The Witcher Author Suing CD Projekt RED for $16 Million

I suspect that I speak for quite a few US citizens when I say that, before CD Projekt RED came along and developed The Witcher, I had litle awareness of Andrzej Sapkowski’s contributions to the fantasy writing world. Fast forward 11 years and you’d be hard-pressed to find a gamer anywhere in the world who hadn’t at least heard of the IP, and many of them would likely even rave about it. And this explosion of exposure came at the reasonable price of $9500.

But watching something you created become a phenomenon when you sold the rights too cheap is a tough pill to swallow, and it appears that Sapkowski is now suing CD Projekt RED for $16 million as he feels that he is due further compensation. The team at CDPR has even published the official “demand for payment” letter they received:

As is known, you have concluded several agreements concerning the use of Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work; however, these agreements cannot (even assuming that they contain the relevant provisions) effectively indemnify you against future claims by the Author. This is due to the fact that the basis for the claims herein expressed (while not the sole basis, and not the most problematic one – from your perspective) is Art. 44 of the Act on Copyright and Related Rights.

The abovementioned clause is, first and foremost, unconditionally binding (J. Barta, R. Markiewicz, Ustawa o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych (ed.) J. Barta, R. Markiewicz, Warsaw 2003, p. 364), and furthermore it 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. Notably, the latter condition is considered fulfilled if the compensation remitted to the author is too low by a factor of at least 2 (T. Targosz [in:] D. Flisak (ed)., Prawo autorskie i prawa pokrewne. Komentarz, Warsaw 2015, p. 685).

These exact circumstances exist in Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s case, where the aforementioned factor is significantly greater than 2 (one might even say – egregiously so). It may be assumed that standard royalty rates associated with use of a work, particularly in adaptations, are approximately 5-15% of the profits generated. In addition, this percentage value should be greater than the corresponding provisions of your contracts with the Author which pertained to use of his works in the Company’s ancillary activities (traditional games or merchandising).

Thus, even adopting a rather conservative approach and minimizing expectations, it may be concluded that, regarding the use of our principal’s work in your core areas of activity where they constitute the nucleus of your most important products, the compensation should be at least 6% of the profits obtained. Consequently, even acknowledging any compensation the Author may have already received, and taking into account the increase in sales revenues, particularly related to with The Witcher 3 videogame together with its expansions, we may determine that, as of now, the claim is for at least 60,000,000.00 PLN (sixty million Polish Zlotys).

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Personally, I think Andrzej should just be happy that exposure to his work has exploded, that he sold far more copies of his books than he would have otherwise, and that he could likely find other licensors of his materials for other mediums that would have never considered his works before.

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