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April 30, 2021

#DisneyMustPay: Authors' Groups Join Forces to Advocate for Writers Owed Money by Disney



Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

Last November, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) published a letter from author Alan Dean Foster detailing his struggles to get Disney to provide unpaid royalties and missing royalty statements for multiple novels and novelizations that he'd written for several media properties whose rights Disney had acquired.
You continue to ignore requests from my agents. You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You continue to ignore my legal representatives. I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do. Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away. Or possibly die. 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?

Disney's argument was that they'd purchased the rights of the contracts they'd acquired, but not the obligations (such as paying royalties). After SFWA took the matter public, a resolution was reached, and Mr. Foster's payment issues were resolved. However, SFWA reports that a number of other authors have contacted it about similar issues, also across a wide range of Disney properties, and that Disney has refused to work with the organization.

SFWA has now joined with other writers' groups to form the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force. Members of the task force include Authors Guild, Horror Writers Association, National Writers Union, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime, along with individual writers representing each of the organizations, such as Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Chuck Wendig. 

The group has issued a press release urging Disney to address these key areas:

  1. Honor contracts now held by Disney and its subsidiaries.
  2. Provide royalty payments and statements to all affected authors.
  3. Update their licensing page with a FAQ for writers about how to handle missing royalties.
  4. Create a clear, easy-to-find contact person or point for affected authors.
  5. Cooperate with author organizations who are providing support to authors and agents.

According to the press release, when presented with these steps, and offered the opportunity to provide a statement to the task force organizations' members, Disney declined.

The task force is asking for contact from affected writers, who can report their experiences using this form hosted by SFWA (anonymity is guaranteed). How do you know if you may have been affected?


To raise awareness, and to get the word out to writers who may need the task force's help, the task force is urging people to use the #DisneyMustPay hashtag on Twitter (it offers several suggestions for possible tweets) and to discuss the issue on social media generally. It also asks that the public not boycott, as that could penalize Disney writers who are being paid.

I'll update this post as I receive more information.

3 comments :

Marie said...

I don't get it. If Disney is supposed to be a magical, happy place, why are they pulling the same silent or unilateral contract scamming that we've seen dozens and dozens of times with small fly-by-night scam operations here? They're quick to pretend acquisitions are total ownership when they want to profit from the backlist, to use someone's creation without royalty, but keep twisting copyright to keep their own creations. Mickey should enter the public domain decades before they can make Predator projects of print Splinter of the Mind's Eye without paying royalties. Those were not commissioned under Disney's banner like Disney comics.

I'm sure Disney would cry that money is tight due to the pandemic, but failing to honor contracts was too many years predating that. Contracts tend to favor the publishers already and individual writers often lack the resources to challenge even scammy ones. But the whole edifice of contracts depends on the exchange stipulated, and this is an IP landgrab.

Graham said...

Disney has a well-established reputation for being litigious chisellers when it comes to enforcing IP rights. They regularly shoot themselves in multiple countries by threatening lawsuits against groups showing Disney videos for charity purposes, and this tactic of stalling on payments to creators seems, to me, to be totally in keeping with that mindset.

Unknown said...

What a shame. So much for Disney being a magical place! Won't be working with them anytime soon.

 
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