Contract issues with Disney-owned/controlled companies continue to affect multiple authors across different writer organizations. To advocate for these writers, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) formed the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force with the Authors Guild, Horror Writers Association, National Writers Union, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime to identify and guide authors who might be owed money. The task force includes members such as Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Chuck Wendig.
Are You Owed Money?
Authors may be missing royalty statements or checks across a wide range of properties in prose, comics, or graphic novels. This list is incomplete and based on properties for which we have verified reports of missing statements and royalties:
- LucasFilm (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.)
- Boom! Comics (licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- Dark Horse Comics (licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- 20th Century Fox (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien, etc.)
- Marvel Worldwide (Spider-Man, Predator)
- Disney Worldwide Publishing (Buffy, Angel)
If you have not been paid or are missing royalty statements, these contracts must be honored. We urge all authors to review their statements to make certain they are in order.
To get help in seeking resolution, an affected author does not need an agent or membership in any author organization. If you are missing royalties or royalty statements, please fill out this form hosted by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. We guarantee anonymity.
Disney says they are committed to paying the authors, but they are placing the onus to be paid on the authors, while at the same time attempting to isolate the authors from receiving counsel from their professional author organization.
Last year, Alan Dean Foster came to SFWA’s Grievance Committee because he had written novels and was not being paid the royalties that were specified in his contract. During the investigation, SFWA discovered that Disney was now the rights holder and contacted them. The initial contact refused to pay.
Disney’s argument was that they had purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. SFWA was forced to take the matter public to get a resolution. SFWA suspected that other authors would be similarly affected.
SFWA is pleased to report that the matter of missing royalties for Mr. Foster’s novelizations has been resolved. Yet, about a dozen additional authors contacted SFWA with a request for assistance, including the authors of Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones, and multiple other properties. SFWA has provided Disney with the names of authors who are similarly missing royalty statements and payments going back years.
Disney is being reactive rather than proactively working with us to address the significant issue we have brought to their attention.
How This Could Affect All Writers
During the initial #DisneyMustPay campaign, SFWA proposed a hypothetical situation based on Disney’s position that they had purchased the rights but not the obligations to Mr. Foster’s work. In this scenario, Company A might sell a property to their sister Company B to get out of paying royalties.
This situation is no longer hypothetical. Fox had licensed the comics rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dark Horse. After Disney purchased Fox, they withdrew those rights from Dark Horse and granted them to Boom! Comics. When one Buffy author contacted Boom! about missing royalties, they were told that “royalties don’t transfer.”
Disney is one of the owners of Boom! Comics.
The committee has identified the following areas to be addressed. Disney needs to:
- Honor contracts now held by Disney and its subsidiaries.
- Provide royalty payments and statements to all affected authors.
- Update their licensing page with an FAQ for writers about how to handle missing royalties.
- Create a clear, easy-to-find contact person or point for affected authors.
- Cooperate with author organizations who are providing support to authors and agents.
The task force presented these steps to Disney and offered them an opportunity to include a statement in this email to our members. Disney declined.
Here’s How You Can Help
Because Disney is not willing to work with the task force to identify authors and correct missing payments, we need your help to alert any authors who may be affected.
You can also show your support for this effort in a number of ways:
- Use #DisneyMustPay on social media. We need your help to bring the task force’s five action items above to the attention of Disney’s decision-makers.
- Visit WritersMustBePaid.org, a website set up by our new task force, and share it.
- Do not boycott, as this will disproportionately affect those authors who are being paid.
- Do purchase the works of affected authors for which they are currently receiving royalties.
Because Disney has declined to work with the task force in identifying affected authors, the Disney task force needs your help to contact everyone who might be affected.
Please help us spread the message widely that #DisneyMustPay.