Disney has been accused of failing to pay royalties to acclaimed author Alan Dean Foster for his best-selling movie novels like Star Wars and Alien, in a copyright fight that is described as unprecedented and grotesque.
George Lucas approached Foster to write a novelization of Star Wars: A New Hope, which was published in late 1976, shortly before the film’s release. Foster alleges that when Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, it bought the rights to the novel, as well as the first Star Wars sequel novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, published in 1978. Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019 meant which also acquired the rights to Foster’s novelizations of Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3. But the sci-fi author said Disney had not paid him royalties for the books, all of which are still in print and generate revenue for the movie giant. media.
“When a company buys another, it acquires both its liabilities and its assets. You are certainly reaping the benefits of the assets. I would very much like my lower case (although it is not small for me) to share ” Foster said in a public statement which was released after Disney allegedly asked him to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Foster and the US science fiction and fantasy writers (SFWA), who are helping him, claim that Disney has ignored multiple inquiries from its agents, legal representatives, and SFWA.
“I know this is what gigantic corporations tend to do: ignore requests and inquiries in the hope that the applicant will just walk away. Or possibly die. But I’m still here, and I’m still entitled to what you owe me. Including not being ignored, just because I’m a single writer. How many other writers and artists are you similarly ignoring? ” he said.
Foster said his wife has “serious medical problems” and was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer in 2016.
“We could use the money. Not charity: only what they owe me. I always loved Disney. Movies, parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show. I don’t think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me. Maybe someone in the right position just hasn’t gotten the floor, although after all these months of ignored requests and inquiries, that’s hard to tolerate, ”he wrote.
SFWA president, author Mary Robinette Kowal, called the situation unprecedented. “The simple problem is that we have a writer who is not getting paid,” Kowal said. “The biggest problem has the potential to affect all writers. Disney’s argument is that it has bought the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish a work, but they are not required to pay the writer regardless of what the contract says. If we let it stand, it could set a precedent to fundamentally alter the way that copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract is sell it to a sister company. “
SFWA asks Disney to return royalties to Foster as well as future royalties, cease publishing until new contracts are signed and pay all royalties owed to Foster, or to stop publishing forever and pay all overdue royalties To the writer.
“We’re pretty sure if we can talk to someone from Disney’s publishing arm, they’ll understand how these things are supposed to work … but we can’t get past their legal side, which is making this completely ridiculous argument,” Kowal said. at a press conference broadcast on Wednesday.
Following SFWA’s press conference on the situation, the #DisneyMustPay hashtag started trending on Twitter, with top writers voicing their support for Foster. John Scalzi asked Disney to “pay”, Cory Doctorow called Foster’s case “a great injustice”, and NK Jemisin said it was “grotesque.”
The Guardian has reached out to Disney in the UK and the US for comment.
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