Disney gives up paying royalties to ‘Star Wars’ novelists

When the Walt Disney Company spent $ 4 billion to acquire Lucasfilm in 2012, it was racking up the value of a galaxy of characters, sagas, and intellectual property. In no time, Disney released a new trilogy, independent films, a blockbuster series, a theme park and more, all in the service of the world of Star wars. But as Disney rakes in billions Star wars income, they refuse to pay royalties on franchise novels.

According to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America association, Star wars novelists were excluded from royalties, as were other novelists in the 20th Century Fox library, which include books set in the worlds of Extraterrestrial and Buffy the vampire slayer, among others.

One of these novelists is Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the original novelization of Star Wars: A New Hope and wrote countless Star wars innovations since. In his initial contract with George Lucas in the 1970s, Foster received $ 7,500 up front, with a 0.5% royalty on sales that has since earned him several times that original fee. Foster, a notable name among fans around the world, is now around 70 years old and doesn’t understand why a multi-billion dollar company like Disney is losing him a few thousand dollars.

“I am not Steve Spielberg. I am not Steve King. I don’t even have a name that starts with Steve, ”Foster said. He only discovered the lack of royalty checks after the Disney-Fox merger in 2019, when he abruptly stopped collecting royalties for all three. Extraterrestrial novels he wrote. His lawyer contacted Disney, where he was told that even though the company had acquired the rights to the books, it was not liable for any royalties.

If that sounds ridiculous to you, imagine what it must have been like for Foster. “Disney bought a house with a mortgage on it. They want to continue living in the house. They don’t want to pay the mortgage,” he said succinctly. And he’s not alone: ​​Donald Glut, who romanticized The Empire Strikes Back, and James Kahn, who wrote the book for Return of the Jedi, both claimed that there was also a lack of royalty controls.

In an open letter to Disney, Foster wrote, “All of these books are still very printed. They are still making money. For you. When a company buys another, it acquires its liabilities as well as its assets. You are certainly reaping the benefits of the assets. I would very much like my tiny (although not small for me) to leave.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America association is raising awareness of the issue with the hashtag #DisneyMustPay. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal released a statement saying:

“In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented. The problems too. The simple problem is, we have a writer who is not paid.

The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney’s argument is that they bought the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set a precedent and fundamentally change the way copyright and contracts work in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sister company.

Disney issued its own statement, saying, “We are carefully reviewing whether any royalty payments may have been missed as a result of the integration of the acquisitions and will take appropriate corrective action if so.” It’s still a confusing decision given that these royalties are just a drop in the bucket for the multibillion dollar company.

Many have taken to social media to support Foster and his fellow authors, demanding that Disney pay these writers what they are owed.

(via Wall Street Journal, featured image: Del Rey / Ballantine Books)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

—The Mary Sue has a strict comments policy that prohibits, but is not limited to, personal insults towards anybody, hate speech and trolling.—

Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected]