Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) June 21, 2005
Best-selling novelist Campbell Black, who sued George Lucas's LucasFilm Ltd. for $4 million last October (Case No. 044725, Marin County, CA) for failing to pay royalties due him on his novelization of the mega-hit movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark" over the past 24 years, spoke out strongly yesterday about his shabby treatment at the hands of the Marin County movie titan and his studio accountants.
A court-ordered mediation of the lawsuit is set for June 27 in San Francisco, and Campbell has been required to attend, traveling at his own expense from his home in Ireland.
Black's suit charges breach of contract, because his written agreement required LucasFilm to provide him regular, detailed notification of sales figures for his book and the prompt payment of 2% domestic and 1% foreign royalties over (AGAINST) the $35,000 advance the writer received. The lawsuit also charged fraud, "because it has become abundantly clear that the studio never intended to pay Campbell more than his advance" and intentionally concealed that fact from him "entitling him to punitive damages," explained Morris Getzels, one of Black's two attorneys in the lawsuit.
Strangely, the contract was not between Black and the book's publishers (Ballantine in North America and many others around the world), but between Black and LucasFilm, making the studio the writer's only available source of information on sales and royalty data.
"LucasFilm failed to send Campbell statements every six months, as required in the contract," Getzels added. "They sent a few at the very beginning and then stopped. We believe they figured his royalties improperly, but even though we have filed discovery requests, and even after a court order, they are still not providing all the information we need to accurately assess how much in unpaid royalties he is due."
In explanation of why he waited 23 years to sue, Black said, "I tried to get sales and royalty information from the studio through my previous agents, but they always said I hadn't earned out [earned more than his advance]. When I met my current agent, Anita Haeggstrom, she said it didn't sound right. She's more of a detective than the other agents, and her research convinced me that I had been intentionally wronged."
Haeggstrom, who runs Contemporary Talent Partners agency in Los Angeles, made numerous information requests from LucasFilm in 2004, but she was constantly met with half-hearted cooperation, culminating in a "final settlement" offer of $450 on a book that was an international best-seller for years and a Book of the Month Club.
"We had our accountant examine the statements with significant columns and figures mysteriously whited out! Lucas finally sent us last year, and he found elements of them to be highly suspicious," Haeggstrom said. "I find it unconscionable that when its accounting discrepancies were brought to LucasFilm's attention, rather than offer full disclosure and immediate remediation, and as I requested, they stopped the dialogue cold, forcing us to take legal action. Since Campbell sued, they have provided us some of the statements we'd repeatedly requested."
Haeggstrom continued, "Their elusive actions, even during a lawsuit, have driven us to ask, 'What more are they hiding? Why won't they give us a full, accurate accounting and pay the man what they owe him?'"
Due to a slip of the tongue by a low-level LucasLicensing employee, Haeggstrom learned that the German firm Verlagsgruppe was contracted to publish a German-language version of Campbell's novelization more than a decade ago.
"Because they didn't tell us about the Verlagsgruppe deal, we don't know if there are other publishers out there who remunerated Lucasfilm for foreign rights, 1% of which sums Lucas owes to Black," Getzels asserted.
Another of Black's complaints is over efforts by LucasFilm to now compute his royalties on a "net" basis, subtracting mysterious agent commissions, when his contract clearly stipulates "gross."
"The Lucas people have also refused to pay on foreign sales, whereas the contract spells it out in black and white," Black lamented. "From the way they are behaving, they seem to have done something they don't want us to know about. The perpetual attitude in Hollywood is the writer is worthless; he's at the bottom of the pecking order."
According to recent news headlines, George Lucas frequently sues others to protect his trademarked properties. But Black believes the Marin mogul has a blind spot where the rights of others are concerned. "All of LucasFilm's secrecy and misinformation in this matter is truly shabby," Black declared. "There's something seriously wrong with it, and it pisses me off. This is not about money; it's about justice. I don't want George's money, but I surely do want mine. The evidence we have been forced to gather by Lucas's failure to provide the complete and accurate accounting that the court demanded strongly indicates that his company has intentionally withheld money I am legally due."
Black advised other novelizers and writers, directors, producers and other artists who may have been shortchanged by what Britain's Guardian newspaper calls "Martian accounting," to "demand regular accounting and some kind of verification, perhaps by an accountant working on your part. It has to be policed better for true fairness. I naively accepted it when I was told I hadn't earned out; I assumed a big company like LucasFilm, with a family reputation, was on the level. But I have learned to my deep sadness that they simply have chosen not been fair and open with me."
Lisa Carmel, 323/982-0968 or 323 336 5511
Campbell Black lawyer:
Morris Getzels, 818/881-5550
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