For years, the author has been receiving royalty payments for his novelisations of Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye (1978), Alien (1979), Aliens (1991) and Alien 3 (1978).
However, according to a letter published on the website of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association Of America (SFWA), these payments stopped after the acquisition of Lucasfilm (owner of Star Wars) and Fox (owner of the Alien franchise) by Disney.
“When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote,” Foster’s letter reads. “STAR WARS, the novelisation 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.”
He added: “When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written. The novelisations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3. You’ve never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.”
When Foster’s agent Vaughne Hansen tried to get in contact with the publishing branch of Disney to solve the issue, it’s alleged that she was told a discussion about the missing payments couldn’t happen unless Foster agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which according to CBR is not standard procedure for issues such as paying royalties.
“You want me to sign an NDA before even talking,” Foster’s letter continued. “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.”
Frustrated with the situation, Foster and Hansen contacted SFWA for help. SFWA’s lawyers contacted Disney, who replied by stating that Disney “had acquired the rights but not the obligations”.
Mary Robinette Kowal, president of the SFWA, said in a statement: “In my decade with the organisation, 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.”
She continued: “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.”
The SFWA is asking Disney to pay Foster back royalties as well as any future royalties, cease publication until new contracts are signed and pay all royalties owed to Foster, or to cease publication forever and pay back all the royalties to the writer.
“We feel fairly confident that if we can talk to someone from the publishing arm of Disney they will understand how these things are supposed to work… but we can’t get past their legal branch, which is making this completely ridiculous argument,” Kowal said in a press conference – you can watch it below.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America will host a press conference with author and SFWA member Alan Dean Foster.
Posted by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America on Wednesday, November 18, 2020
NME has reached out to Disney for comment.
Earlier this week, George Lucas revealed that he was warned that including young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace would “destroy” Star Wars.
Lucas’ first prequel to the original Star Wars story was released back in 1999.
In new book The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005, Lucas spoke of the enthusiasm executives at studio 20th Century Fox showed when he initially brought forward the idea for the prequels.
However, as Polygon report, executives didn’t like the idea of a 10-year-old Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader in his younger years, appearing in the films.
Meanwhile, Kanye West recently shared his opinion on Star Wars, stating that he thinks the prequel trilogy is better than the recently released sequels.