The author of The Witcher novels has delivered a legal demand for payment to game developers CD Projekt Red, amounting to 60 million Polish Zloty (approximately £12.4 million or $16 million). Andrzej Sapkowski is the author of the Wiedźmin series of fantasy books, later translated as The Witcher in English. He made a deal with CD Projekt in the early 2000s that would allow them to turn Geralt into a bunch of polygons. But now, in a letter sent to the developers, his lawyers are arguing that he deserves more. As expected, there's a lot of legal patter. But the gist of it is that Sapkowski feels like he hasn’t seen a fair amount of the profits that have come from the world he created.
The author’s lawyers are basing this demand on Polish law, specifically the Act on Copyright and Related Rights. They argue that this law "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.” In other words: The Witcher series has made millions and millions and millions. And Sapkowski hasn’t seen those millions.
They also argue that the original agreement made with Sapkowski about the first Witcher game didn’t explicitly cover the profits gained from any sequel.
“Careful reading of your contracts concluded with the Author might lead one to conclude that, if the company did effectively acquire any copyright at all, it concerned only the first in a series of games, and therefore distribution of all other games, including their expansions, add-ons etc., is, simply speaking, unlawful.”
But whoa, slow down there. This isn't a lawsuit, and Sapkowski's lawyers say they aren't interested in pushing that particular point. They're just using it as a sort of pre-argument for any kind of legal spat. However, the lawyerly flexing contained within the letter suggests that Sapkowski’s lawfolk are prepared to bring the demand further, should CD Projekt not want to negotiate. It seems like the developers do want to hash something out though, judging by the company’s response.
“It is the Company’s will to maintain good relations with authors of works which have inspired CD Projekt Red’s own creations,” they said in a notice on their website. “Consequently, the Board will go to great lengths to ensure amicable resolution of this dispute; however, any such resolution must be respectful of previously expressed intents of both parties, as well as existing contracts.”
But they also point out that all copyright concerning the White Wolf and friends has already been “legitimately and legally acquired” and suggest that the sum Sapkowski is asking for is too much.
“In the Company’s opinion the demands expressed in the notice are groundless,” says the statement, “with regard to their merit as well as the stipulated amount.”
Basically: we don't concede that this is a fair demand, but we'll talk to you about it anyway.
As for the author himself, he has previously spoken about his deal with the videogame makers. In an interview with Bertie from Eurogamer, Sapkowski said that he pretty much handed Geralt over for one lump sum, thinking that the game would never take off.
"I was stupid enough to sell them rights to the whole bunch," he says. "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."
The law books are twisty tomes full of grey magick, and it would be hard for a non-lawdancer such as I to make any predictions about where this will end, especially since the original agreement from back in the auld days remains a private document. We'll let you know how it goes.