A Disney Spokesperson told TooFab that the company had been in discussion with Foster and his reps since August of 2019 to March of this year — and that they were the last to reach out.
They said the NDA situation is standard for such discussions; they also said Foster has only ever discussed royalties for the Alien trilogy, and had never before mentioned the Star Wars books to them.
Mary Robinette Kowal meanwhile claimed that in that seven month period they were rerouted through three different Disney reps, taking months to reply, and resetting back to square one each time, in what she called a delaying tactic; she reiterated that requiring an NDA before a conversation was not standard practice.
Original story 11/19/2020 9:29 AM
Alan Dean Foster wrote the novelizations of Star Wars and the Alien Trilogy... and he claims he's not being paid a dime by Disney.
The author has accused the House of Mouse of denying him royalties after it acquired the rights to publish his books — but not, they appear to claim, the obligation to pay him.
The 74-year-old, who has advanced cancer, said he was forced to go public with the dispute after months of being ignored by Disney's lawyers.
"When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote," he wrote in an open letter addressed to Mickey Mouse (with whom he shares a birthday). "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."
Foster claims the company agreed to meet him to discuss — but only if he signed an non-disclosure agreement beforehand... which in a 50-year career of signing NDAs he (nor any of his peers, he claims) have ever even heard of.
He said the company have repeatedly ignored him, his agents, his lawyers, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) who have taken up his cause.
"I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do. Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away. Or possibly die," he wrote. "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 and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?"
In his letter Foster also reveals he was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer in 2016, while his wife is also suffering from serious medical issues.
"We could use the money. Not charity: just what I'm owed. I've always loved Disney. The films, the parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show. I don't think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me."
"Maybe someone in the right position just hasn't received the word, though after all these months of ignored requests and queries, that's hard to countenance. Or as a guy named Bob Iger said…. 'The way you do anything is the way you do everything.'" he added. "I'm not feeling it."
SWFA President Mary Robinette Kowal said the fact they had to go public with the dispute — which they normally hope to resolve anonymously — is "unprecedented".
"Disney's argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract," she said. "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."
Kowal shared with TooFab Disney's reply to the demands, which indeed read: "Fox/Disney has the right of the copyright owner to publish the books, which ownership is not conditioned upon payment to Mr. Foster of royalties.... WB was obligated to pay compensation to Mr. Foster in connection with the novelizations. Neither Fox nor Disney have assumed any of these obligations to Mr. Foster, nor did they agree to a separate obligation to do so."
Ms Kowal said: "If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States."
She pointed out that any publisher could escape paying any writer by simply selling the rights to a sister company.
She said the company has three choices: Pay him his back royalties and future royalties; cease publication until new contracts are signed, and pay him back royalties and future royalties; or cease publication and pay him his back royalties: either way, they owe him those back royalties.
And besides not being paid, Foster doesn't even know what he's owed, since Disney is not sending him royalty statements: All he knows is they have been selling five books he wrote for five years now.
As well as writing dozens of standalone sci-fi novels, Foster has been for decades one of Hollywood's go-to writers for novelization of movie franchises, including the Star Trek, Transformers and Terminator; he also wrote the novelizations of Clash of the Titans, The Thing, Krull, The Last Starfighter, The Chronicles of Riddick and many more besides, as well as penning the story for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The first of his books under dispute — Star Wars — he ghost wrote as George Lucas.
In 2015, Foster also wrote the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which of course came after Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, and which he is being properly paid for... but only because it is published by DelRey, and not by Disney.
According to Ms Kowal, should Disney ever acquire DelRey from Random House, by their logic, they will stop paying him for that, too.
She called on any other writers who have experienced the same fight with Disney to come forward.
"If they are doing this to Alan Dean Foster, one of the great science fiction writers of our time, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract?"