Star Wars Writers Have A Big Problem With Disney After They Say Royalty Payments Abruptly Stopped
While the name Disney has always been important to a certain consumer, it's really only been the last couple of decades that The Walt Disney Company really took over a massive chunk of pop culture following the acquisition of major companies like Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm. Rather than creating new franchises, Disney simply bought some that were already successful, and while Disney has certainly taken them to new places and found new success with them, some of the people who helped make those franchises successful are now crying foul. A number of authors of books tied to franchises now owned by Disney are in a dispute with the company over unpaid royalties.
Alan Dean Foster has written a lot of novelizations based on popular films, as well as many original works that are set in worlds established by those films. In 1977 he wrote the original novelization of Star Wars: A New Hope as well as the first original Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye. It turns out, according to a post from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, that Foster has not seen any royalties on those books since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012. And the same thing has happened more recently regarding three Alien novels written by Foster. Those royalties stopped flowing once Disney completed the purchase of 20th Century Fox.
It now appears this is not an isolated incident. It seems that most, if not all, authors who wrote books based on properties that Disney has purchased have seen their royalty payments cease. Disney had apparently previously stated to Foster that while they purchased the rights to these works, they did not acquire the obligation to pay out the royalties.
In a story in the Wall Street Journal, a Disney spokesman has stated that a review of Foster's case, specifically in regards to his novelizations of the first three Alien movies, which is what set off this whole situation, is underway, and if it is found that royalties are owed they will be paid. However, it seems likely that whatever happens, this won't be the end of the story. If Foster is paid, then there are several other books, and several other authors, that will want similar consideration. If Disney feels it doesn't owe the royalties, then we could see this issue progress further. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal suggested to the WSJ that Disney could be placed on a list of companies that the organization suggests its members avoid working with.
And certainly, paying out these royalties is no easy task. We're talking about books that are over four decades old in some cases. They have been published all over the world, and while they are still in print and still selling, that doesn't mean they're selling in massive quantities. Simply collecting this data for one book for one author could be complicated, and having to do it for everybody concerned would be an extensive effort. It will be very interesting to see how this issue is resolved.
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