Disney, of course, has quite the reputation as a copyright maximalist. It has been accused of being the leading company in always pushing for more draconian copyright laws. And then, of course, there’s the infamous Mickey Mouse curve, first designated a decade ago by Tom Bell, highlighting how copyright term extensions seemed to always happen just as Mickey Mouse was set to go into the public domain (though, hopefully that’s about to end):
Whether accurate or not, Disney is synonymous with maximizing copyright law, which the company and its lobbyists always justify with bullshit claims of how they do it “for the artist.”
Except that it appears that Disney is not paying artists. While the details are a bit fuzzy, yesterday the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and famed author Alan Dean Foster announced that Disney was no longer paying him royalties for the various Star Wars books he wrote (including the novelization of the very first film back in 1976), along with his novelizations of the Aliens movies. He claims he’d always received royalties before, but they suddenly disappeared.
Foster wrote a letter (amusingly addressed to “Mickey”) in which he lays out his side of the argument, more or less saying that as Disney has gobbled up various other companies and rights, it just stopped paying royalties:
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.
In a video press conference, Foster and SFWA […] said that Disney is claiming that it purchased “the rights but not the obligations” to these works.