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Werthead

Disney breaks contract with STAR WARS and ALIENS writer Alan Dean Foster

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In a bizarre move, Disney has unilaterally suspended royalty payments to author Alan Dean Foster for his early Star Wars novels and Alien film novelisations. The SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), the closest thing US SFF authors have to a union, has taken up the case.

Disney's argument is extraordinary: they claim that when they inherited the contractual rights to Foster's previous work (from Lucasfilm in 2012 and Fox in 2019), they inherited the "rights of the contract but not the obligations of the contract." Or in other words, they can continue to sell Foster's Star Wars and Alien books but not pay him royalties for those works. Rather obviously, Foster and the SFWA disagree rather forcefully, and are prepared to take the matter further until they agree to honour the in-place contracts.

Other Star Wars writers have been contacted and they are now querying their own royalty payments to see if anything is amiss. It sounds like the estate of A.C. Crispin is already concerned that they have not received royalty payments either.

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19 minutes ago, Werthead said:

In a bizarre move, Disney has unilaterally suspended royalty payments to author Alan Dean Foster for his early Star Wars novels and Alien film novelisations. The SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), the closest thing US SFF authors have to a union, has taken up the case.

Disney's argument is extraordinary: they claim that when they inherited the contractual rights to Foster's previous work (from Lucasfilm in 2012 and Fox in 2019), they inherited the "rights of the contract but not the obligations of the contract." Or in other words, they can continue to sell Foster's Star Wars and Alien books but not pay him royalties for those works. Rather obviously, Foster and the SFWA disagree rather forcefully, and are prepared to take the matter further until they agree to honour the in-place contracts.

Other Star Wars writers have been contacted and they are now querying their own royalty payments to see if anything is amiss. It sounds like the estate of A.C. Crispin is already concerned that they have not received royalty payments either.

Well that’s bullshit.  When you take over a contract you take over all obligations, not only the benefits.  They should be slapped up one courtroom and down another.

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Well that’s bullshit.  When you take over a contract you take over all obligations, not only the benefits.  They should be slapped up one courtroom and down another.

One in particular? A certain court that can effectively establish law through interpretation? Maybe a court where they can afford to lose the least reactionary member of the bench to dissent and still change the way contractual obligations work in this country for the next hundred years? Seems awful convenient with the timing.

Edited by Jace, Basilissa

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That's just so wrong.   

I loved Splinter of the Mind's Eye, as it fed my Stars Wars hunger (along with the Stars Wars movie novelization) before I  knew they were making more than one movie.  Of course. the Luke and Leia thing heads down the wrong path as Foster and Lucas hadn't known then that they would end up as brother and sister. 

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59 minutes ago, Jace, Basilissa said:

One in particular? A certain court that can effectively establish law through interpretation? Maybe a court where they can afford to lose the least reactionary member of the bench to dissent and still change the way contractual obligations work in this country for the next hundred years? Seems awful convenient with the timing.

No.  This is basic black letter contract law.    If you take over a Contract you take over obligations as well as benefits.  You cannot severe a party to the Contract from their benefits without breaching the Contract.  

 

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12 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

No.  This is basic black letter contract law.    If you take over a Contract you take over obligations as well as benefits.  You cannot severe a party to the Contract from their benefits without breaching the Contract.  

 

I don't think Disney would try if it weren't legal. They take care of our entertainment needs, you shouldn't question their judgement.

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18 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

No.  This is basic black letter contract law.    If you take over a Contract you take over obligations as well as benefits.  You cannot severe a party to the Contract from their benefits without breaching the Contract.  

 

Like Jace said, why would they do this without a ton of legal vetting? It seems absurd on its face unless they think they can pull a Trump play and just drag it out so long that the authors are forced to settle for a bad deal. 

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39 minutes ago, Tywin et al. said:

Like Jace said, why would they do this without a ton of legal vetting? It seems absurd on its face unless they think they can pull a Trump play and just drag it out so long that the authors are forced to settle for a bad deal. 

That’s what I strongly suspect.

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11 minutes ago, Mr Meeseeks said:

Maybe someone over there is just really stupid?

Nah, the Mouse has an army of elite lawyers. This isn't something that was done without serious consideration. 

10 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

That’s what I strongly suspect.

It's the only thing that makes sense. I would think most 1Ls would know you can't just alter a contract in that way because it changed hands.

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Are we talking large sums of money? Or is this more likely a test case to take on someone bigger?  Or is there something else about Foster that Disney is concerned over?  Feels like there is something missing in the story...

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SFWA should back Foster in a breach of K suit and tag on an “Unfair Trade Practices Claim” pointing out this is a violation of Contract capable of repetition with other writers seeking treble damages and specific performance of the existing Contract.

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2 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

SFWA should back Foster in a breach of K suit and tag on an “Unfair Trade Practices Claim” pointing out this is a violation of Contract capable of repetition with other writers seeking treble damages and specific performance of the existing Contract.

Bob Loblaw's Law Blog says what?

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15 minutes ago, Jace, Basilissa said:

Bob Loblaw's Law Blog says what?

....Scot's last name is Baio?

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Yeah, pretty sure they want to force royalty holders to take a flat buyout of their royalty rights. I hope that Foster, the SFWA, and various other royalty holder who've been denied their payments (seen reference to a number of artists and writers involved in Dark Horse's Star Wars and Aliens comics also no longer getting royalties when Disney bought the relevant studios) join together in some sort of suit and shake them down for every penny owed and then some.

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10 hours ago, Jaxom 1974 said:

Are we talking large sums of money? Or is this more likely a test case to take on someone bigger?  Or is there something else about Foster that Disney is concerned over?  Feels like there is something missing in the story...

Surprisingly, yes, or at least a non-trivial amount of money. Splinter and the original Ep IV novelization are still in print and still sell thousands of copies every year. So do the Alien novels, which are surprisingly decent in building up a tone of horror. Foster is a very solid novelist.

The Ep IV novelization (along with the Marvel Comics adaptation, which started in March 1977) was also quite important in building up hype for the movie. It was released in November 1976, almost seven months before the film came out, and a lot of people read it (and the accompanying photos from the film) and went, "There's no way they'll get this amount of space battles and effects on screen," and checked out the film.

Quote

Nah, the Mouse has an army of elite lawyers. This isn't something that was done without serious consideration. 

I'm not too sure. I suspect this division is very low-priority and it's entirely possible someone started grandstanding thinking, "Fuck yeah, I work for Disney, we don't have to pay money to some pensioner," without getting proper advice. Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast seem to have done something somewhat similar to Weis & Hickman and that's bitten them on the arse as well.

Edited by Werthead

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15 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Well that’s bullshit.  When you take over a contract you take over all obligations, not only the benefits.  They should be slapped up one courtroom and down another.

I have had this fight as a union exec so many times. Every time we got new management at the hospital, at any level, the first thing they would do was to try and ignore the union contract. A few grievances and arbitrations later, they come to their senses and back down.

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