wiredog writes: Disney has developed a radical new theory of copyright. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and Fox, they acquired the copyright licenses that enabled them to sell Alan Dean Foster’s books — but not the liability, the legal obligation to actually pay him for those books. They have apparently also done this to numerous other authors. The statement from the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) is here, and also a Twitter thread from Cory Doctorow. Foster’s complaints go beyond Star Wars. His letter also states that Disney failed to pay royalties entirely for his Alien novelizations. “He noted that he and his agent have tried to negotiate with Disney to resolve it all — mainly because he and his wife have ongoing medical issues and the royalties would help with bills — only for Disney to ask Foster to sign an NDA before talks could even commence,” reports Gizmodo. Here’s part of his letter sent to the company: “When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote. 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 minuscule (though it’s not small to me) share.” SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal said: “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 group is asking Disney to either pay Foster foor back and future royalties or cease publication — either permanently or until new contracts can be signed. They’re also asking any other writers who may have had the same experience with Disney to come forward.
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