The Witcher author, Andrzej Sapkowski, is demanding CD Projekt Red pays him an extra 60 million Polish zlotys in royalties. The amount translates to over 16 million US dollars. According to CDPR, the demands are “groundless” and no royalties are due to Sapkowski.
The initial agreement between CDPR & Sapkowski
In March 2017, Eurogamer interviewed Andrzej Sapkowski about creating The Witcher, his deal with CDPR, and about his background. Two things stand out; he sold all the Witcher rights, and he was paid in full.
I was stupid enough to sell them rights to the whole bunch. 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.
CDPR wasn’t the first game developer that asked Sapkowski for an adaptation. The first was Adrian Chmielarz (Bulletstorm), but he couldn’t get the project of the ground. Sapkowski agreed that CD Projekt Red made a fantastic game, although he isn’t a fan of the medium.
Sapkowski demands the royalties he forfeited
Fast forward to 2018, and The Witcher is one of the biggest franchises in gaming, and Sapkowski wants an extra piece of the pie. You can read the letter of demand (translated from Polish) from his lawyers here. According to Sapkowski, the Act on Copyright and Related Rights allows him to claim further royalties from CDPR.
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.
It seems Sapkowski is also now claiming he only gave CDPR permission for the first game, The Witcher, that released in October 2007. To date, the video game series has sold over 30 million copies. October also sees two new releases; Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales and the full release of GWENT: The Witcher Card Game.
CDPR’s official response states that Sapkowski demands payments beyond that which was contractually agreed upon.
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, 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.
Sapkowski clearly stated that he is willing to take further legal action should CDPR refuse to pay. He argued that his demand for royalties not paid would cause CDPR’s stock to plummet and that it would end up costing them even more than the 60 million Polish zlotys he demands.