#DisneyMustPay Update and Reprints Alert

SFWA has distributed a new update from the #DisneyMustPay Task Force:


In April 2021, we let you know about a contract issue with Disney that affected multiple authors across different writer organizations. We’ve made some progress and a few authors have been paid. Unfortunately, we’ve also uncovered more concerning issues in the process. We still need your help to raise awareness of the #DisneyMustPay campaign, which has yet to be resolved.

Authors may still be missing royalty statements or checks across a wide range of properties in prose, comics, and graphic novels. As of today, our list is incomplete and only based on properties and/or publishers for which we have verified reports of ongoing issues. We have little doubt more creators are affected by this issue.

We have identified properties now owned by Disney where works are being reprinted by new domestic and foreign publishers without the author receiving notification, updated royalty statements, or payment. Disney acquired two media companies and all their properties. They and their properties include: 

  • Lucasfilm (Star WarsIndiana Jones, etc.)
  • 20th Century Fox (Buffy the Vampire SlayerAlienAVPPredatorFireflyAngel, etc.)

Previously published works for these properties are now being reprinted by Disney-owned publishers or their licensees. This list is by no means exhaustive. Publishers include:

  • Boom! Comics (Licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)
  • Titan Publishing UK (Licensed novels including Alien/Predator)
  • Marvel WorldWide (SpiderManAlien/Predator)
  • Disney Worldwide Publishing (BuffyAngel)

We’ve also identified two sources of previously published materials from former licensees. We can confirm previously published works are being reprinted. 

  • Dark Horse Comics (Former licensee. Previously published tie-in comics, graphic novels, and novels including Buffy the Vampire SlayerAlienPredatorAVPStar Wars, etc.)
  • Byron Preiss/iBooks (Former licensee. Previously published tie-in novels including Marvel characters now owned/published by Disney)

If you are an affected author who has not been paid or are missing royalty statements, you have the right to ensure your contract(s) are honored. We urge all creators to review their statements regularly and recommend that affected creators fill out this form, hosted by SFWA. We guarantee anonymity.

Please note that you do not need an agent or membership in any professional organization to seek help from the task force. 

Additionally, only a handful of creators have been paid since our last update while several more have come forward. 

The Disney Must Pay Joint Task Force has attempted to create a cooperative relationship with Disney, but the corporation continues to refuse a partnership. 

Disney’s actions make it clear to us that they are picking and choosing which cases they want to resolve, while simultaneously attempting to isolate creators from receiving counsel from their professional organization. The Disney Must Pay Joint Task Force has observed a marked difference in treatment between agented and unagented creators, as well as high-profile and lesser-known individuals, and novelists and comics writers. 

Dark Horse Comics

As of today’s date, conversations are ongoing to ensure Dark Horse Comics creators will be paid for their licensed, reprinted comics, graphic novels, and/or novels post-acquisition. Royalties are owed and Disney must pay.

Further:

  • Dark Horse Comics was a licensee for Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, producing works for several properties now owned by Disney.
  • Case details show works originally published at Dark Horse were republished with Disney (Ballantine), Marvel (100% owned by Disney), Boom! Studios (Disney stake), and Titan Books (UK). 
  • Dark Horse Comics creators comprise over fifty percent of our reported cases as a source of previously published media that is being reprinted.
  • Dark Horse Comics does send royalty statements when requested.
  • We are unable to confirm whether or not artists, letterers, inkers, and other types of creators working on affected titles have been paid. To date, we haven’t received a report but this does not confirm payment.
  • No author we’re working with has received notification of their reprinted works. 

Despite Boom! Studios agreeing to work with us and sending us a list of affected creators, the status of the original cases is unchanged. To date, affected Boom! Studios creators have not been paid the royalties they are owed.

The task force has communicated with Disney in the past, but we have yet to bring these cases to a close. We continue to ask for simple, basic methods to honor contracts. Yet, our experiences have reinforced our belief their strategy is to be selective about who they assist.

Despite paying a few higher-profile authors, Disney is not willing to even put a FAQ on their website, much less work with the task force to identify authors and correct missing payments. Thus, we need your help to alert any creators who may be affected. If you know someone who may be affected, please share this email.

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 simple demands to the attention of Disney’s decision-makers. Here are some sample tweets to share. Include a link to our growing task force’s website: WritersMustBePaid.org
      • #DisneyMustPay all creators what they’re owed. It shouldn’t matter how many fans they have. They held up their end of the contract, why can’t Disney?
      • #DisneyMustPay. That’s it. That’s the Tweet. 
      • #DisneyMustPay by honoring creators’ contracts for the properties they’ve purchased. Pay royalties owed, provide statements, notify when works are reprinted. A contract isn’t just a wish your heart makes.
      • #DisneyMustPay by creating an FAQ on their licensing page so all creators know how to ask for their missing royalties and/or statements. It’s not rocketeer science! It’s business basics.
      • #DisneyMustPay by establishing a point of contact for writers who have not been paid their back royalties for properties now owned by Disney. Make that contact and the process for claiming royalties transparent—these are the bare necessities.
      • #DisneyMustPay by working with creators’ organizations who can advocate for and support authors and their agents that may not feel secure enough to go it alone. It’s why we exist—let us help. You’ve got a friend in us.
      • #DisneyMustPay by notifying creators when their work is reprinted and paying them what they’re contractually owed. A new publication should be a point of pride, not of surprise. 
  • Visit WritersMustBePaid.org, the website set up by our growing task force, and share the link.

Because Disney has declined to cooperate with the task force in identifying affected authors, the Disney Task Force needs your help to contact everyone who might be affected. Unfortunately, this now extends to reprinted works for the properties listed.

Please help us spread the message widely that #DisneyMustPay.

Thank you,

Disney Must Pay Joint Task Force

The Task Force is comprised of the following associations, unions, and nonprofits that have pledged support and resources to help all affected creators: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., (SFWA), the Authors Guild, Horror Writers Association (HWA), International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), International Thriller Writers (ITW), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), National Writers Union (NWU), Novelists, Inc. (NINC), Romance Writers of America (RWA), Sisters in Crime (SinC), Writers Guild of America West (WGA West), and Writers Guild of America, East (WGA East).


N. K. Jemisin tweeted an immediate reaction:

9 thoughts on “#DisneyMustPay Update and Reprints Alert

  1. It appears to me that Walt Disney and his successors learned their business ethics from Hugo “Half Cent a Word Payable On Lawsuit” Gernsback, and then expanded their nasty activities to the proportions of a galactic empire. I hope that Disney falls like Hari Seldon’s Empire, or at least gets ground into the dust of bankruptcy as Gernsback did.

  2. Has anyone seen a legal expert weigh in on why Disney would attempt something so brazen? Small publishers do shady things sometimes but I would think a giant corporation was more risk averse than to ignore thousands of contracts with writers and artists that are likely to represent a small portion of the overall pie. Disney can pay the creators and still make the lion’s share of the revenue.

    One of the moral reasons not to pirate entertainment content is because it deprives content creators of the income they deserve and need to continue making cool things. Disney is doing exactly that.

  3. rcade: I was a legal expert in a different field, taxation, and big corporations are not risk averse, they are risk calculators. In the tax field, there were endless examples of strategies adopted by corporations that the government could break down in litigation — which depended on (1) the government discovering it, (2) deciding it was worth the resources to fight. But then for the corporation they might still succeed in getting a settlement without trial that would preserve some of the tax savings, or at worse, drag the process out five or six years and gain a timing benefit from having the money in the corporation’s hands all the while.

    And corporate behavior is across the board — they don’t only cheat the government. Lastly, reflect on the legal resources at the government’s disposal versus those of freelance writers. And that’s what they do to the government! They would dare do anything to individual writers.

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