Victoria Strauss Co-Founder of Writer Beware® Shares Her Thoughts on #DisneyMustPay

[Originally published at Writer Beware®.]

By Victoria Strauss: This past April, I wrote about writers’ struggles to get Disney and Disney-owned publishers to provide unpaid royalties and missing royalty statements–in some cases, going back years–and the formation of the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force in response.

The problem: Disney has acquired many publishers and imprints over the years, along with their properties and contracts. In many cases, however, Disney is taking the position that while they’ve purchased the rights to those properties, they haven’t acquired the corresponding obligations stipulated in the contracts…such as payment and reporting. From the Task Force website:

Creators 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, etc.)
  • Dark Horse Comics (Licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)
  • 20th Century Fox (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien, etc.)
  • Marvel WorldWide (SpiderMan, Predator, etc.)
  • Disney Worldwide Publishing (Buffy, Angel)

Drawn from multiple professional writers’ groups, the Task Force’s mission is to identify and advocate for writers who are owed money and accounting. There has been movement since April: several writers — including Alan Dean Foster, who was the first to go public — have successfully negotiated with Disney and have been paid. BOOM! Studios, which holds licenses for multiple Disney-owned comic book and graphic novel franchises, has offered to work with the Task Force to resolve royalty issues for comics writers and other creators (though to date little progress has been made). And two additional important writers’ organizations, WGA East and WGA West, have joined the Task Force.

This is just the start, though. Disney has not been pro-active in seeking out affected writers, and it has refused to post a FAQ on its website or provide procedures for resolution, leaving writers and their agents on their own to try and figure out what’s going on and whom to contact. In many cases–especially for books published years ago–writers may not even be aware that their publisher was acquired or that their books have been published in new formats or editions.

Also, while a few higher-profile novelists have been paid, several lesser-known writers and their agents are still in negotiations with Disney. And although there has been movement on the novel front, for comic book creators there have been almost no resolutions.

Accordingly, the Task Force is reaching out to all comic book and graphic novel creators who are missing royalty payments and statements from their work on Disney-owned properties. From the recent press release:

“Writers, artists, illustrators, letterers, and other artists are valued members of the creative teams that produce art and literature that is enjoyed by millions,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Task Force Chair. “We are inviting these talented artists to share their stories and we will fight for them to receive the money that is owed to them.”

The Task Force’s goals are to ensure that all writers and creators who are owed royalties and/or statements for their media-tie in work are identified and that Disney and other companies honor their contractual obligations to those writers and creators after acquiring the companies that originally hired them.

How can you be part of the fight?

If you’re an affected creator, or suspect you are, SFWA is hosting this form that you can fill out to let the Task Force know. The purpose of the form is to provide the Task Force with information so it can review your case and then follow up (not every case is something the Task Force can help with, unfortunately). All information submitted is confidential; nothing will be shared outside the Task Force without your permission.

Additionally, the Task Force strongly recommends that, regardless of whether or not you’re affected, you continue to seek timely royalty statements (when appropriate).

If you’re a fan, use the hashtag #DisneyMustPay (the Task Force suggests some sample social media messages). Blog about it. Write about it. Post the press release on your website. The Task Force asks that you not boycott, as this would disproportionately affect creators who are being paid. But getting the word out, shining a light on the issue, is hugely important. Public pressure works: Disney is taking notice, as the resolutions reached by Alan Dean Foster and others show.

In closing: this is personal for me. The late Ann Crispin–bestselling author, Writer Beware co-founder, and my dear friend and fellow scam hunter–wrote for two Disney-owned media properties, including her bestselling Han Solo Trilogy and the novelization of Alien: Resurrection. As with other affected writers, Ann’s estate has not received royalty statements and/or payments for some editions of those works.

I’ll be following developments closely. Watch this space.

Background on the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force: The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force identifies and guides authors and other creators who might be owed money. Disney is refusing to cooperate with the Joint Task Force to identify affected authors and other creators. The Task Force was formed by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) and includes the Authors GuildHorror Writers AssociationInternational Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), International Thriller WritersMystery Writers of America National Writers UnionNovelists, Inc., Romance Writers of AmericaSisters in Crime (SinC),  Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), and Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). Individual writers on the Task Force are Neil GaimanLee Goldberg, Mary Robinette KowalChuck Wendig, and Tess Gerritsen

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force makes sure writers’ and other creators’ contracts are honored, but individual negotiations are rightly between them, their agents, and the rights holder. The Disney Task Force is working to address structural and systemic concerns. Additional updates and information are available at www.writersmustbepaid.org.

Victoria Strauss, co-founder of Writer Beware®, is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone fantasy duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) and Passion Blue, a historical novel for teens, one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2012. She has written hundreds of book reviews for publications such as SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

She received the 2009 SFWA® Service Award for her work with Writer Beware®, and in 2012 was honored with an Independent Book Blogger Award for the Writer Beware® blog. She’s webmistress of the Writer Beware® website, which she also created, and maintains the Writer Beware® database, blog, and Facebook page.

Visit Victoria at www.victoriastrauss.com.

[Based on a press release.]

6 thoughts on “Victoria Strauss Co-Founder of Writer Beware® Shares Her Thoughts on #DisneyMustPay

  1. I know they were in the press release, but I’m really uncomfortable with all the ® symbols studding this story. It’s a very corporate style and practice.

  2. I bought the Deluxe Leather-bound Edition of the A. C. Crispin Han Solo Trilogy from Barnes & Noble, and it upsets me that her family didn’t get anything from that sale.

    Also, IIRC the author name does not appear on the cover. While I was in the store, I had to Google to make sure I was getting the A. C. Crispin book. WTF Disney?! No author name on the cover?!

    You can pretend that the books write themselves, but that’s now it happens. Without these writers exploring the SW universe and keeping the flame lit during the years when there were no new movies, I think you would have fewer Star Ward fans around today.

  3. Michael J. Lowrey: It’s a matter of courtesy. This isn’t only a press release. It’s a reprint of Victoria Strauss’ blog post. It wouldn’t be right to run the post without following her usage of her own mark.

  4. When you’re swimming with sharks, you either adopt their tactics or you’re chum. Register your trademarks,.protect your ideas and integrity and lawyer up. Or else.

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