If Disney and Lucasfilm were to pile up all their cash, it would likely stretch to a galaxy far, far away. While that would surely be a spectacle to behold, there are a handful of writers who have penned books for the companies and would rather see that money in their pockets, as they say they’re owed royalties and Disney won’t pay up.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the problems began back in 2012, shortly after Disney purchased Lucasfilm. More authors began having issues in 2019, following Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox. While all of these companies are perhaps best known for their movie distribution wings, they’re also all in the publishing business, regularly pushing out new books related to their most popular properties, most notably Star Wars. Yet ever since Disney took over the books, several writers have complained that their royalties have completely dried up. Nor have they even received a regular royalty statement to indicate whether they’re owed anything at all.
Understanding that there is power in numbers, in late April an activist group known as the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force was established in order to help these writers be paid any owed royalties. The group has the full support of several writer organizations, including the Authors Guild and the National Writers Union (though not the Writers Guild of America).
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
The group lists a number of companies that had been identified as owing money, including three Disney-owned, or part-owned, publishers: Disney Worldwide, Marvel Worldwide (the publishing arm of Marvel Entertainment) and Boom! Studios, in which Disney owns a minority stake. According to the task force, roughly a dozen writers have claimed the royalties are owed by Disney.
One of those writers is the late author Ann C. Crispin, whose novels include a trilogy of books featuring Star Wars character Han Solo. “I discovered that an omnibus edition [of those novels] was published by Barnes & Noble when it first appeared in 2017, and I complained to the estate’s agent when there was no mention of it on the next royalty statements,” says Crispin’s widower, Michael Capobianco. “I believe at that time the agent contacted the new publisher but was unable to get a satisfactory answer. … In fact, I didn’t even realize that Disney was involved. I assumed that the new editions had been licensed under the original publishers’ contracts and had no idea what Disney had done until SFWA started publicizing [Foster’s] situation.”
According to documentation shared with THR, Disney’s stance seems to be that royalties didn’t transfer—that the authors’ original agreements were made with the original company, not Disney—and therefore, Disney has no legal obligation to these writers. But when pressed by THR, a Disney rep said that: “We are carefully reviewing whether any royalty payments may have been missed as a result of acquisition integration and will take appropriate remedial steps if that is the case.”
Whether it’s the threat of bad PR or the scary sound of the phrase “task force,” Disney does seem to be trying to rectify some of these issues. James Kahn, who wrote a novelization of Return of the Jedi in 1983, had nothing but positive things to say about Disney, saying the company was “very nice, and sympathetic, and apologetic if they’d been lax in payments.”
As for the authors who are still hashing it out, perhaps it would be best for Disney to sort this out quickly and look to Yoda for advice: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)