Star Wars author Alan Dean Foster is not being paid royalties for his work on material that Disney currently owns the rights to.
In an online press conference given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Alan read the following letter which he wrote to Disney:
We have a lot in common you and I. We share a birthday, November 18th, today. My Dad’s nickname was Mickey. And there’s more.
When you purchased Lucasfilm, you acquired the rights to some books I wrote. The novelization for Star Wars the very first film. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the first sequel novel in the Expanded Universe.
You owe me royalties on these books. You stopped paying them.
When you acquired 20th Century Fox, you acquired the rights to other books I had written. The novelizations of Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3.
You never paid any royalties on these or issued any royalty statements for them.
All of these books are still very much in print. They still earn money. For you.
When one company buys another they acquire the liabilities as well as its assets. You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets.
I’d very much like my minuscule, though it’s not small to me, share.
You wanted me to sign an NDA, a 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 prior to negotiations. The obvious reason, once you sign you can no longer talk about the matter at hand. Every one of my representatives in this matter with decades of experience in this business, echo my bewilderment.
You continue to ignore requests from my agents. You continue to ignore queries from Science Fiction Writers of America. You continue to ignore my legal representation. I know this is often what gargantuan corporations do, ignoring petitions and inquiries hoping that 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 out there are you similarly ignoring?
My wife has serious medical issues, and in 2016 I was diagnosed with an aggressive variety of cancer. We could use the money. Not charity. Just what I’m owed.
I’ve always loved Disney. The films, parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show. I don’t think Uncle Walt would approve of how you’re currently treating me.
Maybe someone in the right position just hasn’t received the word. But after all these months of ignored requests and queries by accountants, and as a guy named Bob Iger once said, the way you do anything, is the way you do everything. I’m not feeling it.
The President of SFWA, Mary Robinette Kowal, says that bringing this out into the public is unprecedented. Usually these matters are resolved privately. She also says, that Disney argues it has purchased the rights, but not the obligations to the materials. That they have the right to publish the work but not pay the writer, no matter what the contract says. She asks, if they’re doing this to Alan Dean Foster, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract, who do not know to whom they can reach out, when they are having a disputer of this nature?
Star Wars author J. W. Rinzler recently remarked in regards to his distaste for the Disney takeover of Lucasfilm:
“I didn’t like what was happening to the licensing department, and the publishing department, or the films.”
Was this the sort of thing that Mr. Rinzler saw happening in the publishing department?
Thanks to Lord Carnor Jax for the tip.
And it’s not just Star Wars authors:
Since former Star Wars marketing director Charles Lippincott passed away months ago, his wife has been posting periodically on his Facebook account. The latest post indicates that Alan Dean Foster and Charles Lippincott may have something in common. In the wake of revelations that Disney is not paying royalties owed to Alan Dean Foster, she recently wrote on Facebook:
Bumpy here. Charley was very concerned with publicly sharing certain items from his archives, such as his early Star Wars cast and crew interviews, because of a separation agreement he made with LFL.
Never mind that LFL didn’t live up to their end and pay him residuals on any use made of his materials — he felt leery of sharing these historic tapes because he felt honor bound to keep his end of the agreement.
A couple of days ago, Diane O’Bannon shared a post revealing that Disney, who now owns Alien and SW, refuses to pay Alan Dean Foster his residuals on the books he wrote because Disney bought the rights to the property, but not their liabilities.
Wow, talk about screwing someone over.
When Charley had posted about the problem of trying to claim his residuals, several of you tried suggesting lawyers who might want to become involved in helping him. Undeterred, Charley felt the problems with suing were greater than its possible outcome. That partly came from Charley’s reluctance to get involved with fights. He tended to fume in private rather than involve lawyers and the judicial system.
This latest move by Disney really shows the problem of fighting the studios — they have an army of lawyers who come up with the most devious ways to screw people over — even lawyers you think are your friends, as happened with Charley when, unbeknownst to Charley for 40 years, his good buddy, whom he defended, had screwed him out of LFL/20th Century Fox giving him 5% of the Kenner profits that George had promised him.
This latest move of Disney refusing to pay ADF his residuals once again shows what’s wrong with our legal system. The army of lawyers employed by Disney forces any of us who want to go against them to hire our own lawyers to fight them legally. We have to spend money to get our due rights.
I mean, is it right that an author has to sue to get his residuals because the ownership of his intellectual creations changed ownership in a corporate move?
Which brings me back to Charley’s archives — am I, as an individual, morally bound to honor my husband’s ethics when we live in a corporate world that has none?
Thanks to Dennis for the tip.
Diane O’Bannon responded:
Now it appears that Star Wars author J. W. Rinzler has “similar concerns.” Recently it was learned that Alan Dean Foster was not receiving royalties that were owed to him by Disney. Then, Charles Lippincott’s wife made a post on Facebook indicating that her late husband had received the same treatment. And how it appears that Star Wars author J. W. Rinzler has “similar concerns.”
This almost certainly comes as a blow since Mr. Rinzler has recently been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
As of this writing, Disney has not responded to these charges.