The Witcher franchise is taking the world by storm. Not only has it become one of the best videos games arguably of all time, but there’s also a planned Netflix live-action TV show starring Henry Cavill. However, with that success their comes controversy and the original Witcher author Andrzej Sapkowksi, who penned The Witcher novels and short stories starring Geralt of Rivia is demanding game developer CD Projekt Red fork over $16 million.
CD Projekt Red is the company that leveraged The Witcher IP into one of the best-selling game franchises of all time. The Withcer 3: The Wild Hunt sold over 1.5 million copies in pre-orders alone. In the first two weeks after it came out, four million copies were sold. By 2017, CD Projekt Red reported the series had sold over 33 million copies.
Sapkowksi claims that CD Project Red did not fairly compensate him for use of The Witcher IP. Sapkowski is citing the Polish Act on Copyright and Related Rights as the basis of his suit. His lawyers state the Act “may be invoked when the compensation remitted to the author is too low given the benefits obtained in the association with the use of the authors work.” In fact, Sapkowski’s lawyers claim:
“Careful reading of your contracts concluded with the Author might lead one to conclude that, if the company did effectively acquire any copyright at all, it concerned only the first in a series of games, and therefore distribution of all other games, including their expansions, add-ons etc., is, simply speaking, unlawful.”
A report from 2017 indicates that CD Projekt Red paid approximately $9500 for the rights of The Witcher. Due to the wild success of the game as well as the TV show, it appears Sapkowski feels short changed. In an interview with Eurogamer, Sapkowski details the deal with CD Projekt Red:
“Well they brought a big bag of money! What I expect from an adaptation: a big bag of money. That is all. I agreed they would write a completely new story using my characters, my ontology of this crazy world. But they would create completely new stories. I said, ‘Why not? Please, please, show how good you are.”
Interestingly enough Eurogamer reports, Sapkowksi didn’t think much of the deal and video games in general:
“Simply, he didn’t think it would amount to much. He thought games were stupid, had done ever since shooting Martians on an old console plugged into a TV.”
However, his tune would begin to change as CD Projekt Red found great success with The Witcher franchise.
“I was stupid enough to sell them rights to the whole bunch. They offered me a percentage of their profits. I said, ‘No, there will be no profit at all – give me all my money right now! The whole amount.’ It was stupid. I was stupid enough to leave everything in their hands because I didn’t believe in their success. But who could foresee their success? I couldn’t.”
In that same interview Sapkowski would actually compliment the game and Eurogamer indicates he “doesn’t begrudge CD Projekt Red’s accomplishments.”
“The game is made very well and they merit all of the beneficiaries they get from it. They merit it. The game is very good, well done, well done.”
There isn’t a lawsuit as of yet, but Sapkowski definitely appears ready to head court if necessary.
CD Projekt Red responded to Sapkowski’s claims by releasing his full demands and stating:
“In the Company’s opinion the demands expressed in the notice are groundless with regard to their merit as well as the stipulated amount. The Company had legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work, i.a. insofar as is required for its use in games developed by the Company. All liabilities payable by the Company in association therewith have been properly discharged.”
What do you think? Does Andrzej Sapkowski have a point? Should authors be compensated based on the success of how their novels are used in other entertainment mediums? Let us know in the comments!