Some stories we continue follow out of curiosity, some anger, some disgust, and the list of emotions go on. This one remains a corporate mystery needing to be solved — quickly.
Recently, we passed along a story about Alan Dean Foster saying he’s not been paid for royalties by Disney (see: Alan Dean Foster Says Star Wars and Alien Movie Novelization Royalties Not Being Paid by Disney). Apparently, Foster isn’t the only writer with this problem.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America association claims other authors of books tied to projects from Indiana Jones to Buffy the Vampire Slayer came forward with similar stories of non-payment, all under similar circumstances to the Star Wars issue. Once Disney acquired the properties, the checks were no longer in the mail.‘Star Wars’ Writers Missing Royalty Payments For Novelizations: Report – Deadline
How does this happen?
Polygon did some digging and unearthed somewhat of an answer, but get your boots, it gets a little muddy (emphasis mine):
According to Kowal, Disney lawyers told SFWA that while it owned the underlying rights to Foster’s Alien novels, among others, holding the copyright did not obligate the company to pay him royalties — his contract was with Warner Books, not with 20th Century Fox or Disney. During SFWA’s November press conference, Kowal explained that the organization had trouble setting up a meeting with Disney to discuss and clarify the issue. Furthermore, Disney asked for their discussions to be kept confidential and that whatever they discussed couldn’t be used in further legal action. (Representatives for Disney declined to speak to Polygon on the record for this story.)A Star Wars writer claims Disney isn’t paying royalties — but the issues are tricky
So, if I’m following the murky copyright logic, Disney’s legal team is saying work-for-hire writing arrangements don’t necessarily transfer? Seriously. So it’s not Disney that should be paying Foster, it’s Warner Books? Is Warner Books making money from his books now or is Disney?
Will keep following news on this one, because it barely makes sense. Feel free to weigh in below if you can make more sense out of this than me.