Advocacy Alert: Disney
Since the beginning of the year, RWA has been involved with a number of other writer organizations in a task force to address an issue related to royalties on Disney properties. We're reaching out to the entire membership to alert you in case you are affected and to ask you to share with others who might be.
A contract issue has come to our attention that affects multiple authors across different writer organizations. This email is both to inform you and request your help. It contains five parts.
- Are you owed money?
- An update on #DisneyMustPay.
- How this could affect all writers.
- Introduction of a multi-organization joint task force.
- A request for help with identifying additional authors who have not been paid.
1. Are You Owed Money?
Authors may be missing royalty statements or checks across a wide range of properties in prose, comics, or graphic novels. This list is incomplete and based on properties for which we have verified reports of missing statements and royalties.
- LucasFilm (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.)
- Boom! Comics (Licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)
- Dark Horse Comics (Licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)
- 20th Century Fox (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien, etc.)
- MGM (Stargate)
- Marvel WorldWide (SpiderMan, Predator)
- Disney Worldwide Publishing (Buffy, Angel)
If you have not been paid or are missing royalty statements, these contracts must be honored. We urge all authors to review their statements to make certain they are in order.
To get help in seeking resolution, an affected author does not need an agent or membership in any author organization. If you are missing royalties or royalty statements, please fill out this form hosted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. We guarantee anonymity.
To provide context: Last year, Alan Dean Foster came to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Grievance Committee because he had written novels and was not being paid the royalties that were specified in his contract. During investigation, SFWA discovered that Disney was now the rights holder and contacted them. The initial contact refused to pay.
Disney's argument was that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. SFWA was forced to take the matter public in order to get a resolution.
SFWA suspected that other authors would be similarly affected.
While we are pleased to report that the matter of missing royalties for Mr. Foster's novelizations has been resolved, about a dozen additional authors contacted SFWA with a request for assistance, including the authors of Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones, and multiple other properties. SFWA has provided Disney with the names of authors who are similarly missing royalty statements and payment going back years.
Disney is being reactive, rather than proactively working with us to address the significant issue we have brought to their attention.
It should be noted that while in talks for Mr. Foster's Alien novels, Disney was told that he was also missing statements and royalties for his Star Wars novelizations. They would not begin the process nor resume royalty statements until Mr. Foster contacted them with a formal claim.
SFWA has attempted to create a cooperative relationship with Disney, but the corporation flatly refuses to work with them.
They say they are committed to paying the authors, but their actions make it clear that Disney is placing the onus to be paid on the authors, while at the same time attempting to isolate the authors from receiving counsel from their professional author organization.
3. How This Could Affect All Writers
During the initial #DisneyMustPay campaign, SFWA proposed a hypothetical situation based on Disney's position that they had purchased the rights but not the obligations to Mr. Foster's work. In this scenario, Company A might sell a property to their sister Company B to get out of paying royalties.
This situation is no longer hypothetical. Fox had licensed the comics rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dark Horse. After Disney purchased Fox, they withdrew those rights from Dark Horse and granted them to Boom! Comics. When one Buffy author contacted Boom! about missing royalties they were told that "royalties don't transfer."
Disney is one of the owners of Boom! Comics.
4. Task Force
To advocate for these writers, SFWA has formed a joint task force with the Author's Guild, Horror Writers Association, National Writers Union, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime to identify and guide authors who might be owed money.
The task force includes members such as Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Chuck Wendig. The committee has identified the following areas to be addressed. Disney needs to:
The Task Force presented these steps to Disney and offered them an opportunity to include a statement in this email to our members. Disney declined.
- Honor contracts now held by Disney and its subsidiaries.
- Provide royalty payments and statements to all affected authors.
- Update their licensing page with an FAQ for writers about how to handle missing royalties.
- Create a clear, easy-to-find contact person or point for affected authors.
- Cooperate with author organizations who are providing support to authors and agents.
5. Here's How You Can Help
Because Disney is not willing to work with the task force to identify authors and correct missing payments, we need your help to alert any authors who may be affected. If you know someone who may be affected, share this email.
You can also show your support for this effort in a number of ways:
- Use #DisneyMustPay on social media. We need your help to bring the task force's five action items above to the attention of Disney's decision-makers. Here are some sample tweets to share:
- #DisneyMustPay by honoring writers' contracts for the properties they've purchased. That means paying royalties owed and providing sales statements. A contract isn't just a wish your heart makes.
- #DisneyMustPay by creating a FAQ on their licensing page so writers can understand how to handle their missing royalties and find a clear path forward. Let's ask 'em some questions and get some answers.
- #DisneyMustPay by establishing a point of contact for writers who have not been paid their back royalties for properties now owned by Disney. Make that contact and the process for claiming royalties transparent – these are simple bare necessities.
- #DisneyMustPay by working with author organizations who can advocate for and support authors and their agents that may not feel secure enough to go it alone. It's why we exist – let us help. You've got a friend in us.
- Visit WritersMustBePaid.org, a new website set up by our new task force, and share it.
- Do not boycott, as this will disproportionately affect those authors who are being paid.
- Do purchase the works of affected authors for which they are currently receiving royalties.
Because Disney has declined to cooperate with the task force in identifying affected authors, the Disney Task Force needs your help to contact everyone who might be affected.
Please help us spread the message widely that #DisneyMustPay.