Alan Dean Foster is an sf legend - a writer who produced a shelf of original novels but also made a reputation novelizing movies and TV from Star Wars to Aliens, turning out books that transcended quickie adaptations, becoming beloved bestsellers in their own right.
Disney now owns a bunch of these books, thanks to their acquisitions of Lucas and Fox, and these books continue to sell briskly. Disney not only isn't paying Foster any royalties for these books - they're refusing to even issue royalty statements.
Disney has blackholed Foster's agents and lawyers, and also the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA); to the extent that they have communicated with him, they have espoused a radical (jaw dropping) copyright theory.
This is Disney's theory: When they bought Lucas and Fox, they acquired the copyright licenses that enabled them to sell the Foster's books - but not the liability, the legal obligation to pay him for his books.
As SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal says, this theory could absolutely upend the nature of copyright itself. Any publisher that wanted to go on making money from an author without paying them could simply sell the rights to a sister company, which then denies any obligations.
Foster brought his case to SFWA's grievance committee - a group that has worked on my behalf in the past, extracting a fee from a multinational publisher that commissioned and accepted a story from me, then offered an odious, unacceptable contract they refused to amend.
Usually griefcom work happens in the background: a SFWA member goes to griefcom, griefcom goes to the publisher, the publisher settles. This is the first time in more than a decade that SFWA has gone public with a complaint.
To be fair, Disney DID offer to meet with Foster, but demanded that he sign an NDA PRIOR to any negotiation. This is Not Normal. Sometimes the OUTCOME of a negotiation is confidential, but you don't go into a negotiation under NDA.
Disney appears to be taking a page from the private equity fund that acquired Taylor Swift's masters from the cartoonish villain Scooter Braun, who refused to meet with her without an NDA.
Foster's case is a gross injustice. He has cancer and his wife is ill. He wrote these books, Disney bought them. They're making money from them. They owe him money. Period.
But beyond the individual injustice being visited upon Foster, Kowal and SFWA worry that this represents a suite of new, corporate anti-writer tactics: flipping assets without liabilities, refusing to talk about it without an NDA.
@pluralistic By using the Disney logic: can I buy a movie from them and start streamming it? I didn't bought any liability, just the BluRay.
Maybe I can use some scenes or music on my own videos to sell them.
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