Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by bit-tech, 3 Oct 2018.
The argument seems to hinge on Article 44 of the Polish copyright act:
Sapkowski would need to successfully argue that the fixed fee is in 'gross discrepancy' with CDPR's profits from the Witcher games.
While I frequently side with the underdog and all that lets not forget there is also a "gross discrepancy" between the costs of one dude writing a book and hundreds of people making a game, so it could actually be considered fair that he got peanuts.
The bigger issue is the fact that CDP were all "let's give you a bit of cash and then royalties on game sales" and he very clearly, and has confirmed publicly that this is the case, said "no thanks, these newfangled video game things will never catch on, I want more money upfront and no royalties" - to which CDP snatched his bleedin' hand off to great profit.
(Similar thing happened with Microsoft and Commodore, interestingly. Bill Gates had figured Commodore wasn't really going anywhere, so agreed to Jack Tramiel's demand to buy a copy of Microsoft Basic outright with no ongoing royalties. When the VIC-20 was a smashing success and the Commodore 64 came about, Gates went up to Tramiel and said "hey, you'll want our new BASIC, we'll have to do a new contract with royalties included" - to which Tramiel said "no thanks." The result: every damn system Commodore released came with the same ancient version of Microsoft BASIC pre-loaded - the only possible version on which Tramiel didn't have to pay royalties. Saved him a fortune, and did Gates' nut in.)
@CDProjekt: I suggest you do this if they take you to court: win and when the judge's decision is final and can't be appealed, send him a million. Make sure the press knows this. The Internet will explode! Every time another game developer or publisher does some shady thing, the people will point fingers to this and say: "I'm not buying my entertainment from you anymore, I'm buying from those guys from now on."
There's no way he could get a win for a claim like that. He wrote some books and evaluated those game rights at that amount. Signed a contract, got payed. All the success of the Witcher series after that was the work put in by CDProjekt Red. He had no more input. If they make a hundred successful games based on the same universe without him putting in some writing or creative consultancy work , it's all their effort and it should be all their gain.
If anything, the success of the games probably sparked more sales in the books. He shouldnt be suing CDP, he should be thanking them for turning his book universe into a global success.
If I wanted more "up front", I might argue personally for less of a royalty percentage, but to give them up completely? Madness!
Pretty much. Without the games, the books would have languished with unofficial "fan translations" of the books, and, most importantly, very likely no Netflix deal. So unless he got shafted by Netflix as well (which is, of course, a completely different issue) I would say he's come out overall much better off than he would have done if the Witcher had flopped and CDPR gone bankrupt. He decided to play it safe (perhaps too safe) and now that the bet has, in fact, proved a worldwide roaring success, with him being compared (favourably, rightly or wrongly) to wordsmiths like Tolkien... he wants more.
If the amount he was demanding wasn't so large, I might be a little more sympathetic to his position, but as it stands, no. History is full of people who cashed out early and regretted it later. The rise of dozens of companies, franchises and systems has left swathes of people gnashing their teeth about "playing it safe".
He probably insisted on an upfront payment with no royalties because them new-fangled streaming companies aren't gonna turn a profit.
I'd have thought he will be doing quite nicely, as I'm sure the sales of the books (I'm assuming they're published, I haven't checked this story out at all) will have enjoyed a nice boost from the game publicity? Those books may well have been languishing in a forgotten corner somewhere without the impact of the games.
Quick quiz: how many of you have purchased any of the Witcher books after playing one of the games?
Me. He's made plenty of money from people like me buying of the books off the back of the games. I'll probably watch the Witcher series on Netflix when it comes out too, which I guess he's going to make plenty of money from too.
I'm not sure it would be plenty of money, going on what our very own roving reporter (Mr Halfacree) has said in the past i think royalties from books are pretty low, I've probably got it wrong but i think it was in the low single digits.
It's usually between 10-15% of the wholesale price, which is roughly half the retail. So, if a novel costs £6.99, the author is probably getting 50p at best, and only when the book has "earned out" (publishing talk for having paid back the advance - so if the author is given £7,000 to write the book they won't see a penny more until the thing has sold its 14,001st copy - and you'll be unsurprised to hear most books never earn out.)
Given the popularity of the franchise, though, I can't imagine he was hurting even before the deal with Netflix.
What happens if a book doesn't earn out? Does the author have to pay back some of the advance?
Depends on the contract, but usually not. The publisher will be in overall profit long before the book has earned out, and for those few books that finish in the red that's just the cost of doing business.
Well, just to take the other side, considering these facts: As of April 1, 2017, the entire Witcher (videogame) series had sold over 25 million copies. Just doing a little math, let's REALLY lowball the average price per game sold to $10 USD. He's asking for roughly 6% of gross profits of total games sold as of a year and a half ago, assuming the average sale price was $10 USD.
Also considering the company at the same time reported a net profit of $65 Million USD, for ONE YEAR, let's face it, off the intellectual property of a single writer who made $8k out of the deal? I don't think it's unfair for him to bitch that his baby has made SO much money and he's not getting much out of it. Or to put it another way, McCartney sells Beatles catalogue to Michael Jackson, rest of Beatles get screwed.
Oh, I definitely understand why he is upset.
But I don't think threatening the company is a good idea. Sometimes you make bad business decisions, like negotiating yourself out of the royalties you were offered in the first place. And then you just have to live with the consequences.
And the tone of the letter is somewhat mobster-like. "That's a nice stock market valuation you got there, be a shame if somethin' were to happen to it."
I think you're confusing turnover and profit there, totally different things though vaguely connected. Development (and other) costs would be higher as we're talking multiple games, though granted they will still be making a tidy profit.
He can complain about it, but as jb0 said, if anybody makes a bad business decision they gotta live with it, whatever industry they are in. The only exceptions seem to be the banks who get nice little bail outs when they get too greedy...
Then he should have taken the royalty option that CDPR first offered him and he turned down. Or should Bill Gates turn around and say, "Actually, I'd like to own Apple now, since I bailed you out a couple of decades ago!" or dozens of other examples across many walks of life. Should I complain that I lost money on some shares when the financial crisis hit? No. You do the deal. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The deal was done - amicably at the time. Unlike in games, real life can be very unforgiving.
"Too big to fail"... yeah, because the taxpayer will make sure they stay afloat, then the Govt will sell the best bits to one of their mates and keep all the bad debt on the public books.
I liked the books, although I found "The Last Wish" a heck of a slog when I first read it. I think they edited the translation for the Kindle release, because it's a much more fluid read. I bought the books because of the games. I know that's not much money to him, but it's income for him from a source that otherwise would not have been a consideration.
They didn't make 65 million in a year by selling his book and giving him a pittance though, hundreds of people worked hard to turn his unknown book into a profitable game.
In other words:
If the book publisher would have made 65 million profit in a year from Witcher and only given him 9500 that would be different.
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