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CD Project Red rejects Witcher author's request for $16.1m in additional royalties

“Mr Andrzej Sapkowski expects payment beyond what had been contractually agreed”

The writer behind the original Witcher stories that inspired the best-selling RPGs wants a bigger share of the money they're making - and been denied.

Developer CD Projekt Red posted a regulatory notice observing it had received an official demand for payment from author Andrzej Sapkowski, and even shared the original document.

In it, Sapkowski's legal representatives convey his request for at least 60 million Polish zlotys ($16.1 million), arguing the studio has exceeded its rights to use the author's IP, and he is therefore owed a share of the revenues CD Projekt is generating with his creation.

"Careful reading of your contracts concluded with the Author might lead one to conclude that, if the company did effectively acquire any copyright at all, it 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," the demand reads.

It continues: "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."

Sapkowski's representative says it is willing to arranging a meeting by October 19th to discuss this, providing CD Projekt responds within 14 days.

The studio has already responded, rejecting the request and claiming Sapkowski "expects payment of additional royalties beyond what had been contractually agreed upon between himself and the Company."

"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 firm wrote in its regulatory notice. 

"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."

The notice goes on to say CD Projekt is keen to "maintain good relations with authors of works which have inspired [our] own creations" and will "go to great lengths to ensure amicable resolution of this dispute."

The request has come as a bit of a surprise, given how long CD Projekt's Witcher series has been going. If, as Sapkowski's lawyers suggest, the studio only secured copyright for the first game in the series, it's unclear as to why Sapkowski did not come forth around the release of The Witcher 2: Assassin's of Kings in 2011, or The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in 2015, or its Blood and Wine extension the year after.

CD Projekt has also been quite publicly building up Gwent, the fictional digital card game based on the world of The Witcher since it was introduced in the 2015 title, even hosting multi-million dollar esports tournaments around it. It's likely the announcement of Thronebreaker, a full-blown RPG built around Gwent with a new Witcher story, has prompted the author's demands.

Our sister site Eurogamer interviewed Sapkowski last year, who admitted he regretted rejecting CD Projekt's original royalties proposal.

"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."

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James Batchelor avatar

James Batchelor

Editor-in-Chief

James Batchelor has been a journalist in the games industry since 2006, joining GamesIndustry in 2016, and also runs Non-Violent Game of the Day (@NVGOTD). He does play violent games, but always on Story/Easy mode.

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