The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and author Alan Dean Foster held a press conference November 18, 2020, claiming that Disney has been withholding payment for Foster’s work on Star Wars and Alien novelizations. According to their press release,
Foster was originally contracted to write the Alien novelizations by Titan Books, and the Star Wars novelizations by Lucasfilm. Both companies regularly paid his royalties. When The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to these novelizations in 2015, the payments stopped although the books continue to be sold. Disney continues to get money for the books. Alan Dean Foster, and possibly other authors with similar contracts, have not been paid.
Foster brought the issue to SFWA’s grievance committee last year. SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal said,
In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented. So too, are the problems. The simple problem is that we have a writer who is not being paid.
The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney’s argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company.
If they are doing this to Alan Dean Foster, one of the great science fiction writers of our time, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract?
For more information, see the SFWA website.
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