#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster

For updates on #DisneyMustPay and the writers who have and have not had their missing royalties and/or statements resolved with Disney, please visit the #DisneyMustPay Task Force’s website, WritersMustBePaid.org. (note added 24 May 2021)

A message from SFWA’s President, Mary Robinette Kowal:

Last year, a member came to SFWA’s Grievance Committee with a problem, which on the surface sounds simple and resolvable. He had written novels and was not being paid the royalties that were specified in his contract. The Grievance Committee is designed to resolve contract disputes like this. As part of our negotiating toolbox, we guarantee anonymity for both the writer and the publisher if the grievance is resolved.

When it is working, as president, I never hear from them.

When talks break down, the president of SFWA is asked to step in. We do this for any member.

In this case, the member is Alan Dean Foster. The publisher is Disney.

Here are his words.

An image of a large cartoon character about to clomp down on a writer. Text: Dear Mickey, a contract is a contract.

Dear Mickey,

We have a lot in common, you and I.  We share a birthday: November 18.  My dad’s nickname was Mickey.  There’s more.

When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote.  STAR WARS, the novelization of the very first film.  SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE, the first sequel novel.  You owe me royalties on these books.  You stopped paying them.

When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written.  The novelizations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3.  You’ve never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.

All these books are all still very much in print.  They still earn money.  For you.  When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets.  You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets.  I’d very much like my miniscule (though it’s not small to me) share.

You want me to sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) before even talking.  I’ve signed a lot of NDAs in my 50-year career.  Never once did anyone ever ask me to sign one prior to negotiations.  For the obvious reason that once you sign, you can no longer talk about the matter at hand.  Every one of my representatives in this matter, with many, many decades of experience in such business, echo my bewilderment.

You continue to ignore requests from my agents.  You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  You continue to ignore my legal representatives.  I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do.  Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away.  Or possibly die.  But I’m still here, and I am still entitled to what you owe me.  Including not to be ignored, just because I’m only one lone writer.  How many other writers and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?

My wife has serious medical issues and in 2016 I was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer.  We could use the money.  Not charity: just what I’m owed.  I’ve always loved Disney.  The films, the parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show.  I don’t think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me.  Maybe someone in the right position just hasn’t received the word, though after all these months of ignored requests and queries, that’s hard to countenance.  Or as a guy named Bob Iger said….

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

I’m not feeling it.

Alan Dean Foster

Prescott, AZ

Photo of author Alan Dean Foster with a lemur on his shoulder.

Mary Robinette Kowal adds:

In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented. So too, are the problems. The simple problem is that we have a writer who is not being paid.

The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney’s argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company.

If they are doing this to Alan Dean Foster, one of the great science fiction writers of our time, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract?

To resolve the immediate issue regarding their breach of contract with Alan Dean Foster, Disney has three choices:

  1. Pay Alan Dean Foster all back royalties as well as any future royalties.
  2. Publication ceases until new contract(s) are signed, and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster as well as any future royalties.
  3. Publication ceases and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster.

This starts with a conversation. You have our contact information and offer to sit down with a Disney representative, Alan’s agent Vaughne Lee Hansen, and a SFWA representative.

Regardless of choice, Disney must pay Alan Dean Foster.

If you’re a fan of Alan Dean Foster or believe that a writer’s work has value, please let Disney know.

If you are a writer experiencing similar problems with Disney or another company, please report your circumstances to us here.

#DearMickey #DisneyMustPay

Here is the press conference SFWA hosted with Alan Dean Foster earlier today, November 18, 2020.

192 Responses

  1. Greg

    As a lawyer, this is completely baffling. How on earth does Disney think it can buy a company’s assets but not its liabilities?

    I also don’t understand why Mr. Foster doesn’t just sue them? He says he has legal representatives trying to contact Disney. The Disney lawyers might ignore another lawyer, but they can’t ignore the courts.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      This often happens in the chemical industry. A company buys another and that other company has liabilities for exposing its workforce or a community to toxic chemicals, and the new parent company says it is no liable. They bought the chemicals and manufacturing process and facilities and infrastructure and sales team and customer base, but not the liabilities. They often get away with it too unfortunately.

        1. BentFranklin

          The new chemical manufacturing company still has to pay royalties on products it produces. A royalty is not bad debt. It’s an ongoing requirement.

        2. Ron

          it is identical. BIG business making money, while f’ing the little guy, both their customers and employees.
          It is part of the standard corporate play book:
          . * ignore the problem until your opponent dies
          . * pay your publicity department (in-house and out-house ) to lie about the problem
          . * pay your overpaid lawyers more than the other guy can afford to bankrupt them
          . * NEVER admit you are wrong

          It is part of the legacy of rampant, unchecked, “capitalism” (with a lower case “c”). The ONLY goal of a pure Capitalist is to make the most money they can. Without out outside controls (legislation), they will rape and pillage everything, ignoring any obligation they can. Your not-soon-enough ex-president t-rump is a prime example. He has declared bankruptcy 4, 6, 7 times (depending on your source) to avoid paying money he owed people. ie:
          Industry after industry has dumped it’s waste products into the air, water and land in manners they knew to be unsafe in the long term, but their motto is always “out of sight, out of mind” and “the solution is ‘dilution’ “. The result is people drinking poisoned water (Detroit, Michigan), breathing air pollution, living on poisoned soil (Love Canal).
          It has come out that Big Oil knew about climate change back in the 60’s. They spent $millions/$billions lobbying politicians and the public to cover up this knowledge.
          The auto builders resisted building crash resistance, seat belts, pollution (lead and CO2) until forced by legislation
          The tobacco industry knew smoking caused cancer.
          The “recycling” industry claimed to be saving the planet, but they just sent most of the problem to 3rd world countries without environmental protection laws.

          1. WayneJESQ

            Asset-only purchases do indeed happen in the corporate world, with some frequency. Here is the legal problem for Disney, IMHO: Under copyright law, any licenses must be in writing, and they are narrowly construed. A court won’t (isn’t supposed to, at least) read a license to grant more rights than it explicitly lays out. And a party cannot transfer more rights than it owns. Which is to say, a non-exclusive licensee cannot grant a license to a third party, a holder of only television rights cannot produce a stage play, etc.

            Lucasfilm could only transfer to Disney as much IP as it actually owned. Works made for hire, such as internally created art at ILM, are owned free and clear. Commissioned works from outside authors aren’t. They’re licenses, because the outside author legally owns a copyright from the moment he fixes the work in a tangible medium (that includes computer memory or digital storage media like a hard drive). Note: Foster couldn’t own the work outright because it’s derivative of existing IP, but since Lucasfilm granted him a license to write it he was legally entitled to do so and had a copyright. I just ran a quick search, and the copyright for Alien is definitely listed with Foster as the author. Which doesn’t happen when it’s a work for hire.

            Why is this significant? Because the license that Foster granted to Lucasfilm for Splinter of the Mind’s Eye placed limitations on the grant, namely the obligation to pay royalties on future sales of the work. That’s a burden on the right owned by Lucasfilm, and they could not legally grant Disney a right to the work that isn’t constrained by the same limitation. Same goes for the rights 20th Century Fox had to the Alien novels.

            Going back to the asset-only purchase argument, if you buy a parcel of land that is burdened by an easement, you are subject to the easement. The seller cannot have granted you rights they didn’t have. The obligation to pay royalties is an easement on the copyright in the book.

          2. Nicholas Mustelin

            I agree. Although the situation is not exactly the same – Royalties are ongoing payments for work published, not a bad debt – but the fundamental issues are the same:
            Big Business is pis*ing on the little guy who doesn’t have enough money and people to stand up against the Movers and the Shakers.

            As long as nobody is sued or taken to court (in any way that happens) the big companies will keep ignoring the little guy and telling them to shove it.

            It’s a sad state of affairs, and with an outgoing POTUS who has engaged repeatedly in this kind of behavior, Royalties and Copyright Laws are at great risk.

            I say SUE THE BASTARDS!!!

          3. Kris

            Hi Wayne, that’s simply incorrect. A commissioned work by a non-employee author is *still* a work for hire in which the commissioning employer owns the copyright. See https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ30.pdf

            ADF’s contracts would say if his WFH arrangements included special provisions under which he either retained the copyright or was granted royalties. The US Copyright Database shows that he isn’t the copyright registrant for any of the novelizations, so his contracts would be the only sources of information on this point.

            I also ran a quick search for the Alien copyright, and could not find any records for which Foster is listed as the registrant. There is one, in which he is part of the *title* of the novel, but that is not the same thing. In fact, that entry for that novel indicates that the novel was a work-for-hire product. The same is true for the other Aliens novelizations.

      1. Shelley

        Yes, it is like this in that Disney is saying they purchased the assets but not the liabilities.

        Where it isn’t the same is that in the chemical plant situation, the liabilities are usually left with the original company as part of the deal, and then the original company goes bankrupt.

        In the case of Mr. Foster, it’s like he’s still working for the new company, but they’re not paying him.

      2. Frank

        Nonsense, liabilities go with the company, however the liability is actually held by the insurance carrier of the company not the company itself. The liability for exposing it’s workforce is a matter for the company’s worker’s comp carrier.


        If in fact this is Disney’s argument, it strikes me as a perversion of contract and copyright law. One can buy the assets of a business without buying the business but an assignee of contractual rights takes on the correlative obligations of that contract as well. It would be helpful to know the exact terms of the transactions between Foster and the companies from whom Disney derives its rights to use his intellectual property.

      4. Shane L.

        The concepts is they did not buy the company they bought it’s assests. The company still exists on paper but without assests. Hence the original company is still responsible for it’s debts and obligations. It’s a dirty trick but it works.

        1. Christine Reynolds

          Shane L, but these works were not work for hire. Foster still owns them and is entitled to the royalties for them. Legally, Disney must pay. The works are not a bad debt as in the chemical plant analogy. Acquiring companies still have to pay the owner of the work for something that is making them money. They really do just hope he’ll give up and/or die before a court makes them do what they are legally required to do.

          Please see WayneJESQ,s clear argument re this above in comments.

        2. Max Kies

          It doesn’t, though. As noted above, Lucasfilm and Fox couldn’t sell what they don’t own, and they don’t own Foster’s works. They had a contract to publish them in exchange for royalties.

          So If Disney claims to have not acquired their liabilities, there is no way for them to have acquired the rights to those works, and they now have a much larger problem of open copyright theft.

          Whoever in their legal department isn’t paying off Foster to keep this out of the news is an idiot.

          1. PDV

            Assumption: The contract included right to publish works under the license with a clause stating that the author must be paid royalties equal to a certain fraction of the proceeds.

            Consequences: The obligation to pay royalties for every work published under the license definitely exists.

            The right to publish works under the license is an asset, which became held by the original contract-signing companies at the time of signing. However, this came with an obligation to pay royalties. There are two ways to interpret that obligation:

            – It is a limit on the right to publish. (This is the usual interpretation)

            – It is a liability which was acquired together with the right, as part of the same contract, but is, in principle, separable from it. This is, if I understand correctly, the interpretation Disney is relying on.

            If the second one is correct, then it is possible to sell the asset (right to publish) without the liability (obligation to pay royalties). This means that Lucasfilm/Fox/whoever still has an obligation to pay X% of proceeds from the sales of the publication. Even though they are no longer the ones receiving the revenue from publishing those works, for each one sold they are required to pay Mr. Foster $X for every $Y Disney takes in from sales of Foster’s works. They no longer have any assets, so they are probably unable to pay and will go bankrupt in short order if and when they start trying to carry out hose obligations, but they are the ones who retain the obligation, not Disney.

            This is a novel legal theory. an unfair one, counter to the common good, and a fairly gerrymandered, tortured argument. But it’s not a ridiculous one, on the face of it. A very corporate-friendly court might accept it. And so it’s not ridiculous that they might decide that it cost them very little to try it out and fail.

    2. Mary Robinette Kowal

      In part, we are going public because of the concern that they may be using the same tactic on other writers. Alan has the clout that speaking up won’t hurt him in the same way that it will hurt a younger writer. I’m grateful to him for stepping into the spotlight.

      1. Patrick Hogan

        The least Disney can do is drop a few coins made Marvel movies into Alan’s jar for back royalties.

        Can someone explain this more? It sounds like LucasFilm owned the copyright and Alan ghostwrote novelization under George Lucas meaning Alan never owned the copyright.

        I support Alan getting paid. But isn’t the argument of this could happen to any author hiding the ball a bit?

        For example, Mary Robinette Kowal you own your copyright to Calculating Stars. John Scalzi owns his copyright to Lock In. Self published authors on Amazon own their copyright. Right?

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal

          I think you’re conflating two different issues. If I may clarify?

          The first is about IP, or intellectual property. When an author owns a copyright, they then license it to a publisher until the book goes out of print or some other point defined in the contract. Working in someone else’s IP can take different forms, but in very generalized terms the writer’s words are their own and the IP belongs to the creator. Both things have value. It’s possible to do a “buy out” which means a massive flat fee to purchase the rights to those words from the writer. Without a buyout, the IP owner pays a royalty to the writer because those words have value.

          Which brings us to the second issue. This contract wasn’t a buyout.

          This contract specifically says that it is binding on “successors and assigns” which would be Disney. Breaking that clause is the part that can affect everyone.

          1. Colin Mulligan

            Foster wrote 4 Star Wars books. 1, the A New Hope novelization, was ghost written. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye seems to be the other book at issue. I haven’t heard any mention of the other 2 Star Wars books he wrote. The Approaching Storm set before Episode II and the novelization to Episode VII.

          2. Jamie Blackman

            The novelisation of the original film was published as ‘by George Lucas,’ though it was in reality written by ADF, one assumes from notes and/or a script simply due to timeline, as the novelisation came out six months before the film.

          3. Stephen Zillwood

            For SotME, The Approaching Storm, and the Alien books, but the original Star Wars was published under George Lucas’s name (source – I own the book!).

          4. Rob James

            indeed – I chose his Alien novel, with his name onthe cover to read as part of my English homework when I was 13. Teacher was very snobby about it.

        2. Nicholas Mustelin

          Patrick Hogan.

          I have published on Amazon, and I own the Copyrights.

          I also know Author Friends of mine who have contracts with the equals of Lucas Entertainment or such, and those companies hold the rights – as per each contract – and that company pays Royalties to the Writer/Author.

          To NOT pay Royalties that you SHOULD, is a huge breach of agreement!

          I say TAKE DISNEY TO COURT! They can’t ignore THAT withouts serious ramifications!


      2. Chris O'Brien

        Disney’s always been, shall we say, “legally agressive” about things. Them having the NDA in place makes sense for them, as it lets them claim they intended to negotiate in “good faith” but Foster was the one who opted to walk away. Going public like this undercuts their ability to spin that fiction, so good call.

        It’s also worth noting they wouldn’t be negotiating over royalties for one book, but more likely seven- two pre-buyout Star Wars novels (‘Splinter’ and ‘The Approaching Storm’), and five from the Alien franchise since they bought 20th Century Fox out. (Foster’s novelization of Lucasarts game ‘The Dig’ is a possible eighth; but as the book isn’t currently in print, I doubt it.)

        1. Jay

          Once signed by both parties, the contract is no longer negotiable, unless such negotiation is agreed to by both parties. Although I haven’t read the contract, Disney’s failure to observe its contractual obligations by issuing royalty statements on a regular basis, or by paying any royalties due to the original copyright holder, in this case presumably the author, is a breach of contract. No amount of cutesy legal mincing can get around that and any competent court the author would like to throw it to should find in his favor toute de suite. Otherwise it’s just plain theft. Source: I negotiated book publishing contracts.

      3. Cecilia Tan

        I’m grateful to you, Mary Robinette Kowal, for leading the public charge on this. For anyone who thinks serving SFWA as president is something someone does to burnish their writing career, you are example number one of someone who does it to serve the community and improve the lives of other writers. I appreciate so very much that you are standing up to Disney instead of kissing up to them.

      4. Nicholas Mustelin

        Dear SFWA.

        To go public with this is a brilliant move! Here’s why:

        1. Disney probably won’t offer a NDA before negotiating now;

        2. By going public, the general public is made aware of Disney’s APALLING behavior, and many will change their favorable views of the company;

        3. When Disney realizes – takes a while to spread the news – this is public, my guess is they will take action, and make a decision godd for the Author (and themselves).

        Thank you for making us aware!

        Nicholas M.

    3. Emma Jobling

      Because Disney has a ton of money and a ton of lawyers and will tie a sick man up in the courts with a ton of motions and delays and all that will happen is that ADF will run out of money to pay his lawyers before the court even hears an argument.

    4. Shelley

      Not a lawyer, but I’ve followed enough legal cases, especially with larger corporations, to understand why they’d hesitate to sue.

      Disney has legions of lawyers who would most likely love nothing more than to drag this out in court for years. Mr. Foster does not have the resources to fight a giant like Disney for this length of time.

      It would have to be SFWA putting up the resources, and I’m not sure this organization has the resources, either.

    5. Gregory Price

      Disney has been allowed to get too big. It needs to be broken up and it’s IP scattered.

      They’re doing this with fan art as well, taking models and sometimes even images directly off the internet and using them in their books without even attribution.

    6. Bill

      Wow. So if you buy a DVD, BD or book with Disney content, you can sell it without any liability or copyright claim attached – piracy is now history! Or you may start to re-stream Disney+, but without copy protection.

      As Disney is making most of their money with IP, it may not be a clever move to wreck IP rights.

    7. Xopher Halftongue

      I think the theory is “we’re an 800-pound gorilla and we can do what we want.” They have better lawyers and more lobbying funds. Bringing a lawsuit costs a lot, right? Famous writer ≠ wealthy writer.

      They’ve done irreparable damage to copyright law from one end; why not do it on both ends?

      An evil, evil company.

    8. Hariana Chilstrom

      I’m going to pass this on to other creatives, but would like to do more to prod Disney. Would it help or hurt Dean’s case to Tweet something like: “Disney–talk to Alan Dean Foster. You are ignoring his legally binding contract and he is not being paid.” Or something stronger: “Shame on you, Disney. Do the right and legal thing–contact Alan Dean Foster’s agent. She has sent you numerous requests for a conversation about why he is not being paid.”

      1. SFWA Communications Post author

        Please boost the #DisneyMustPay hashtag – you are welcome to re-share directly from our Twitter account and add your own commentary. Our most recent post is pinned – @SFWA

  2. Bruce Perens

    As a former Pixar studio tools developer, I understand that when Pixar and Disney were separate companies, Pixar would have gone bankrupt if Disney had been able to treat Pixar films the way they are currently treating the works of Alan Dean Foster.

      1. Mooring

        Individual ad-hoc boycotts don’t generally have much of an effect — are organizations (SFWA or others who are sympathetic) discussing the idea of actively calling for a general boycott? Because I would definitely be up for that.

        (Whether on the consumption end, or on the “not crossing the picket line” if some group of Disney workers or regular contractors call a strike. Or both.)

        1. Mooring

          … I think, at least. Maybe something specific and directed at more regular sources of income would have an effect? Like, a wave of people cancelling Disney+ and Hulu and putting this as the reason. So actually I suppose that cancelling those would start effectively sending a message.

          (I do worry though that if the pressure is JUST on individuals, then they’ll, like, cave on this one instance but still keep the policy and still keep screwing over other people? Like Mary Robinette Kowal said above, if they’re that brazenly unethical with someone with this much of a track record, I’d be shocked if they aren’t doing this as a general policy.

          And having a more organized, organization-led boycott would stop them from being able to set the terms of the discussion. (And have a greater chance of giving, e.g., boycotts of major media releases a chance to play a part.))

      2. Kit

        Actually while a boycott would be symbolic in the case of Disney I don’t see that being effective. The law is the only currently available option.

      3. Andrew Flenniken

        Cancelled my yearly Disney+ subscription (which would have renewed today), and used the feedback form to tell them why.

    1. Orca

      The more ‘creatives’ call them out the better. Even if a NDA has been signed it could have been done under false pretences…. so they may still have a case to challenge non-payment of royalties.

      1. Michael Armstrong

        Mary Robinette has the best strategy. Signal boost the heck out of #disneymustpay. It’s trending on Twitter, by the way, thanks to some good play by writers like Cory Doctorow.

        As a member of Griefcom, I want to reiterate the point made in this press release. It is extremely rare that we have to go public with an unresolved grievance. Most publishers — including some very big corporations — will resolve a grievance after we politely show them the error of their ways.

        Our big stick is that we will publicize a grievance when all avenues have been exhausted. I am grateful for the SFWA board’s support on this, because it gives Griefcom even more clout in using our nuclear option.

        1. Ripley

          “And I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” – Ripley, from “Aliens”.

      2. Jay

        Another route is to contact the literary agents association, individual literary agencies, CAA, William Morris, etc. as well as WGA, and let them know that Disney is not fulfilling its obligations to an author. They would be very interested to know that Disney has no intention of paying their clients (I.e., by implication, the literary agents) if they can get away with it. For that matter, what is Alan Dean Foster’s literary agent doing about this?

    2. A.Beth

      Possibly call your Congress representative, lay out what this interpretation of contract law would mean for anyone who deals with a large company (because this could be used against an author if there were movie or comic adaptations, as well as authors who write novel adaptations of movies! this will affect residents in *every* state), and ask your representative to call Disney in to answer Congressional questions about why they won’t honor their contracts.

  3. Gregg Garcia

    Disney- this is incredible. I would not have believed the Walt Disney company, or the memory of Mr. Disney himself, would ever have countenanced an action so at odds with everything the company stands for publicly. You have let a lawyer’s opinion get in the way of good business (this includes, very much, treating customers, employees, and suppliers as valued contributors). Please return to sanity and pay Mr. Foster his contractually due monies. It will be so much cheaper than the court costs and the loss of goodwill you will reap if you continue.

    1. Tony J

      Alas, not as incredible as we’d like to think. Sure, Disney bills itself as family-friendly, but you don’t want to dig too deeply into “Uncle Walt” ‘s prejudices. Gay people? Women? Unions? Jews? People of colour? Check out the Secret Lives documentary from the mid-90s to see the kinds of things that went on at the studios.

    2. Cindy Ice

      Right is right. A contract is a contract and you pay what you owe. If Disney wishes to continue its wholesome image they best pay up. We of John Q Public will hold them to their image as they have held so many others. It will cost them dearly if they continue to betray standards of common decency, morals and ethics. We can and will BOYCOTT.

    3. Jeffrey Piatt

      This is something Walt Disney would have done. His early cartoons were done with a another animator. He took sole credit for Mickey Mouse. It’s likely they aquired the assets and name and left a shell Corp the old Lucasfilm and used the assets to start the division. The same happened with FOX they only got parts of 21st century FOX.

    4. Tara Gellman

      Walt threw people under the bus during the McCarthy era. He was no good guy. It has been a difficult thing for me to contend with – the joys of growing up going to Disneyland, still liking things they do now and then – and the reality of what a horrible person Walt Disney was. I haven’t seen the documentary mentioned, but he did testify against his peers before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Red Scare – an evil chapter in our history. This has nothing to do with what is happening to authors Disney is apparently ripping off, but Disney was no saint. He destroyed lives. His legacy is quite mixed.

  4. Sean Williams

    Pay Alan and others their fair share of royalties!

    Release every person from NDAs man!

    Do the right thing!

  5. Karen Thronebury

    A corporation thinking that they can claim that they own someone else’s work, but aren’t required to pay for the purchase is as ridiculous as it is unfair. I’m sure that they wouldn’t stand for someone saying something like, “I hereby claim all of the rights to ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Fantasia’, but I don’t think I should have to pay your company for them, you should give them to me for free.” If that happened, Disney would come out slinging so much legal fire-and-brimstone that God would be envious. So, until they agree to do the right thing and compensate Mr. Foster for their use of his work, my suggestion would be for other authors to refuse to allow Disney to make use of any of their work, saving themselves from the same aggravation.

    1. David Higgins

      Hey, Mr D, just bought one of your classic, blockbuster movies on dvd. Obviously, I can now reproduce it and sell copies to my hearts content. You’re OK with that, yeah? Cheers, Mr D.

    2. emilie smart

      Except that ADF didn’t allow Disney to make use of his work, but they still make money from his work and haven’t paid him.

    1. Michael Mumblow

      Disney owns the Court systems at least in Florida and California. They dictate state legislation for Worker’s Compensation Laws by paying millions to lobbyists to see to it these laws heavily favor them when they have wrongfully injured an employee. Their are cast member both former and present websites with horrifying stories from them regarding how Disney has treated them and their guests. Disney has an army of Lawyers who are full time Disney employee’s as well as the best legal firms in the nation on retainers. They bow to no one and screw over everyone they wrong whenever possible and their motto is to pay nobody or else everybody will want a handout. They are as rotten to the core as any company has ever been in the history of our nation in how they treat people. Whoever thinks this company is a company of family values truly has been affected by pixie dust. Family values company my ass.

  6. Angela Farris

    This is beyond incomprehensible to understand why Disney would withhold what’s rightfully owed to Alan Dean Foster. When resolved, will his heirs suffer through the same belligerence Disney has shown Mr. Foster?
    The Foster’s are in my thoughts & prayers. Disney is making their struggle to survive, difficult when they should be focusing on the best years of their lives with their loved ones.

    Do the RIGHT thing. Let this man and his family, be at peace. Live what time they have left, IN Peace.

    Pay up #Mickey! It’s beyond due!

      1. SnowMercy

        Mickey is Wicked. Look it up. They put the proles on notice decades ago. Are you paying attention Julia?

  7. Mickey Mouse

    I am an evil mouse and all of your monies shall be mine!!

    Seriously though I’ll be cancelling my Disney + as a result. Let’s make #canceldisney trend!

    ….Or they could just pay the man and we can avoid these childish antics

  8. John

    I really hope that Disney is forced to do the right thing and with enough force (heh) that they decide it is best to do the right thing without being forced next time. It is disgusting that they behave in this manner while pretending to be a family friendly company. Thieves are not family friendly.

    Also I have only ever read a single Star Wars novel and it was “Splinter of the Minds Eye” back when it was originally released. I remember it to this day. I will also remember how Disney does dirty business.

  9. Esme Rome

    This is outrageous. Mr. Foster’s royalties must be like change between the couch cushions for Disney, but they’d rather be petty over a few thousand dollars. And then asking him to sign an NDA just to enter negotiations? Unreal. Guess we’re not going to Disneyland any time soon!

    1. Watchmaker

      To be fair, you shouldn’t for entirely unrelated reasons. Reasons that are behind Mickey’s months-long scramble for spare change.

      Disney is genuinely desperate for funds right now. They entered 2020 loaded with debt, assuming they would be making more money than ever between the parks and movies. Instead, the Parks are a money pit, and between stalled production and distribution collapse, their live-action film business has taken a hit that will take years to recover from.

      Ironically, if they’d stuck to cartoons, they’d at least have kept their productions going.

  10. Woody Peard

    I have been reading science fiction for 55 years. I have been a fan since of Alan Dean Foster since I first read For Love Of Mother Not. I have kept the entire set for my daughter, who is turning four. Don’t ask how that happened to a 67 year old! That series deserves a shot at the big screen. Sue them and protect your rights and the intellectual ownership of your books!

  11. Krose

    I sincerely hope Disney reconsiders its stance. But let this be a learning point too: never sign a contract which allows the other side to transfer contractual rights (to publish your work) without accompanying liabilities (paying you royalties) to a third party. If the original party you signed the first contract with goes out of business, that leaves you high and dry. I don’t know exactly what kind of transfer occurred or its surrounding circumstances, but the effect of this is awful to the person whose efforts are being squeezed for all their worth.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      To be clear, it would be a very unusual contract that would stipulate that since it runs contradictory to American contract law. Also, in this specific case, Alan’s contract is unambiguous that it is binding on “the successors and assigns.”

      1. DJG

        A quick check of the copyright registrations indicate that many of the novels are “work made for hire.”

        For example the author of “Splinter” is The Star Wars Corporation not Alan.

        I’m not saying that Alan doesn’t deserve to get paid but work made for hire agreements are often drafted to disadvantage the employee.

        Is there some clause in that wmfh agreement that allows Disney to withhold royalties?

        1. Kel Bachus

          Assertion of copyright doesn’t mean that the claimant has the right to assert, it means they’ve asserted it.

          I could go register the copyright for one of my students’ video games right now. It wouldn’t make me the copyright holder. It wouldn’t hold up.

          I’m looking at the same registration you are, but what that registration doesn’t tell either of us are the circumstances under which that registration was made. It doesn’t tell us if, at the moment of that registration the registrant had any right to assert claim at all.

          Yes, it says work for hire. On the other hand, Foster is clearly credited on the work throughout all the editions, and has received royalties until the transfer. That would seem to indicate that he is, and has been the legal owner of the copyright throughout. Because, frankly, people don’t pay royalties out of the kindness of their hearts. They pay them because they’re contractually and legally obligated.

          It’s not about desert. It’s about the continuance of royalties paid, then not paid, and now owed. Desert is absolutely beside the point.

    2. Quinn

      Sorry, but this doesn’t make sense. The issue is that Disney is continuing to publish ADF’s works. ADF’s works *would* remain ADF’s copyright, except for the agreement to transfer those rights; such agreement would includes the royalties.

      Either that contract is valid, or it is not. If it is valid, then Disney honors the original contract, and continues to pay ADF royalties, or stop using his works. If that contract is invalid, then Disney do not own the work, ADF does.

  12. Dean Coleman

    Alan Dean Foster is like the Stephen King of novelizations and a legend of original pulp sci fi! There’s no way they can get away with this in the long run. Keep up the pressure and get the word out.

  13. Bill Heitner

    So sorry to hear this. I guess with ” friends like these ( Disney) who needs enemies” . Been reading your books for years and enjoyed them all,(62 year old).

  14. John E Johnston III

    I was one of the people who tried in vain to get Alan paid the royalties he is owed. Griefcom rules prevent me from telling you what Disney said or did, but that’s fine, because you wouldn’t believe me anyway. I will say this: for perhaps the first time in my life, my jaw actually dropped.

  15. Laurie S Grogan

    Alan Dean Foster has been apart of my life thru his books for over 40 years. I have been a fan of Disney since I was a child but this is a terrible injustice. Disney DO THE RIGHT THING!

  16. Ivan Buendia Gayton

    Perhaps I can suggest a way to get the attention of Disney’s legal department:

    If Mr Foster begins publicly distributing video files of episodes of “The Mandalorian” under the same financial arrangement with which Disney is distributing his works (no payment), I would expect him to hear from Disney’s legal department more quickly than he would by continuing his requests for payment for his own work.

  17. Patrick Barnhill

    I have a question, and since I am not a writer I’ve never been in the position of looking at a contract for royalties. But isn’t it the publisher that pays out royalties? After reading Mr. Foster’s letter, I looked around for all 5 of the books he mentions. None of them are published by Disney or any Disney subsidiary. They are all published by publishing companies that have license agreements with Disney. Wouldn’t that mean they are responsible for paying the royalties? Disney doesn’t get the money from the sales of these books, they just get the license fees from the publishers (assuming these books were done under what would seem to be a very strange type of contract compared to others I have been able to read about online. As far as I can tell, its almost always the case that the publisher pays the author royalties.)

    1. Mike D

      As a lawyer, I think this merits a response from Mary or Alan. Without the contracts, it’s impossible for us to understand the terms, but I agree that it is strange that Disney, and not, say Del Rey, would be on the hook for the royalties.

      If I’m understanding Alan’s and Mary’s explanation, though, Alan did receive royalties before the Disney purchase, and did not thereafter. Is this understanding correct? If so, is it possible that Disney told the publisher to stop paying royalties?

      There’s a piece of the puzzle missing here. Maybe you won’t be able to elucidate because you’re under NDA. You might not even be able to disclose that you are under NDA, depending on the terms of the NDA. But you’re asking us, concerned readers and fans of sci-fi who want to ensure authors receive what’s owed, to amplify this message, while there’s this bit of mystery remaining.

      I, and I’m sure others, would appreciate if you could clarify.

      1. Mary Robinette Kowal

        First, Del Rey is submitting its royalty reports regularly for the New Hope book. That’s a different contract and directly with them.

        With the books in question, the publisher directed us to the rightsholder regarding questions of payment. It took SFWA involvement to even find out who the rightsholder was. It is Disney.

        They have said, “Fox/Disney has the right of the copyright owner to publish the books, which ownership is not conditioned upon payment to Mr. Foster of royalties.”

        Alan’s contract says that it is binding on “the successors and assigns” which is Disney.

        So yes, Alan received royalties until 2014, when Disney acquired the rights, and royalty payment ceased. It doesn’t make any sense to us either.

        1. Tek

          I feel like we still need some clarification. Pre-2014, was Foster receiving royalty payments from Lucasfilm directly? If that were the case, wouldnt it be clear that Disney would be the inheritor? Or was it from Del Rey, who had a separate contract with Lucas, which Disney is disputing obligations for? Is this actually a dispute between Del Rey and Disney, with Foster caught in the middle? Who was Foster’s contract with? And why did it take six years to begin this dispute?

        2. Jeff

          This still isn’t clear to me. For “Splinter” it looks like the copyright holder is The Star Wars Corporation -> LucasFilm -> Disney, correct? Who was his contract for “Splinter” with? LucasFilm? Was it for the assignment of copyright in exchange for a royalty agreement?

          Who paid royalties before the acquisition? LucasFilm? Del Rey?

          1. Mary Robinette Kowal

            “Why did it take so long?” We’d like to know that, too. Alan had been trying to get an answer to who the new rightsholder was since at least 2017 and couldn’t even get that answer until SFWA got involved.

        3. Patrick Barnhill

          Thank you for the reply. I was very confused about the whole issue, and I appreciate you taking the time to help me understand it.

  18. Peter Johnstone

    Shame on you, Disney.

    I for one will now NOT be taking up a subscription to your Dismay+ Channel.

    #DearMickey #DisneyMustPay

    1. Theresa Kennedy

      Even if Disney is right on a legal basis (which I doubt), they are sure not right on a moral basis. Do what’s right and pay Alan Dean Foster.
      At least open up the communication.
      Definitely not going to subscribe or Disney+ And I wound hope many others don’t either.

  19. mike cassidy

    Is the implication here that Disney

    Or anybody else

    Could buy up a publisher

    Then continue to sell that publisher’s titles

    Without paying any author royalties

  20. Michael Young

    Hope they pay you for Avatar (aka. Midworld) as well, now that they own it. Do the right thing, Disney.

  21. Christine D Shotts

    I met Alan in 1986 at Magnus Opus Con, he was very gracious and friendly. I must admit at the time I sat next to him at dinner I had no clue as to who he was. I was flabbergasted to later that week to find out he was the author of Aliens!! I have become a fan of his since then and have often wondered what he thought of the fact I kind of brushed him off in favor of my obvious fan struck blather over Stephen Donaldson. I regretted this over the years, however I have since then bought every book he ever wrote and watched every movie he had made from his books.
    This is a shameful way to treat a person from whom you make money off of all his hard work!

    Shame on you Disney!

  22. Barbara

    I am not shocked at all.
    This is The Mouse after all, the company has been working up to this level of greed for quite some time.
    We may recall the number of authors that refused to allow sequels, or any interaction whatsoever, after one movie based on one of their books, and right on through to the company lawyers sending a cease and desist and threatening letters to a home quilter who made a quilt using Disney themed fabric for a charity auction.
    There is no one left in charge at this company that gives a damn about anything but a dollar, and how they might steal it.

    My husband and I a ginormous “Spellsinger” fans, we’ve been planing to replace some worn out volumes. This seems a good time for it. Every penny and all…

  23. David Hager

    Regardless of what Disney does, you would think that money bags George Lucas would at least help out an old friend.

  24. Arthur Adams

    I know of at least one case where “we acquired the assets, but not the liabilities” occurred.

    There used to be a company called SPI that published military strategy games. (Physical games. Home computers were in their infancy, and home video games were the Atari 2600). They went bankrupt, and were acquired by TSR. (I think I recall that TSR had lent them money, and called the note as soon as they were late in payment, despite a promise they would not do so.)

    Now, SPI published a magazine called Strategy and Tactics, which included a game in every issue. They had offered lifetime subscriptions. I recall that it cost around $100 — a pretty decent sum in that time, but not prohibitive for many people.

    When TSR acquired SPI, it was an “assets not liabilities” situation, and they refused to honor the lifetime subscriptions, really offending a lot of old school gamers.

    I’m not defending the argument, mind you, I’m just referencing a similar case.

    1. J Tanner

      IANAL but I believe bankruptcy is what absolved the liabilities in that case, not the following acquisition of certain assets.

    2. Don Glass

      A bankruptcy is a different kettle of fish. The whole purpose is to end liabilities and make recovery for the creditors.

    3. Edmund Hack

      TSR didn’t buy SPI.

      They had loaned SPI money, then called the note. SPI didn’t have the cash or any other money source to pay the note. The note was secured by liens on SPI’s assets such as trademarks, copyrights, and inventory. So, TSR got the rights to publish S&T and to publish SPI’s games.

  25. Lasse Jensen

    Sadly I doubt disney will change it’s practises, nor pay mr. Foster at all. They did not become a media giant by playing fair.

    The truly sad part is that events like this could irreversably damage the way publishers and authors interact and end up weakening the publishing business as a whole.

  26. IP observer

    Disney is infamous for pushing ever longer copyright terms, asymptotically converging towards perpetuity…

    Rights for me, but no rights for thee.

  27. Carolyn Clink

    I knew it was an open secret that Alan Dean Foster wrote the first/original Star Wars novel (the one with George Lucas’s name on it). But here it is in B&W from Alan himself. The Disney lawyers will stonewall you until the heat death of the universe. And to the lawyer above who suggested that Alan sue Disney. Really? All of Alan’s royalties will be eaten up with lawyer’s fees if he does that. Your best bet is to find the one Disney lawyer that will talk to you and maybe you can work something out. Maybe. Genuinely wishing you good luck!

  28. mogfix

    Disney’s logic is perfectly clear. Let me clarify: If you buy all of Disney’s “classic” works, then sell them to my neighbor for a dollar, he is free to copy them in large quantities and sell them.

    1. mogfix

      Disney’s legal obfuscation, if it doesn’t violate the letter of the law, certainly violates the spirit of intellectual property. Should Disney continue in this vein, I anticipate the horrified screams of every agent in New York as they realize their business model is defunct as all writing becomes in-house on an hourly pay scale.

      This would also make possible a future in which copyrights are a joke, and all of that intellectual property Disney relies upon would become something akin to public domain.

  29. kelly driskill

    Dear Disney…you are a real “pizza chip” You have the money to do what is right,but not the morality to.You need the burden of all that money to ne lightened for you a little bit(as you cant seem to figure out what to do with it).You also have the money and the power to treat ALL of your employees well,but refuse to do so.Folks forget the intermediate steps.Create a new hashtag and turn it loose. #BOYCOTTDISNEY If it were my money this hashtag would be trending on all social media.Good luck folks!

  30. DensityDuck

    I imagine that Disney’s response will be that they bought only the *assets* of Lucasfilm and Fox; when those companies closed down after all their assets were purchased it was *their* responsibility to compensate Foster per the terms of the contract he’d signed with them. And if the contracts didn’t include any “what if the assets are sold and the company shuts down” clauses, then he’s boned. (which isn’t meant as a “lol nub get rekt” statement, it’s entirely reasonable that an author in the 1980s would not have imagined that some day Disney would buy Star Wars!)

    1. Rae

      I’m not a lawyer but I did study enough accounting to understand corporate finance, and neither of those companies ever closed down in a sense that would allow them to make liabilities go away. The documents Disney filed with the SEC said that they purchased Lucasfilm, and the filings about the merger with 21st Century Fox also made it very clear that the merger included all of 21st Century Fox’s assets and liabilities (the Fox branded TV assets & liabilities got their own subsidiary, although they are also not closed and also still ultimately owned by Disney).

  31. Jerome Conner

    If you are a shareholder (Check your mutual funds and 401k), let Disney (and the person running your funds) know of your displease. Shareholders have a lot of power.

  32. JM Lofficier

    As someone said above, this is truly baffling. I wouldn’t frame this as a matter of purchasing the assets vs the liabilities of a corporation, which in fact may not be directly related or held in different divisions, etc. I don’t think you can buy a section of a contract. If that were so, conceivably, someone else could buy the other sections, and chaos would ensue. In fact, most contracts state that they can only be assigned in their entirety (except sometimes for who receives the money, which can be delegated) or that such an assignment does not relieve the publisher of its payment obligations. (Wordings vary.) In short, this should have been dealt with in the original publishing agreement; but even if it was not, it is a very novel (as Sir Humphrey would put it, meaning crazy) position to take.

  33. B Walton

    So when my parents die and I inherit their Disney Vacation Club subscription, Disney will have no problem with me inheriting the asset of yearly points without the liability of paying the yearly fee? Excellent.


  34. Jeramy Willow

    Wow. I’m not really sure why this appeared in my headlines today, but it triggered a heavy response. I’ll try to keep this brief.
    I’m a rather private person, and I prefer to just keep a lot of things to myself, but I felt the need to say something here.
    Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series saved my life, both literally and figuratively.
    In the 80s, I was involved in several combat situations in Central America. I won’t be more specific.
    I carried paperback copies of all of the Spellsinger books that had been published at that time. They gave me somewhere to turn to and get away from the horror of everyday life. They (and a few other books) helped keep me relatively sane. That is the figurative way they saved me.
    One particular mission, we ended up on the losing side of a skirmish. As we were retreating, there was a huge blast to the rear of us, and I was blasted through the air and smacked into a tree. Adrenaline (and probably fear) got me up and kept me going, but I felt blood streaming down my entire back.
    After our “successful” evasion, we got to a place to catch our breath and started our assessments. I peeled off my rucksack (backpack). As some of you probably guessed by now, it was shredded and paper had been trailing me through the jungle. After I peeled my shirts off, my bloody back had multiple scratches and one huge bruise, but the rucksack and those lovely books had absorbed most of the blast. They were shredded, but my back wasn’t. They saved my life. Fortunately, I had already read all of them at least once.

    Alan Dean Foster,
    Thank you for that wonderful series and all of the other literary works you’ve touched our lives with.

    I obviously don’t know the entire situation, but it sounds like Mr. Foster is giving you the chance to honor your commitments. In the military, we lived by the creed “Duty – Honor – Country”. As a civilian leader, trainer, husband, and father, I’ve learned that honor and integrity are worth more than any amount of money. Take care.

        1. William Ashley Vaughan

          Hi, I am a lifelong fan. Reading Splinter of the Mind’s Eye as a kid remains a happy memory. The first book of your The Damned trilogy is a masterpiece of military sci fi. Much gratitude and many thanks.

  35. Jessica Allred

    What really bothers me is how Disney will go after the little guys who use their characters in non-monitary ways (like teachers using them in bulletin boards) yet they won’t pay the people they steal from?

  36. Dorothy Scott

    Disney must pay! How dare the executives in charge cheat and lie! I bet their bank accounts are nice and fat! I wonder how many more writers have been cheated? !! Disney you are disposable!!!

  37. steve savitsky

    A new low for Disney/greedy corporations and so dangerous — can someone get Mark Hamill on the case?

  38. Brian Grantham

    Well, apparently writers will now have to include in their publishing contracts a non-severability clause that says the author’s assets cannot be transferred without also transferring the corresponding liabilities … Any breach of that clause will automatically result in all rights being immediately transferred back to the author …

    1. SFWA Communications Post author

      Alan’s contracts already specify that they are binding on “the successors and assigns.”

  39. Pat

    Sadly, this is not the first time, even that’s not covered by an NDA. Tess Gerritsen sold the rights to the story that later would become the movie “Gravity” to New Line. Warner Brothers bought New Line and made the movie, but argued that in buying New Line it had not bought its obligations to her and gave her no “based on” credit or money from a $700M movies. Her case was dismissed twice without ever reaching trial or even discovery.

    To be clear, I’m not discounting Foster’s grievance. It’s a travesty in both cases.

    1. J Michael Neal

      The Gravity lawsuit didn’t hinge on whether or not Warner had bought just the assets and not the liabilities. Their claim was that the movie Gravity was not, in fact, based upon Gerritsen’s story of the same name, and so they don’t owe any royalties to her. I have no idea whether or not Warner’s claim is valid. But it is a very different issue than this case. Here, there is no question that the works Disney is selling are the same works that Alan Dean Foster wrote.

  40. George Atkinson

    I suspect the stiffing of authors after transfer of publisher assets is rather common. Happened to me. Received royalty checks from Ablex Publishing for my 1993 book (0-89391-901-2) till Ablex was taken over by Intellect, who republished 1998 (1-871516-44-7). My complaint to Intellect was answered with the same wave-off: that Intellect has purchased the publication rights, but no royalty liability. I was invited to expand the MS for a Second Edition, which would (perhaps) cause royalties to again be paid. Response would not have been worthwhile, as the last Ablex royalty check was nine dollars and change.

  41. Axel Cushing

    I grew up reading Alan Dean Foster novelizations. I didn’t know he did original works till I was ten years old because he did so many novelizations. So, yeah, it’s not a stretch to say he’s been an influence.

    I know the books mentioned all came about from Disney buying up Lucasfilm and later Fox. I’m genuinely curious to know if they’re stiffing him on royalties for novelizations like “The Black Hole” (a Disney produced movie) or “The Dig” (A Lucasarts video game, which also got bought up as part of the Lucasfilm deal). Those may be out of print, which would suck. Regardless, just on the books mentioned, this whole situation stinks to high heaven. Pay the man.

    1. thuff

      I’m guessing The Black Hole has been out of print since long before the current batch of grifters and con-men weaseled their way into power at Disney. But never hurts to check.

  42. JL

    I have not been a Disney fan for many years, and this just adds to the multitude of reasons.

    This has a feeling of Disney being very aware of this man’s grievance, as well as his illness, and have decided it is in their best interest to do nothing as long as possible in hope that the illness will take care of the problem for them.

    They are hoping he will go away or die before they have to do anything. Well, now the bright light is on them. All he is asking for is money owed so he can use it now while he is alive.

    This man’s Estate can still sue for back royalties owed.
    Why Disney? Why make it a “fight to the end”? Just pay this Author what he is rightfully owed and had worked for. Give him a chance to NOT be in debt.

    #canceldisney #cancelcorporategreed


  43. thuff

    To me, this is out-and-out breach of contract which renders of the contract null and void, meaning that the rights revert to ADF. How funny is it to think of the expression on the faces of Disney executives, when ADF starts publishing those books under a different publisher, or self-publishes really nice high end autographed edition?

    By the way, the first book I ever read (that wasn’t an assignment from school), was Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, and the game responsible for drawing me into board games was Car Wars which was based on ADF’s Why Johnny Can’t Speed. So thank ADF for providing all this happiness to my childhood.

  44. Scott Bauer

    If the court of public opinion is not strong enough, then it will have to be settled in courts of law. As many have pointed out, that seems a daunting task given the legal resources the Mouse has. But it might be useful to recall the example of the late Harlan Ellison, who sued movie studios successfully (and didn’t have the weight of contract law on his side iirc; contracts are a BIG deal with the courts.) It would not be a walk in the park, but even a corporation the size of Disney can be made to obey the law.)

  45. Chris

    I am sorry to hear about Alan Dean Foster’s abuse by Disney, and his unfortunate health circumstances. I have fond memories of reading his Spellsinger series when I was younger. I’d like to support him by buying several books, maybe many of us would. How can we know which publishers (like DelRay mentioned earlier in the comments) are not owned by Disney and are paying Alan his royalties?

  46. Brian Grantham

    So if Disney didn’t purchase the liabilities, then they still belong to whomever received the money from the sale of 20th Century Fox and LucasFilm … That’s who ADF should go after legally, seeking to put a lien on their assets … You can bet your last nickel their lawyers will be after Disney in a nanosecond …

  47. Terris

    Not sure who to ask, but would it be okay if I used the Dear Disney image from this article for forums I’m in if I link it back to the article?

  48. Tom F.

    Many (and I mean many) moons ago a young man I vaguely remember wrote a high school English paper about Alan Dean Foster. He wrote to the author and the author kindly and generously wrote him back, answering his questions. What a truly decent guy. Sure would be a fun story if that young man, now an attorney, along with any other attorneys out there, collectively with all the people who grew up enjoying those novelizations and his brilliant novels could come together and help Alan and all writers out. Perhaps some pro bono legal work and/or some donations to a legal fund in repayment for the entertainment we received. It would be fitting if the law offices of Jonathan Thomas Meriwether filed the suit. 😉

  49. Wesley Parish

    So let’s get this straight, shall we? According to the precedent set by the wording of the US constitution, copyright is essentially an agreement between an author and the state by which the state grants the author exclusive rights to royalties from his/her works, in order to give said author the incentive to keep producing them.

    One: Walt Disney is dead, but he still holds copyright to his works. Presumably this means that Disney Corp(se) is still paying him? Details please? And presumably Disney Corp(se) is still receiving new works from Walt Disney, since they have given him the incentive to keep producing posthumously? Could we see them, please? Pretty please?

    Two: people will create, no matter what. If the only market they’ve got’s their friends and family, that’s who they’ll create for; a working copyright system guarantees a wider audience. The connection between a publisher and a creative is trust. If Disney Corp(se) gets away with this, we’ll see heaps of samizdat, zombie creatives that nobody will ever buy anything they produce and Disney Corp(se) will wither on the vine. As if it’s not already. I don’t know of anything they’ve produced lately that is worth publishing, so presumably they’ve been using Vogon Poetry Appreciation Chairs to encourage consumers to buy.

  50. thuff

    Seems to me, if this is left to stand, then what would stop, say, Scholastic Books executives from creating a new company with the sole purpose of buying Scholastic, then buying Scholastic for a dollar, then continuing to publish all the books Scholastic currently publishes but without ever having to pay one cent in royalties again? Sorry JK Rolling, we own the rights to publish Harry Potter per the Scholatic contracts we acquired but not the liability to pay you the millions in royalties for doing so. That’s literally how stupid this is.

    Disney is a pretty nasty bunch of mofos to do this to someone, especially to someone they’ve had a relationship with going back to 1980’s The Black Hole.

    Best wishes to ADF, I’m deeply saddened to hear about his medical issues.

  51. John E Johnston III

    While #DisneyMustPay was all over the Internet today, guess where it wasn’t? On any major TV network or news channel. Or in any major newspaper.

    It surely must be nice to be above contract law and to have very, very close friends in the media…not, of course, that I know of anyone or anything like like that. Nope. Nosirree.

  52. Terris

    I don’t know how else to help other than by getting the word out there, but I would like to know if it is only the three Alien books and the Star Wars books that are affected by this.

    If so, I’m going to personally go out and buy every other book of Mr Foster’s I can in a show of support, I grew up reading his novels, read my way through the alien omnibus so many times my parents had to replace it…twice and love his original works also.

    I feel sick and disheartened by this whole situation and I have been thinking about it all day, it breaks my heart.

    Mr Foster, if you happen to read this, do know there are people out there that respect and care for you and the wonderful works you have produced, and want only the best for you. I wish you well and hope that you and your family’s health improves, and that you get the royalties you deserve.

    Good luck.

  53. Mitch

    73+ million Disney+ subscribers with on average families of 2 children = 146 million viewers who aren’t concerned about royalties as long as they get their viewing content. 73+ million subscribers who don’t care about the legal system because of the 3 ring circus the 2020 election is still entertaining us with. Getting a good deal is worth more than standing up for someone’s royalties especially when it doesn’t or will not affect their viewing pleasure. Good luck to the lawyers and to you Mr. Foster!

  54. Stephen Turne

    If royalties are not being paid does this not mean the original contracts were frustrated at the point of sale of the IP to Disney. If that being the case can Mr Foster not sue Disney for breach of copyright. Be interesting what a US IP Lawyer makes of this, there may be even one willing to take on Disney on a non win no fee basis.

  55. Robert Martin

    I’m not defending Disney’s response or their stated royalty policy. It’s sleazy. But I’m not sure Disney has had any income from the books from which to pay royalties, either. As near as I can tell, the A New Hope novelization and Splinter in a Mind’s Eye are not in print from Scholastic and Random House/Del Rey, their most recent respective publishers. The Alien books are only available as Kindle editions.

    1. James Turpin

      The Star Wars novels you mention are available on Amazon, including Kindle edition ebook and mass market paperback. Did Disney change publishers? Yes. Did they stop publishing these books? No.

      1. dan

        Even though this is two monster corporations, still Amazon has a reputation for pulling offerings immediately in response to allegations of property rights violations. They even hit me with one that went away before I bestirred myself enough to assert I was holding the physical artifact in my hand.

        Getting Amazon to take something down, even momentarily, would trigger email from Amazon to someone in the behemoth who has not heard about this matter and might respond differently.

        – dan

  56. J

    Any artist, in any format, who wins an award this awards season should end any speech with “ Oh, and, by the way, Disney must pay Alan Dean Foster.”

  57. Tracy Lunquist

    If, as seems inevitable, this does go to court, I hope that SFWA will let us all know how to help pay the legal fees. Seems like a safe bet this is gonna get expensive, and cash will be needed in the short term regardless of the ultimate outcome.

    Whenever two parties draw lawyers in anger, only the lawyers come away with anything.

  58. Liz

    I’ve been a corporate lawyer for over 25 years. There are times when the best or only course of action for a corporation is to blatantly breach an agreement. This is not one of those times. To deprive a writer of a relatively very small (compared to corporate assets and revenue) amount of royalties to which he is legally entitled, however, is egregious. They are betting on the fact that he does not have enough money to fund legal actions, or if he does, that the amount of royalties he could get would not cover the legal costs he would rack up. It would be interesting to know if his original contract had a ‘lawyers fees’ clause or other provision which allocates legal costs to the breaching party – I assume he does not have those provisions in the original document, however, otherwise Disney lawyers would be more willing to resolve this quickly. Writers, please have a good lawyer read your contracts before you sign them – corporate lawyers are very creative in their contracts and put in many bland or boilerplate seeming clauses that actually give the corporation advantages. Having a clever lawyer on your side can get you closer to even ground. Also, when the company to which you licensed your content is acquired by another company, have your lawyer write a letter to the new company’s legal department/general counsel with a copy of the contract to highlight and reinforce your rights under the contract and how all the obligations of the acquired company now are the obligations of the successor company.
    If SFWA needs another lawyer to help, let me know. I love Foster’s writing and hate to see him treated like this.

  59. Don Macleod

    The ripple effect of what this means for him and other authors is enourmous. For Disney to put Alan Dean Foster, SF’s most cherished treasure, “on ignore”, is just incredible. Alan has been the go-to guy for George Lucas and so much of Hollywood whenever they needed a SF movie novelization done quickly+brilliantly, and to take time from his own 70+ novelizations (full disclosure, I own over 50 of them!) I hope news of this reaches Disneys Holy Trinity of Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and Kathleen Kennedy and that they ask the execs to put this fire out hard and fast. After all, what would baby yoda do?

    This summer, I got up the nerve to actually reach out to Alan to both thank him for 4 decades of reading pleasure, and to try and replace a few rare books my dog ate. He has been nothing but kind and generous and indulged me much more than neccessary. His website posts and notes never said one word of what has surely been an incredible stressful time, both financially and health wise.

    I feel like he’s my retired grandfather on a pension and paid a guy in advance to re-shingle his roof, and then the guy never showed up and had his phone disconnected. But I know where the guy lives.

    I haven’t been on Twitter or Facebook for years….but I’m firing them up again to help spread awareness of this huge injustice.

    ADF deserves every cent and more, and a sincere public apology.

    In the mean time, buy as many copies of his books as you can: Madrenga was just released two days ago, and The Director Should Have Shot You is out in April…something unusual I’m really looking forward to.

  60. Kjell Lindberg

    So IF I purchase a used Disney movie on physical media from a private individual.
    I can then upload it to the WEB without having to pay Disney any IP-royalties???

    Sounds great, that will be an interesting ending to this story.
    Because I can not see how Disney both can have the cake and eat it.

  61. Ron

    Not a lawyer, so maybe Mary or someone knowledgeable can help me out with this. My limited understanding of how publishing contracts generally work is that the publisher pays the royalties for a novel.

    Disney is not and never has been the publisher of the Star Wars novelization, or of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Del Rey was, has been consistently for over 40 years, and is today. Disney is the IP holder.

    How exactly is Disney responsible for Foster’s royalties? Wouldn’t that be Del Rey’s responsibility? Was there something in Foster’s contract back in the day that placed Lucasfilm/The Star Wars Corporation in the position of paying Foster instead of Del Rey?

    I love Alan Dean Foster and his contribution to Star Wars, and I want to see him get every penny to which he is entitled, but I need to understand a little more about how the logic works before I’m willing to presume guilt on Disney’s part. Thanks in advance to anyone who can put the pieces together for me.

    1. SFWA Communications Post author

      The publisher directed Alan’s agent to the rightsholder regarding questions of payment. It took SFWA’s involvement to even find out who the rightsholder was. It is Disney.

      They have said, “Fox/Disney has the right of the copyright owner to publish the books, which ownership is not conditioned upon payment to Mr. Foster of royalties.”

      Alan’s contract says that it is binding on “the successors and assigns,” which is Disney.

      So yes, Alan received royalties and statements until 2014/2015 from Warner Books/Hatchette and Lucasfilm, when Disney acquired the rights, and royalty payment ceased. It doesn’t make any sense to us either.

  62. Alexander Muse

    Without seeing the contract it is very hard to pass judgement. Any chance you all could include the contract?

  63. Rourke Barsanti

    disney is the prime reason i prefer star trek over then star wars. i also figured something like this would happen eventually i mean sure my version included disney rounding up all media relating to the expanded universe and having a bonfire with them and tracking down already purchased copies and destroying them as soon as discovered

  64. rastronomicals

    Team Rodent Strikes Again.

    I wonder whether Mr Lucas would be interested in covering the debt owed Mr Foster, and whether he could then sue Disney for that amount + court costs. I know he’s not a spring chicken either, but he certainly has the resources to see it through to conclusion. I shouldn’t assume that Lucas would necessarily be interested but in the eternal battle I think he’d come down on the side of the creatives.

    I’m a long-time fan of Mr Foster’s work, and one without kids or grandkids, so my future purchases of Mulan or The Lion King, or whatever, never were in question. But I can certainly boycott any future Star Wars episodes, and continue to stay away from Disney+.

    I certainly hope that Mr Foster collects regular payments from Disney over the long remainder of his life.

  65. Atharv

    Agree.If Disney is allowed to bully such a great writer now it will certainly do so in the future.Am from India but totally support you guys


    I grew up reading Alan Dean Foster. The first novel of his I read was indeed “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”. I am a big fan. I am also a huge fan of “STAR WARS”. If DISNEY don’t play ball, they could be boycotted – which would be very ugly for them. No one appreciates a very large corporate screwing over anyone, let alone a writer. This is a really bad look for DISNEY and could get worse. Their stupidity beggars belief.

  67. Ben Ohmart

    I run a small publishing company and have taken over a couple small publishers in my time. When I do, I have to pay the authors. That’s just how it is. I never thought to read contracts about it nor was it ever discussed, it’s just common sense to do it.

  68. Barb Parcells

    Well, would it be helpful if we buy some of ADF’s other books that are not Star Wars? For example the “Pip and Flinx Adventures” which I see for sale on Amazon… if I buy those now, will royalties go to Alan?

    1. SFWA Communications Post author

      Of course, you are welcome to support Alan’s works! The affected titles are Star Wars, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Alien, Aliens, and Aliens 3. We do not currently know of any other of his novels being affected. Supporting his original fiction is also a safe bet.

  69. BravoLimaPoppa

    I saw the interview with Daniel Greene (nice job) and if I understood MRK correctly, there should have been a meeting with Team Rodent’s lawyers by now.
    Is that correct? Are there any updates?

  70. Madeleine Geraghty

    I love the ideals that Disney perpetuated in me as a child (just as I love the ideals of a democracy), despite knowing that the originators are/were deeply flawed beings. So I am a shareholder, Disney fan, etc. But I absolutely do not condone this behavior, not to ADF, and not to an aspiring young writer without the following to help fight for them. So I will use the hashtag, I’ve donated to the defense fund, I will email responsibility@twdc.com. But I would also like to send targeted handwritten letters as well, since I think those send a potent message that someone cares enough to put in that level of labor. Does anyone have specific names (heaven forbid, mailing addresses?!) of Disney execs involved in this case?

    PS. Alan, my childhood reading of Splinter put “raft across an underground lake” on my bucket list. It was just as amazing as I had imagined. No monsters, although I did lose a boot.

  71. Barb Parcells

    I went ahead and placed an order for several of Alan’s “Flinx and Pip” books through my local independent bookstore. They had to go “direct to publisher” (Random House) because their distributor, Ingram, does not carry those titles any more. I also scouted around on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, which said they did have those titles available.

    I am wondering if Amazon and B&N have digital licenses for these books and are printing-on-demand when they get an order. If that is the case, do those POD orders still send royalties to Alan?

  72. Ritchie Valentine Smith

    Quite right! For a whole host of reasons (some moral, some practical) we really can’t take this lying down…

    Wearing my other hat (in the UK Crime Writers’ Association, the CWA) there was once a push from publishers to buy for a mere 50 or 60 years all e-pub rights to your novels – even if they’d stopped conventionally publishing the same works.

    It’s a constant battle to get fairness…

  73. Eileen Sheehan

    I realize I am very late to this sad but important party. I only just learned of all this today (things like presidential elections and global pandemics have been preoccupying my attentions). But as I read all of this I’m mortified over the danger of letting Disney get away with this. The long term and permanent and unalterable future consequences of our (writers’ of the world) failure to defeat this effort by Disney are bone chilling.

    Please allow me to remind everyone here of a political theory put forth by a constitutional law expert named Arthur S. Miller back in 1960 when he wrote an essay called “The Corporation as a Private Government in the World Community.”

    Here we are, 60+ years after his essay, and we can clearly see that mega-corporations have indeed evolved into independent, sovereign nation-states. They write their own laws, are very selective as to who can enter their domains, can restrict personal movement and communication within their borders, and even have their own police forces. And when dealing with foreign nations –including the United States– they hold themselves to be immune from their laws. Like Vatican City in the heart of Rome, or the City of London in London Town, these Godzilla-sized corporations act with impunity while inside the border of their host nations.

    Here we see Disney making up their own laws, flouting existing laws, and getting away with it.

    There is a lack of enforcement going on of American copyright law in this case. I truly believe our courts are afraid of Disney because of how huge and powerful and sovereign Disney is.

    This is all so monstrous, and the permanent damage it can do American copyright is staggering. And what’s more is that the copyright laws of pretty much the rest of the world all take their cues from the copyright laws of the USA. This is the ultimate David and Goliath story in the making.

    Mary Robinette Kowal, god speed on this undertaking, madam. Literally millions of writers will be counting on you, both now and in the years to come.