, Nancy Kress (four), Connie Willis, Jack McDevitt, Robert J. Sawyer, Theodore Sturgeon, and Jane Yolen were all reprinted without permission.

Mary Robinette Kowal, Greg Bear, and Mike Resnick were all unaware of their presence in the magazine; in fact, Resnick had two more reprinted alone in this year, but also one in 2005, 2008, and 2010, all without permission. Fadz Johanabas was similarly astonished that his work – originally published in Australia – was translated. The translators must have had a difficult time with the title of Steven Brust’s short story because the original title, Valóság and Élet would have seemed odd in Hungarian - these are Hungarian words. Therefore the title was translated to ˝Werkelijkheid és Leven˝. All without permission from the author.

Although we focused mainly on stolen short stories, there were a number of interviews which we also examined; these were done by a mysterious journalist called Kantum Linda, who conversed with the biggest Hollywood celebrities. There were interviews with Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott in consecutive months, which is especially unusual considering the size of this Hungarian magazine. It soon became obvious that this Kantum Linda is a fictive person (possibly an alias for the magazine director Mund Katalin) and after some Google searches it we were sure that she held no interviews with these personalities. Large portions of the Spielberg interview can be found here, while the responses to other various questions can be found as a direct translation on this video. The interview done with Ridley Scott was pieced together from translation of this and this interview.

My story is about a noncommercial gift economy”

Our earlier article spoke about Lily Yu, who submitted a story to Galaktika in 2011, which appeared without her knowing in 2012. Besides the earlier mentioned Swanwick, Baxter, and Levine there were others such as Aliette de Bodard, N. K. Jemisin, Charles Stross, Hayden Trenholm, Jim Aikin, George Saunders, Kathryn Cramer and Bruce Sterling who were similarly ignorant to their works being reprinted. Sterling ironically stated that he isn’t surprised in the least bit considering his story is about a noncommercial gift economy.

Out of all those authors we contacted, it was those who appeared in the 2011 editions that were first contacted by the publisher. The widower of Eugene Foster – whose works appeared both in 2011 and 2006 – responded to our letter by stating that in both cases they were informed of the reprint and were even paid the due royalties. The same could be said about Lavie Tidhar, who was paid by the publisher for ‘The Dope Fiend’. However the following authors were not as fortunate as these two: Steve Rasnic Tem, John Jakes, Lawrence M. Schoen, Jim Gardner, Daniel H. Wilson, Bruce McAlister, Cordwainer Smith, David Langford, Benjamin Rosenbaum and Piers Anthony

We got fewer responses from authors published in 2010. Ian Watson, the Overseas officer of the Grievance Committee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was well aware of the reprint; similarly, Jeff Carlson was informed, however he neither received the predetermined payment, nor the contributor’s copy. Carlson contacted the magazine after our article in March; however he has only since received a promise. Those uninformed were Greg Mellor, the Italian writer Luigi Brasili, and Robert Reed, who had previously become infuriated with the magazine. In his recent blunt response Reed also stated that the magazine had wisely chosen his best work. Furthermore, the works of the previously mentioned Kij Johnson, Tanith Lee, Cordwainer Smith, Robert Heinlein and Mike Rensick all appeared without permission.

The piracy dates back to 1985

We received more uncertain responses prior to 2010, all of which could be associated with: alterations in agencies; lost data; fading memory; alternate email accounts; as well as death all proved to make our work and the responses of the agencies more difficult. Let’s start with those who gave permission for their work to be translated and reprinted; it must be said first of all, that in this period more cases arose where proper practices were followed. For example, in Theodora Gross in 2009; Daniel Keohane in 2008; Mark A. Rayner, Ruth Nestvold, the previously mentioned Eugie Foster in 2006, and Kelly Link in 2005 all received decent treatment.

Despite this, there were many cases where no permission was given, and this includes the following authors: Richard Matheson (2009), Michael Swanwick (2005, 2006, 2007), Robert Reed (2007), Jack Williamson (2005, 2007) Jerry Oltion (2006), Stephen Baxter (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009), Nancy Kress, (2005, 2008), Kij Johnson (2009), Karen Jay Fowler (2009), Larry Niven (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009), Robert Heinlein (2007) és Bruce Sterling (2005). Besides these writers, there was a number of those were informed through our article: Bruce Bethke (2009); Robert Hood (2008); Ian McDonald (2006 and 2008); James Stoddard, Bruce McAllister, Tim Pratt and Liz Hand (2007); Walter Jon Williams, Nick DiChario, Colin P. Davies, Dale Bailey (2006); Richard Foss in 2005; and John Kessel in 2004.

Let’s now jump back in time to 20 years ago. A number of comments directed our attention to the first phase of the magazine when it was led by chief editor Kuczka Peter between 1972 and 1995, a time where supposedly similar practices could be found. We did not follow-up these rumours; however one thing is certain: that a short story written by Spider Robinson was reprinted in 1985 without permission.

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After sifting through 12 years of Galatika, we can establish a number of things. It was a strongly inaccurate, possibly even an outright lie from editor-in-chief Burger István, when after our previous article he stated that they were not thorough, considerate, or swift enough considering some of the foreign short stories published by the magazine. Starting from the first edition of the magazine it can be stated that most of the short stories deal with problems relating to copyright laws, all of which cannot be blamed on thoroughness, consideration, or swiftness but rather on the fact that magazine’s business model is based on reprinting without permission.

According to Mr. Burger, Galaktika does not make profit for them. Following our first article, they sent out a statement to the affected agencies, which appeared in Hungarian also. There is one paragraph though, which was omitted in the Hungarian version: “At Galaktika, it is a decades old tradition to give Hungarian readers a taste of the world's finest science fiction and fantasy, and its mission is to raise the profile of new authors and spread the love of reading among today's youth. Unfortunately this mission gets harder and harder because the Hungarian market is small due to the language barriers, and so the magazine cannot really earn a profit, in fact ever more often it is the book publishing that has to help finance that of the magazine.”

Mr. Burger also stated that concerning the royalties of the novels, everything has been taken care of; this may in fact be true considering that the only known problematic novel was dealt with following the release of our article in March. However, the response given by Mr. Németh Attila to A. G. Carpenter seems false; the literary editor of Galaktika stated that for personal reasons he handed over the tasks dealing with royalties to others and in doing so, was only informed of the issues after the release our article in March. Unless this commission was given prior to 2004, it seems quite unlikely.

The director, Ms. Mund Katalin also provided false information when upon answering the question from Cat Rambo, head of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, she stated that certain editions of the Galaktika can only be purchased for two months at the newspaper stands. In reality, every single edition of the magazine can be ordered from the Galaktika website, while those released post-2011 can also be accessed electronically through Dimag. The editors of Strange Horizons have already demanded to make those editions inaccessible, which have stolen material from their authors; so far these demands have not been answered.

In conclusion, one must reiterate the following: that beginning from 2004, the creators Galaktika magazine began publishing SFF short stories under a brand-name which was well-known and respected in Hungarian science-fiction and fantasy circles. However, as both our previous, and current article has already proven: this task was completed by regularly and blatantly violating copyright laws. At the same time, they used the old Galaktika name to collect different sources of contribution, for example through the state-owned Szerencsejáték Zrt.

After the completion of our article, we received a letter from the Hungarian Kátai & Bolzai literary agency, which is representing many authors affected by this issue. They informed us that one of the foreign agencies with which they are in contact with are close to an agreement to settle the issue of the illegal reprinting of works from 16 different authors, including Poul Anderson, George R. R. Martin, Kim Stanley Robinson and Larry Niven. We hope that this agreement will be successful and that it will mean a breakthrough and set a precedent for the remaining authors who are yet to be compensated.

Update (15/7/16):

Both Ray Cluley and Steve Rasnic Tem informed us that since our last email they were paid and got contributor's copies as well. Another author was not that fortunate: Galaktika refused to pay him, because his short story was reprinted more than five years ago. In addition, they offered to reprint another short story, and pay a larger sum for that one.

Let us quote that from the mail the author got from Galaktika: “Your short story was published in xxxx which was more than x years ago. So your claim is time-barred. More over during these years ownership sturctures changed as well. So we can't pay you for this short story. But if you have another short story that we could publish, we would pay you larger amount than what we usually pay. We usually pay 10-20 USD for a story. Now we would pay you 30 USD. I know that this is a very small amount but our budget doesn't allow more. You are absolutely correct that you are entitled to a compensation but please let me remind you these: our market is unfortunately much, much smaller than in English speaking countries. Additionally, this isn't a first publication, just a reprint in translation.”

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Pintér Bence is a journalist and editor at Mandiner since 2012. He is the editor-in-chief of Mandiner.sci-fi. Apart from that he penned an alternate history novel, A szivarhajó utolsó útja with Pintér Máté. This article is the translated version of the original Hungarian one. The translation was made by Pártay Róbert. 

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