To provide context: Last year, Alan Dean Foster came to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Grievance Committee because he had written novels and was not being paid the royalties that were specified in his contract. During investigation, SFWA discovered that Disney was now the rights holder and contacted them. The initial contact refused to pay.
Disney's argument was that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. SFWA was forced to take the matter public in order to get a resolution. SFWA suspected that other authors would be similarly affected.
While we are pleased to report that the matter of missing royalties for Mr. Foster’s novelizations has been resolved, 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. SFWA has provided Disney with the names of authors who are similarly missing royalty statements and payment going back years.
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.
SFWA has attempted to create a cooperative relationship with Disney, but the corporation flatly refuses to work with us. 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.
During the initial #DisneyMustPay campaign, 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. In this scenario, Company A might sell a property to their sister company B to get out of paying royalties.
This situation is no longer hypothetical. Fox had licensed the comics rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dark Horse. 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.
The #Disney Must Pay Joint Task Force was formed 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 is comprised of the following associations and nonprofits that advocate for writers: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., (SFWA), 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. Task force members include representatives from each of its member organizations, including Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Chuck Wendig.
The committee has identified the following areas to be addressed. Disney needs to:
Honor contracts now held by Disney and its subsidiaries.
Provide royalty payments and statements to all affected authors.
Update their licensing page with an FAQ for writers about how to handle missing royalties.
Create a clear, easy-to-find contact person or point for affected authors.
Cooperate with author organizations who are providing support to authors and agents.
HOW TO HELP
Because Disney is not willing to work with the task force to identify authors and correct missing payments, we need your help to alert any authors who may be affected. If you know someone who may be affected, send that person a link to this site.
You can also show your support for this effort in a number of ways:
Use #DisneyMustPay on social media. We need your help to bring the task force’s five action items above to the attention of Disney’s decision-makers. Here are some sample tweets to share:
#DisneyMustPay by honoring writers’ contracts for the properties they’ve purchased. That means paying royalties owed and providing sales statements. A contract isn’t just a wish your heart makes.
#DisneyMustPay by creating a FAQ on their licensing page so writers can understand how to handle their missing royalties and find a clear path forward. Let’s ask ’em some questions and get some answers.
#DisneyMustPay by establishing a point of contact for writers who have not been paid their back royalties for properties now owned by Disney. Make that contact and the process for claiming royalties transparent – these are simple bare necessities.
#DisneyMustPay by working with author organizations who can advocate for and support authors and their agents that may not feel secure enough to go it alone. It’s why we exist – let us help. You’ve got a friend in us.
Do not boycott, as this will disproportionately affect those authors who are being paid.
Do purchase the works of affected authors for which they are currently receiving royalties.
Because Disney has declined to cooperate with the task force in identifying affected authors, the Disney Task Force needs your help to contact everyone who might be affected.
Please help us spread the message widely that #DisneyMustPay.