Genre Authors Form Task Force To Demand That Disney Pay Back Royalties
A group of well-known authors have teamed up on a joint task force to ensure that Disney Must Pay royalties. This comes months after news that well-known Star Wars novelist Alan Dean Foster has not been receiving royalties for his published work. The issue arose when Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012. The acquisition included the bulk of the Star Wars Expanded Universe – they have since become non-canonical stories called Legends. Much of Alan Dean Foster’s early Star Wars novels like Splinter of a Mind’s Eye were among those titles. And despite the fact that these books are still in print and selling, Disney has not been paying authors like Alan Dean Foster the earnings they are due.
The SFWA Joins Forces With Other Organizations To Hold Disney Accountable
Image via the SFWA
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America stepped in with an open letter from current president and author Mary Robinette Kowal. In an unprecedented move, she had to publicly demand Disney respond to these complaints. But time passed with little response from Disney. So now, the SFWA has joined forces with a host of other writer’s organizations to demand culpability. They are joining forces with other organizations like the Author’s Guild; Horror Writers Association, National Writers Union, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. The DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force includes notable authors across a variety of genres. This includes people like Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal and Chuck Wendig.
Alan Dean Foster | Image via the SFWA
Mary Robinette Kowal has been blunt about what Disney has done wrong, and the mistreatment of the writers by the large corporation.
“Writers must be paid or given missing royalty statements; these contracts must be honored,” she says. “We urge all authors to review their statements to make certain they are in order. SFWA wishes 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 organisation.”
The Task Force Also Has Implications For The Comic Book Industry
Image via Boom! Studios
The task force has created a website to help identify other authors who may be owed royalties from the major corporation. Because if Disney isn’t paying big names like Alan Dean Foster, then they are almost certainly stiffing younger and less experienced writers as well. There are also many Disney subsidiaries who are being taken to task for not paying royalties. This includes major publishers like Boom! and Dark Horse Comics along with production companies like 20th Century Fox and MGM, and of course Lucasfilm.
According to the website for the Disney Must Pay task force, several of Alan Dean Foster’s royalty complaints have been resolved. But as a result of the open letter published by the SFWA a number of other writers have come out with their own stories of missed royalty payments. So the work of the task force is ongoing, to ensure that all the authors get paid their due.
One of the complaints centered around licensing rights for media tie-in comic books. As detailed on the website: “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.”
Image via Disney Plus.
The Disney Must Pay task force lays out clear guidelines for what they want to see change in the industry. This includes honoring contracts – both new and old, as well as updating the confusing rules around royalty payments. And above all else, they must cooperate with the writer’s organizations that are in place to protect authors.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.