It has recently become known that Disney has stiffed science-fiction writer Alan Dean Foster in regards to paying him for royalties owed on Star Wars and Alien books.
Foster wrote novelizations for the first Star Wars film, it's book sequel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and adaptations for the Aliens movies while those films were owned by Fox Studios.
Since Disney purchased Fox Studios, Disney is refusing to honor Foster's Fox contract and is not paying Foster royalties on the books even though they are still being sold.
Disney claims they own the rights to the contract but do not have to honor it, which means Disney can reap the benefits of the sales of the book but don't have to pay the writer a dime, Alan Dean Foster.
This sets a dangerous precedent as obviously all a company would have to do is to sell the rights to an IP to another company to get out of paying the rights to a contract involving copyright.
What's also messed up is that Alan Dean Foster was diagnosed with cancer back in 2016 and also has a sick wife, so it seems as if Disney is simply waiting for them to die instead of responding to Foster's claims about not getting paid for his works, again which are benefiting Disney.
It's also possible that Disney is treating other writers in a similar fashion and not paying what is owed.
Foster ended up contacting the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) association who helps out with contract disputes between writers and companies, but the SWFA notes Disney has not been responsive and is basically ignoring the matter. The SFWA says that ordinarily with disputes the two parties are never made public, as things get resolved, but this is not the case with Disney.
The SFWA and Alan Dean Foster held a press conference about the matter and released official statements, which are found below.
SFWA hosted a press conference with Alan Dean Foster:
Mary Robinette Kowal, the SFWA's President's statement:
Last year, a member came to SFWA's Grievance Committee with a problem, which on the surface sounds simple and resolvable. He had written novels and was not being paid the royalties that were specified in his contract. The Grievance Committee is designed to resolve contract disputes like this. As part of our negotiating toolbox, we guarantee anonymity for both the writer and the publisher if the grievance is resolved. When it is working, as president, I never hear from them. When talks break down, the president of SFWA is asked to step in. We do this for any member. In this case, the member is Alan Dean Foster. The publisher is Disney. Here are his words.
Alan Dean Foster's letter to Disney:
We have a lot in common, you and I. We share a birthday: November 18. My dad's nickname was Mickey. There's more.
When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote. STAR WARS, the novelization of the very first film. SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE, the first sequel novel. You owe me royalties on these books. You stopped paying them.
When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written. The novelizations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3. You've never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.
All these books are all still very much in print. They still earn money. For you. 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.
You want me to sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) before even talking. I've signed a lot of NDAs in my 50-year career. Never once did anyone ever ask me to sign one prior to negotiations. For the obvious reason that once you sign, you can no longer talk about the matter at hand. Every one of my representatives in this matter, with many, many decades of experience in such business, echo my bewilderment.
You continue to ignore requests from my agents. You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You continue to ignore my legal representatives. I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do. Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away. Or possibly die. But I'm still here, and I am still entitled to what you owe me. Including not to be ignored, just because I'm only one lone writer. How many other writers and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?
My wife has serious medical issues and in 2016 I was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer. We could use the money. Not charity: just what I'm owed. I've always loved Disney. The films, the parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show. I don't think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me. Maybe someone in the right position just hasn't received the word, though after all these months of ignored requests and queries, that's hard to countenance. Or as a guy named Bob Iger said….
"The way you do anything is the way you do everything."
I'm not feeling it.
Alan Dean Foster
Mary Robinette Kowal adds:
In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented. So too, are the problems. The simple problem is that we have a writer who is not being paid.
The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney’s argument is that they have purchased 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 precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company.
If they are doing this to Alan Dean Foster, one of the great science fiction writers of our time, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract?
To resolve the immediate issue regarding their breach of contract with Alan Dean Foster, Disney has three choices:
1. Pay Alan Dean Foster all back royalties as well as any future royalties.
2. Publication ceases until new contract(s) are signed, and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster as well as any future royalties.
3. Publication ceases and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster.
This starts with a conversation. You have our contact information and offer to sit down with a Disney representative, Alan’s agent Vaughne Lee Hansen, and a SFWA representative.
Regardless of choice, Disney must pay Alan Dean Foster.
If you’re a fan of Alan Dean Foster or believe that a writer’s work has value, please let Disney know.
If you are a writer experiencing similar problems with Disney or another company, please report your circumstances to us here.