It is safe to say that The Witcher series of video games, developed by Polish developer CD Projekt Red, have been rather successful. The author of the series of novels that the games are based on, Andrzej Sapkowski, sold the developers the license to adapt the books before the first game was out. However, in response to the unforeseen success of the game series, Sapowski is now seeking additional royalties from CD Projekt Red.
Lawyers for Sapowski have based their claim for further royalties on an article of Polish copyright 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.” In addition, the claim alleges that the original deal between Sapowski and CD Projekt Red only concerned the original Witcher game, which was released in 2007, and not any of the subsequently released sequels.
We don’t have a clear idea of what the original deal between the two parties looked like. However, it is clear that it wasn’t made knowing what kind of juggernaut the video game series would end up becoming. According to Eurogamer, Sapowski did not expect the game series to be very successful, and settled for a flat fee rather than royalties. For compensation, he is seeking 60 million Polish Zlotys (which equates to about $22.4 million in Australian dollars).
It is easy to feel a bit sorry for Sapowski. He clearly didn’t foresee the game franchise selling over 33 million copies, and somewhat eclipsing his book series outside of Poland. He made a deal twenty years ago that has clearly not worked out for him. However, CD Projekt Red is refuting Sapowski’s claims. On their website, they state that they “had legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work”, and that no further payments were required. The developers are trying to resolve the situation amicably, but are resistant to paying Sapowski more money.
Fortunately, Andrzej Sapowski will be involved in the production of the upcoming Netflix adaptation as a creative consultant. Hopefully he has learned from this experience, and agreed on a more equitable deal with Netflix.