When you're a massive company like the Walt Disney Company there are going to be lawyers working on one legal action or another on a regular basis. Many of those battles never reach the public eye but when a major movie star files a lawsuit against your movie studio, people notice. Scarlett Johansson believes she's owed money by Disney and now another group that's looking for the company to pay out, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has publicly made a statement of support for Johansson's lawsuit.
Last year science fiction writer Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the first novelization of the original Star Wars as well as the first "expanded universe" novel Splinter in the Mind's Eye, revealed that after Disney purchased Lucasfilm, he stopped receiving any royalty payments on his Star Wars related work. And the same thing happened more recently; after the deal between Disney and Fox was complete, he reportedly ceased to be paid on a pair of Alien books he had written. While Foster's issues with Disney have apparently been resolved, the public disclosure led to many other authors revealing they were in a similar situation and SFWA formed the Disney Must Pay Task Force in order to try and get all its members properly compensated.
In a statement to io9, SFWA criticizes Disney for what it calls "unethical contractual maneuvers to avoid payment" and makes a connection between what the company is doing in the Scarlett Johansson case and what has happened to its writers. The actress' lawsuit against Disney is for breach of contract. Johansson claims that when the decision was made to release Black Widow on Disney+ at the same time as it opened in theaters, it violated the deal between the two, since a significant amount of the actress' compensation was tied to the film's box office performance.
While the two situations aren't perfectly identical, we are talking about two groups dealing with the nuances of contracts and so it's understandable why SFWA would want to publicly back Scarlett Johansson here. Both see Disney as using those nuances to avoid paying what is properly owed.
None of the situations with SFWA writers have resulted in any actual lawsuits as far as we know. More than likely Disney would like to avoid that, and since they were able to come to terms with Alan Dean Foster, it would seem likely they can do the same with any other writers, even if it takes time to do so.
As far as the Scarlett Johansson lawsuit goes, the case is currently on pause after the judge has offered to recuse himself from the case due to a previous relationship with the Disney company when he was a practicing lawyer. Both parties have one week to agree to keep the judge, or a new one will be assigned the case. Disney has asked the court to move the case to arbitration.
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