Remember when Andrzej Sapkowski, creator of The Witcher fiction, told me he’d been “stupid” rejecting a percentage of the profits while selling the video game rights to CD Projekt Red all those years ago?
“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.”
Now, it seems he’s doing more than simply grumble about his lot.
CD Projekt just posted a receipt for a demand of payment on behalf of Andrzej Sapkowski – a demand for PLN 60m (GBP 12.4m/EUR 14m/USD 16.1m) for additional royalties. And CD Projekt said no.
CD Projekt said: “The Management Board of CD Projekt … hereby announces that on 1 October 2018 the Company received an official demand for payment filed by plenipotentiaries of Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski.
“The notice indicates that Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski expects payment of additional royalties beyond what had been contractually agreed upon between himself and the Company.
“We are fully aware … demanding payment of dozens of millions Polish Zlotys is not an everyday occurrence.” -Andrzej Sapkowski’s legal team
“In the Company’s opinion the demands expressed in the notice are groundless with regard to their merit as well as the stipulated amount. The Company had legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work, 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.
“It is the Company’s will to maintain good relations with authors of works which have inspired CD Projekt Red’s own creations. 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.”
CD Projekt published the demand made on behalf of Andrzej Sapkowski. In it, Sapkowski’s lawyer(s) claims the original Witcher video game contract “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”.
“I would also like to mention that we are aware not only of your intent to actually and legitimately (!) [sic] purchase all copyright from Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski, but also of specific offers which have been extended in this regard,” it added.
“We are fully aware of the fact that the Author’s claim expressed herein is not a typical request, and that demanding payment of dozens of millions Polish Zlotys is not an everyday occurrence. We nevertheless wish to assure you that the case has been under preparation for a fairly long time, and that the Author is fully aware of the scenarios which may unfold depending on your actions. Even more importantly, both we and the Author are determined and prepared to see this matter through to a fully successful conclusion.”
They can also do an “expeditious and quiet” settlement of course.
So does Sapkowski have a legal leg to stand on? It’s always so hard to know. On the one hand you have his lawyer saying – as they would – they have all kinds of dynamite evidence to back them up, and that if any of this got out, CD Projekt’s stock value would dip more than the 60m PLN sought anyway. But on the other hand you have CDP openly publishing the threatening letter, suggesting it has nothing to hide. Regardless, the ball is now back in Sapkowski’s court. Is he really up for it?
It’s a surprising move given Sapkowski’s recent collaboration with the Witcher Netflix TV series in development for 2020. That very much looked like his second chance to get a deal he felt he deserved, so why go for CDP now? Maybe it has something to do with the imminent release of Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, a Gwent-based – but standalone – game with a brand new 30-hour Witcher story – a story based, again, on The Witcher books. Maybe Sapkowski’s wondering when it will all end.