The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Disney Setting A Precedent For Not Paying Writers

Back when the original Star Wars came out, an author named Alan Dean Foster wrote the novelization as a ghost-writer, and wrote the first other Star Wars novel, “A Splinter In The Minds Eye.”

Disney isn’t paying him for those novelizations any more (authors of books which do well get payments long after the initial sale, it’s how they stay afloat.) They assert that when they bought the books they gained the privilege of paying him but not the requirement.

Obviously the amount of money involved is trivial to Disney, if not to Foster, so they aren’t doing it to save that amount of money. They’re doing it to set a precedent that whenever a piece of IP is sold, they aren’t bound by the original contract.

Since any company could set up another company and then sell their IP to it, this threatens all authors and very quickly all artists and so on.


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Disney is engaged in outright theft, and an attempt to set a precedent that theft is legal. They’re betting Foster can’t fight this in court: that he can’t afford it. As authors go, he’s relatively well off but compared to Disney he’s a pauper.

Writers are one of the few sets of workers left who retain any right to profit from their work after they’ve done it. This right should be extended to more workers: profit sharing of some variety should be the norm, not a rarity.

At any rate what Disney is doing is deeply wrong and unethical. I like a lot of Disney media, but I won’t be spending a cent on anything Disney till this is resolved for Foster and if it isn’t, Disney stays on my permanent shit list (and I’ll be doing more than boycotting.) I don’t expect anyone else to do anything, this is where my bread is buttered after all, and there are more outrages than anyone can keep up with, and more companies worth boycotting than anyone can boycott. But I won’t cooperate, at least, in cutting my own throat (since I’m a writer.)

Not the worst thing in the world, but bad. If you’re not a writer or other creative who gets to keep some ownership rights and share in profits, remember the key point for you is that more workers; the people who actually produce things, should share in profits and ownership.



Open Thread


You Can’t Buy Anything That Matters When It Matters (Covid Vaccine Edition)


  1. Hugh

    I see this as part of the copyright debate. Rather than extending copyrights out to a century or more, they should go back to 18 years. At that point, the work should go into the public domain. Copyright wasn’t established just to profit creators and owners of IP but also to promote the public good. Neither Disney nor Foster should be allowed to profit from a work beyond 18 years. Then it is ours.

  2. Joan

    Once I got into professional translation I realized how crazy it is in this field. First with translating, then with original writing, my own experiences have led me to “be the change” in a certain way.

    I no longer consume rich-people media. No New York Times bestsellers from a Big 6 publisher (or is it Big 1 now?). What’s great is that there’s really good indie stuff out there once you go looking. I’ve read self-published fiction that was more beautifully written and skillfully rendered than NYT bestsellers and such.

    If a self-published author is exclusive with Amazon, I have a method of supporting them that gives as little money to Amazon as possible. When there’s a free sale on Kindle Unlimited, I jump in and read like crazy, then cancel before I’m charged. I keep a list of books I didn’t get to that I’ll read next time I find such a sale. That way I’m not giving Amazon my money but the author is still getting paid for the pages read. And if I want to support them more than that, I’ll find their website and usually they have a tip jar. There’s also still some small presses out there that are surviving and pretty cool. And of course there’s the library.

  3. Thomas B Golladay

    I concur with Hugh,

    In fact remove IP laws all together accept trademarks which tell us which product came from which manufacturer for accountability. First Mover advantage allows a person to profit greatly for a few years, after which if he/she can’t continue to innovate then they fail while others carry on.

  4. Astrid

    Disney should be boycotted for rentiering against the commons through the Mickey Mouse Act

    But…is it even worth the effort when there’s so much else wrong with the world? Marvel, Pixar, and Disney animation made a couple movies that don’t suck, why deprive yourself of the momentary enjoyment? I’m sure soon these companies will not need to make products or have customers, they will just lobby the Fed to print more money for them to buy up more productive assets, wrung them into dry husks and then rinse and repeat til climate change kill us all, either directly or through climate change triggered wars and famines. So…¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

  5. sbt42

    I’d say it’s absolutely worth the effort to boycott any entertainment company that does shady-to-terrible business practices. For one thing, it will help you sleep better at night, particularly so if you have friends as part of the industry.

    For another thing, there is plenty of quality entertainment out there, elsewhere. Books were already mentioned, and while I don’t have a N*tflix account, I do have one on Kanopy, and there are thousands of fantastic films on there for no cost to you, should you have a library card (and you can sign up for a virtual one should you not already have one).

    The last time I saw anything remotely Pixar in the cinema was Toy Story 2 or 3, and the last superhero film I saw in the cinema voluntarily was Iron Man 2 (I saw Captain Marvel on a date). I don’t miss Disney one bit. Same for the newer Star Wars films. I saw The Phantom Menace and said to myself, “Yep, I’m done.”

    It costs nothing to raise your personal bar, and in my opinion you’ll be better for it.

  6. Hugh

    Free public domain books can be found at Project Gutenberg, the fadedpage (Project Gutenberg Canada), Project Gutenberg Australia, and Roy Glashan’s Library. Internet Archive has both public domain material for free and copyrighted material which can be checked out. Librivox has free public domain audiobooks. And as sbt42 says, your public library has all kinds of stuff online (text, audio, video) you can check out.

    Most of the TV networks have content they allow access to for free, at least for a week or two from the day after the date of airing. And there are online radio stations, especially if you’re interested in non-English ones. There’s a lot out there, and it’s free.

  7. nihil obstet

    The point isn’t to be a well-trained consumer seeking out the most desirable product at the lowest personal price. We need a way to support the arts and humanities. Copyright and patents are dreadful, but they’re what we have now. Dean Baker (CEPR) has been advocating for alternatives for some years.

    Copyright is an exception to freedom of speech guarantees. Example: Gone With the Wind was under copyright when I was born and will still be under copyright when I die. It’s an important novel in its promotion of the Southern myth that has had a major political effect in this country. The most effective response isn’t a critical analysis but an undercutting parody, such as The Wind Done Gone. Like most telling take downs, it was subject to a lawsuit for copyright infringement. The danger of attracting a lawsuit is present for every artist. This is detrimental to full expression.

    Several studies have shown that copyright makes works less accessible than the end of copyright. Publishers manage their lists. Older works aren’t released.

    Everyone should have sufficient support for a dignified life. We make a worse society when we distinguish between mental work and physical work.

  8. Probably goes a long way explaining why there really isn’t anything new.

    It’s like M$ Windows: still the same thing just with more bells and whistles.

    Long bothersome has been the trend to homogeneous programing, conditioning, if you wish, perhaps even Pavlovian. Have been coerced recently into watching about an hour a week of The Mandalorian and I am struck by how incredibly dumb it is. Predictable. Sit-coms in space*. Not to mention the graphic effects really aren’t all that impressive. Nothing new.

    *Asimov wrote about Battlestar Galactica (the original) as “Wagontrains in space.”

    Eternal platitudes.

  9. Joan

    Thanks everyone for their recommendations, especially LibriVox, that was something I’d been looking for!

  10. Plague Species

    Haven’t you heard the good news? The vaccine will cure all that ails us and return us to normal. No need to fret about this matter or any matter really, because the vaccine is on the way just as Santa is.

    Jingle bells, jingle bells
    The vaccine’s on the way
    Oh, what fun it is to ride
    In Bockaria Biden’s back-to-normal sleigh

  11. Plague Species

    So long as writing is a profession, there will be rapacious exploitation. If you’re paid to write, you simply cannot be objective and independent, or very seldom you can be with only a few exceptions. The hand that feeds you, whether it be the outfit for whom you write or an audience of fans, largely dictates your content. Very few write as a passionate hobby sans the aforementioned undue influences.

    For example, Vince Gilligan was given an autonomous free hand in creating Breaking Bad. The only constraint was his budget. He chose the general storyline. He directed the content. He chose the writers and gave them autonomy as well to be creative. As a result, Breaking Bad was and is a masterpiece. In a league of its own. Gilligan hasn’t done much noteworthy since because he’s been on a short leash. Breaking Bad was an anomaly. An aberration.

  12. bruce wilder

    The protection of law for ordinary people is being withdrawn now. The idea that law should protect any one but the powerful, propertied was historically rare, but it did reach a high point in the 1960s in the aftermath of mass-production triumphant. That is over now.

    This should not viewed in isolation as being “only” about IP or even only about economics.

    Disney will continue to use law to deal with other corporations. Apple or Google or JPMorgan Chase.

    But, just as you, ordinary slug, have no enforceable right to be secure in your person or property against a random thug with a badge, you have no right against giant business corporations.

  13. Stirling S Newberry


    As predicted by Game Theory, a no-deal Brexit is still on the table. The question is: why do they hire such boobs the write stories about it, when the writers get basics things wrong?

  14. Hugh

    Sometimes it comes down rich people behaving badly. I used to use the example of Taylor Swift. She is very rich and very successful. She has the possibility of continuing to be productive for decades. Her first album came out in 2006. Even under an 18 year copyright, it would be under copyright until 2024. Thing is Swift doesn’t own the copyright to it or her first six albums. The recording company where she recorded them does. That company was sold last year. to a music promoter named Braun. He sold Swift’s catalogue this year to another company for what he paid for the original recording company last year. So he essentially got a recording company for free and and he’ll still get a cut of the action on the Swift catalogue for years.

    It’s hard to have sympathy for anyone involved in any of this. They’re all mega-rich. But it does show that copyright and IP are about money and control, not creators or their work, and we and the public good aren’t even blips on their screen.

  15. rkka

    “It’s an important novel in its promotion of the Southern myth that has had a major political effect in this country. ”

    Off topic, but the “brandy & cigars” scene at Twelve Oaks cuts that Soutron myth to pieces, especially Rhett’s “All we’ve got is cotton, and slaves, and arrogance.” crack.

    It cannot be accidental that she gave the true meaning of CSA in that line, and the rest of the book is a story of the consequences of that arrogance.

    In 1860, William T. Sherman wrote a strategic net assessment along Butler’s lines to Professor William F. Boyd, very much along the lines Butler gave, so it likely that Mitchell was referring to arguments such as Sherman’s some sane Southerners made at the time.

  16. bruce wilder

    @ rkka

    countless “Westerns” make a point of the white man’s perfidy to the Indians, but the finger-wagging moralists do not notice and the authoritarians in possession of, say, Oklahoma or the Black Hills or most of Georgia do not care.

    Gone with the Wind expressed perfectly a moment in time, as collective historical memory was transformed by the passing of the last people with actual memories however distorted and the southron myth passed exclusively into the minds of people for whom it was all stories and the rusted iron of inherited conditions.

    In the actual events — in c 1860 — there were a few — very few actually — who saw clearly the foolishlessness of forcing a civil war. In the actual event, the foolishness and immorality were rife. But from the perspective of 1939 those very few seemed heroic. But, the foolishness lived on as nostalgia for what never really was, and GWTW fed that foolishness bushels of grain.

  17. nihil obstet

    GWTW isn’t simple minded. You can do a very good analysis of how it undercuts the Southern myth, but you do have to do the analysis, and a mass audience doesn’t. The movie’s plantation scenes gave a template for frat parties everywhere. That’s pretty serious political damage.

  18. KT Chong

    It is not a precedence until the issue is settled in a court.

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