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CD Projekt Red stands its ground as The Witcher author demands additional royalties

Back in the early 2000s, CD Projekt Red managed to obtain the videogame rights to Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy series, The Witcher. At the time, Sapkowski had the option of obtaining a percentage of the profits as part of the agreement. However, the author declined this in favour of a larger upfront sum, as he thought that there would be no future profits in games. We all know how that turned out, with The Witcher games going on to be critically acclaimed successes. Now, Sapkowski is hoping to recover from his loss, demanding that CD Projekt Red pay up.

Last year, former head of CD Projekt Red Sebastian Zieliński revealed that the studio managed to acquire exclusive video game rights to The Witcher for just 35,000 Polish złoty, which translates to roughly £7,250 nowadays, but would differ greatly a decade ago. Sapkowski went on to admit his mistake, stating that he was offered a “percentage of the profits” but declined on the basis that there “will be no profit at all.” An action he later called “stupid” in an interview with Eurogamer.

Now, as Gwent spin-off Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales gears up for release later this month, Sapkowski is clamouring for a piece of that profit by demanding a further 60m Polish złoty from CD Projekt Red, equating to £12.4m / $16.1m / €14m. CD Projekt Red promptly declined the demand, seemingly due to the size of the payout.

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“The Management Board of CD Projekt … hereby announces that on 1 October 2018 the Company received an official demand for payment filed by plenipotentiaries of Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski. The notice indicates that Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski expects payment of additional royalties beyond what had been contractually agreed upon between himself and the Company,” explains the notice.

In the eyes of Sapkowski, the original contract “concerned only the first in a series of games,” making the sequels and download content allegedly “unlawful.” CD Projekt Red disagrees, calling the demands “groundless with regard to their merit,” assuring that it “had legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work.”

The developer wishes to “maintain good relations with authors of works which have inspired CD Projekt Red’s own creations,” stating that the board is prepared to “go to great lengths to ensure amicable resolution of this dispute.” This suggests that there is an undisclosed offer is on the table, but one that “must be respectful of previously expressed intents of both parties, as well as existing contracts.”

It’s difficult to know whether or not Sapkowski has a case on his hands without seeing the original agreement. It seems that CD Projeky isn’t afraid of the legal action, however, posting the letter in its entirety. Only time will tell which way the winds blow.

KitGuru Says: Sapkowski already has his hands full with Netflix’s The Witcher television series, making it questionable whether he is truly in this for the money. The long time it’s taken to put in a claim for profits could potentially stem from the imminent release of Thronebreaker, but that remains speculation at this time. What do you think of Sapkowski’s claims?

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