After successfully resolving the issue of Disney’s withholding of royalty payments to former Star Wars author Alan Dean Foster, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have discovered that even more authors are currently being slighted by the entertainment conglomerate.
They have in turn partnered with multiple writers organizations to provide further help to any affected author.
The entertainment conglomerate’s withholding of rightfully due royalties to authors was first brought to light last year, when in November, the SFWA revealed that Foster had approached them for assistance in getting Disney to pay him his rightfully owed royalties.
Responsible for some of the most important ‘milestone’ novels throughout Star Wars history including the original novelization of A New Hope, Foster had asserted that Disney had stopped paying him royalties for not only the aforementioned Star Wars title, but also his novelizations of the first three Alien movies (which had been acquired by Disney through their purchase of 21st Century Fox).
“All these books are all still very much in print. They still earn money. For you,” wrote Foster in a statement to Disney. “When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets. You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets. I’d very much like my miniscule (though it’s not small to me) share.”
Following the launch of the SFWA’s public efforts, Polygon reported that in December 2020 that “four additional authors have come forward to Polygon to confirm that they haven’t been paid royalties for work now owned by Disney, for works that appear to have been transferred to other publishers.”
These additional authors included “Rob MacGregor, who wrote the tie-in novel for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as several additional tie-in novels; Donald Glut, author of the Empire Strikes Back novelization; James Kahn, author Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom novelizations; and Michael A. Stackpole, author of the X-Wing comics, Star Wars: Union, and Star Wars: Mara Jade — By the Emperor’s Hand.”
Now, several months after Disney’s uncouth business practices were made public, the SFWA have provided the public with a pair of updates on the situation, one good and one bad.
On a positive note, the SFWA announced on April 29th that they were “pleased to report that the matter of missing royalties for Mr. Foster’s novelizations has been resolved.”
Unfortunately, in regard to the bad news, the SFWA also revealed that while they were in the process of assisting Foster, “about a dozen additional authors contacted SFWA with a request for assistance, including the authors of Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones, and multiple other properties.”
The SFWA explained, “SFWA has provided Disney with the names of authors who are similarly missing royalty statements and payment going back years,” but noted that “Disney is being reactive, rather than proactively working with us to address the significant issue we have brought to their attention.”
“It should be noted that while in talks for Mr. Foster’s Alien novels, Disney was told that he was also missing statements and royalties for his Star Wars novelizations. They would not begin the process nor resume royalty statements until Mr. Foster contacted them with a formal claim,” the organization added. “SFWA has attempted to create a cooperative relationship with Disney, but the corporation flatly refuses to work with us.”
They continued, “They say they are committed to paying the authors, but their actions make it clear that Disney is placing the onus to be paid on the authors, while at the same time attempting to isolate the authors from receiving counsel from their professional author organization.”
In their initial statement in regard to Foster’s unfair treatment, the SFWA “proposed a hypothetical situation based on Disney’s position that they had purchased the rights but not the obligations to Mr. Foster’s work,” providing an example which explained that “company A might sell a property to their sister company B to get out of paying.”
Sadly, according to the SFWA, “This situation is no longer hypothetical.”
“Fox had licensed the comics rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dark Horse,” they wrote. “After Disney purchased Fox, they withdrew those rights from Dark Horse and granted them to Boom! Comics. When one Buffy author contacted Boom! about missing royalties they were told that ‘royalties don’t transfer.’ Disney is one of the owners of Boom! Comics.”
In addition to these updates, the SFWA also announced on April 29th that they had formed the ‘#Disney Must Pay Joint Task Force’, a task force which aims “to identify and guide authors who might be owed money due to the discontinuance of royalties and statements for media tie-in creative works.”
The Task Force was created in partnership between the SFWA and a number of “associations and nonprofits that advocate for writers,” including the Author’s Guild, Horror Writers Association (HWA), International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), National Writers Union, Novelists, Inc. (NINC), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and Sisters in Crime.”
As noted by the SFWA, “Task force members include representatives from each of its member organizations, including Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Chuck Wendig.”
Since its formation, the Task Force has identified five specific actions which they believe Disney must take in order to properly make amends with affected authors:
1. Honor contracts now held by Disney and its subsidiaries.
2. Provide royalty payments and statements to all affected authors.
3. Update their licensing page with an FAQ for writers about how to handle missing royalties.
4. Create a clear, easy-to-find contact person or point for affected authors.
5. Cooperate with author organizations who are providing support to authors and agents.
The task force has also compiled a list of properties “for which we have verified reports of missing statements and royalties”, which include:
LucasFilm (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.)
Boom! Comics (Licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)
Dark Horse Comics (Licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)
20th Century Fox (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien, etc.)
Marvel WorldWide (SpiderMan, Predator)
Disney Worldwide Publishing (Buffy, Angel)
Aside from providing any author suspected of being mistreated by Disney with a link to the official Writes Must Be Paid website, the Task Force has asked fans who wish to help to “not boycott, as this will disproportionately affect those authors who are being paid,” but rather “purchase the works of affected authors for which they are currently receiving royalties.”
What do you make of the formation of the #Disney Must Pay Joint Task Force? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!