Andrzej Sapkowski has always given me a crisis of conscience. Not from his work, but because of his often harsh words. This is the man who created The Witcher franchise which I will unequivocally say is my favourite franchise of all time. I’ve read his novels and I admire his skill as a storyteller greatly, but when he said that games aren’t a viable art form and scoffed at the idea of the medium being a viable way of storytelling, I couldn’t just ignore it. However, his words have haunted him and even made him take a hit to the wallet since he sold his rights to CD Projekt Red in a lump sum payment instead of taking a percentage deal which caused him to lose millions. It seems that he now regrets his actions and demanded additional compensation for his work from CD Projekt Red. $16.1 million to be exact.
In CD Projekt Red’s official response to the demands, they said the following:
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.
That is basically legal speak for “you should have known better, dude”. Sapkowski has expressed that he does regret his actions, telling Eurogamer a while ago that “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.”
I can see Sapkowski’s mindset when he initially signed the deal. He was a novel elitist that didn’t want to take other narrative forms seriously and games in his mind were probably just silly little distractions with no artistic merit. Like with all the other adaptations of his work, he just took a standard lump sum and went on his merry way. He didn’t believe in the success of the games and rather than be supportive, he chose to be cynical. Now his work is primarily known by the CD Projekt Red adaptation and the developer is correct in their action of denying him compensation because that’s not the deal that they signed off on initially which is legally binding.
Sapkowski is in an “I should have stayed with the Beatles” situation and even if I do think he should get proper compensation for his work, his downfall was his own doing.