Star Wars Novelists Seek Years of Missing Royalty Payments From Disney

Discussion in 'Books' started by Brian in Mesa, Dec 22, 2020.

  1. Brian in Mesa

    Brian in Mesa BIM™ Contributor

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    May 13, 2002
    The Dark Side
    Star Wars Novelists Seek Years of Missing Royalty Payments From Disney

    Alan Dean Foster was in his late 20s when George Lucas, standing near a model of the Millennium Falcon in a warehouse in Southern California, met him to discuss writing the novel adaptation of his forthcoming movie “Star Wars.”

    The original contract called for an upfront payment of $7,500, until Mr. Lucas tossed Mr. Foster a 0.5% royalty on sales that Mr. Foster, now 74 years old, says added up to several times that initial payment. They arrived several times a year as the original 1977 blockbuster set box-office records and the novelization he wrote went on to sell more than one million copies.

    Then, in 2012, Walt Disney Co. bought Lucasfilm Ltd.—and the royalty checks stopped.

    Now, Mr. Foster and other authors from Disney -purchased franchises are in a heated dispute with Hollywood’s biggest empire, which they say refuses to pay royalties on book contracts it absorbed in the $4 billion Lucasfilm deal and other acquisitions. The amount of money at stake is minuscule to a company of Disney’s size but important to the writers seeking it. While Disney has mined Lucasfilm for new movies that have collectively grossed nearly $6 billion at the world-wide box office, these writers say the company has delayed dealing with their complaints and stiffed them on checks that rarely total a few thousand bucks apiece.

    Since Mr. Foster’s dispute was taken public by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America association, other authors of books tied to projects from Indiana Jones to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” have come forward with similar stories of royalty checks that stopped after Disney acquired the properties. In each case, Disney threatens to alienate an obscure but vital tentacle of the franchises, as these novelizations helped build and maintain fan loyalty. Complicating matters: The exact amount of money at stake is unknown, since sales and royalties for the books involved have fluctuated wildly over time.

    “Disney has acquired a house with a mortgage on it. They want to keep living in the house. They don’t want to pay the mortgage,” Mr. Foster said.
  2. puckhead

    puckhead Waxing Gibbous Contributor

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    Jun 15, 2005
    Moment, AZ
  3. cheesebeef

    cheesebeef Registered User Contributor

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    Jan 2, 2003
    No way. Big Corporations screw writer on royalty or residual payments? Be still my hearing heart.

    they do this ALL THE TIME. They tried to do it to me. So when you write for a tv show, you get chunks of money whenever your episode airs again. If it airs again during prime time on the original channel it’s a BIG CHUNK. Like 24K per airing after first run. If it’s network non-prime, it’s not as big of a chunk but still a sizeable check. Say 10K per airing and then a sliding scale downward after 4 runs.

    so, I wrote on NCIS New Orleans. Wrote three episodes season 1 back in 2014-15. About two years later, my buddy from that staff calls me from NY and says “hey! You’re first episode is on CBS here right now!” at around midnight EST. I asked if we got paid for that? He said no... worked on the mentalist for seven years and never got any money for late night syndication on the parent company channel.

    that didn’t sit right with me. So I called my union. Sure enough they were supposed to be paying for the run of my episode. And every other run of my episodes to come.

    only they didn’t. And didn’t. And didn’t. It took me calling the WGA once a week, EVERY WEEK and shoving a poker up their ass to hammer CBS for over TWO YEARS before CBS finally admitted they owed me, and every person on our staff countless hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prob made about 50K just off residuals the last two years. And that was just for writing three episodes in ONE season. There are people on that staff who were there for 5 years having written 15 episodes. Do the math on that and you realize we’re talking millions CBS fought not to pay.

    AND... if my friend didn’t just happen to see the episode and called me, we would have NEVER even known it was airing meaning we would have never been paid. We don’t even know when they STARTED are-running those episodes so it’s likely even MORE money owed.

    as for what he did on the mentalist? Never saw a DIME for similar re-runs on late night non-cable syndication. He worked on that show for 7 years. That’s 21 episodes. That show was still running on KCAL on Friday late night up until 2018. He probably missed out on hundreds of thousands if not a million dollars of residuals. And he was one of seven writers, all of whom never saw money there either.

    and that’s just two shows. Out of COUNTLESS others and god knows how many writers on those shows. The likelihood is that the networks have kept BILLIONS over time that belongs to writers, actors, directors on so many residuals over the course of history.

    the corruption is so deep and mind boggling there’s not even a word to accurately describe it.

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