Author of Witcher novels demands money from maker of Witcher games


Back in the early ’90s, Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski released the first of several books in his Witcher series, about a wandering monster-hunter named Geralt of Rivia. Fast-forward a couple decades, and the property is red-hot. Polish software developer CD Projekt Red took Sapkowski’s stories and turned them into a tremendously successful series of video games, with around 33 million copies sold as of earlier this year. Netflix is getting into the Witcher business, too, and even cast Henry “Superman” Cavill in the lead role in its upcoming series.

But all this success was hard for Sapkowski to predict back when CD Projekt Red first broached the idea of making Witcher video games. “I was stupid enough to sell them rights to the whole bunch,” Sapkowski told Eurogamer in 2017. “They offered me a percentage of their profits. I said, ‘No, there will be no profit at all — give me all my money right now! The whole amount.’ It was stupid. I was stupid enough to leave everything in their hands because I didn’t believe in their success. But who could foresee their success? I couldn’t.”

Sapkowski is now trying to correct that lack of foresight. He and his representatives have sent a letter to CD Projekt Red demanding a bigger cut of the royalties from sales of the video game series — or cut, if he really did sell the rights for a lump sum. Basically, he’s claiming that the original deal between him and the company is in violation of a Polish law that “may be invoked when the compensation remitted to the author is too low given the benefits obtained in association with the use of that author’s work,” per the letter. He also claims that the original agreement only covered production of the first game, “[t]herefore distribution of all other games, including their expansions, add-ons etc., is, simply speaking, unlawful.”

Sapkowski wants six percent of lifetime profits from the series. According to his math, that works out to about $16.11 million from sales of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt alone. CD Projekt Red, for its part, calls bullshit, and posted its own letter. “In the Company’s opinion the demands expressed in the notice are groundless with regard to their merit as well as the stipulated amount,” it reads. “The Company had legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work, i.a. insofar as is required for its use in games developed by the Company. All liabilities payable by the Company in association therewith have been properly discharged.”

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It’s an ugly situation, although I think Sapkowski is coming out of it looking worse. This isn’t the first time he’s done something that raised the eyebrows of fans. Last year, he claimed that the success of his novels outside Poland was due entirely to their own merit, and had nothing to do with CD Projekt’s games popularizing his world and characters. “I made the games popular,” he told Waypoint. “All of my translations in the West – including the English one – were published before the first game…If anything, there are more people who have played the games because they read the books. That’s my count, but I’m not sure. I never did any studies.”

If I can editorialize for a second, that sounds a little, um…nutso. If you have even a passing familiarity with The Witcher series, it’s probably because you’ve heard of the video games, not the books. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

Meanwhile, the people behind the Witcher Netflix series are staying quiet, probably looking at their shoes and hoping this whole thing blows over.

Next: Now Netflix is adapting The Chronicles of Narnia

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h/t Polygon

Dan Selcke , 2018-10-04 16:28:56

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