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May. 29th, 2008

hurt comics code authority
Oh boy! TP's made a public statement about their extremely transparently lousy Pilot contract! (Many thanks to arcana_j for letting me know that Johanna Draper Carlson had written them, and thanks to JDC for asking!)

So, let's take this gem and examine it:

The Pilot Program represents an exciting new stage in the development of original manga for TOKYOPOP, and one of the things we’re most excited about is having a brief, accessible contract—and being able to post it online.

That'd be something to be proud of if the contract was good. In fact, it is NO DIFFERENT than the contract offered to creators submitting to the Rising Stars of Manga competition. Which, coincidentally, is also online and has been for some time.

From RSOM 8 Rules document (helpfully presented in blue to distinguish it from the TP BS elsewhere in this post:)

"the unlimited but non-exclusive right to publish, use, adapt, edit, and/or modify your
entry in any way, including in commerce, and in any and all media worldwide
including without limitation the Internet and in the Rising Stars of Manga 8
anthology book, without limitation and without compensation;

Bye-bye moral rights...

The next bit is standard boilerplate for contests such as this and America's Funniest Videos:

unlimited usage of your entry and your name and city and state of residence for
any promotional purposes related to the Competition, including the Rising Stars of
Manga 8 anthology book;
the right to display your entry (or excerpts) and your name and city and state of
residence on the Internet for the public to judge in the Online People’s Choice
component of the Competition; and,
the right to display and critique your entry (or excerpts) on the Internet and to
use your name and city and state of residence in connection with such display and
critique.

Here's where it gets gnarly, say good-bye to those moral rights again! They're skipping away hand in hand with royalties and compensation:

6.2 If you are a Competition winner, you grant TOKYOPOP:
the exclusive right to publish, use, adapt, edit, and/or modify your entry in any way,
including in commerce, and in any and all media worldwide including without
limitation the Internet and in the Rising Stars of Manga 8 anthology book, without
limitation and without compensation;

Look here! Not only first negotiation, but LAST refusal as well!

the exclusive rights of first negotiation and last refusal to publish a new or
expanded version of your entry. This means that you may not offer any other
publisher, or self-publish, any version of your entry unless you have given
TOKYOPOP the opportunity to make an offer to you and, within 90 days thereafter,
you and TOKYOPOP cannot agree on terms. If you and TOKYOPOP cannot agree
on terms, and if you solicit or receive a third party offer to publish a new or
expanded version of your entry, you must give TOKYOPOP an opportunity to
match the third party’s bona fide written offer; and,
the right to use your name, likeness, and excerpts from your entry in connection
with the advertising, publicity, and promotion of your winning entry."

The RSOM terms are no less ass-reaming than the Pilot, except for one itsy-bitsy thing: just by entering you have given away your moral rights, your right to compensation. If you WIN, you get a cash prize of $1,000., a pat on the head and a thorough screwing.

What makes the Pilot contract better (in the way that smashing your finger with a hammer is better than having it slammed in a trunk) is than TP's Pilot contract says clearly that you waive moral rights, whereas the RSOM one doesn't.

Back to the Big Top:

We’ve made the contracts generic, to include as many creators as possible, and what you see is the same deal extended to everyone. We’re proud to be able to present these contracts as they are, so that love it or hate it, we’ve empowered potential manga creators to understand the terms long before they propose a project.

No, you really haven't. You've couched the terms in hipped-up bullshit speak. to distract from the fact that this contract is obscene, backwards and a clear IP grab.

Making the contracts available to all is just the first positive step for TOKYOPOP that the Pilot Program re
presents. Of course we want our Pilots to be successful, and we want to work with Pilot creators to develop their Pilots into other media. And if we do so, an entirely new contract is drafted for that particular project—whether it be a full-length book deal, a film/TV deal, etc. However, TOKYOPOP realizes that some Pilots will not develop beyond their initial stage.

Let me take a moment here to be amused that TP seems to be defending the lousiness of the contract by saying, "But we TOLD you!" They seem to think that a public crapass contract is better than a private one. Um, no, guys. It's not.

And that’s why the Pilot Program is also progressive in returning rights to creators.

Rights reversions is NOT A NEW IDEA except, perhaps, to TP. You are overlooking your OWN language about the conditions under which those rights are returned.

For any Pilot that doesn’t pan out, the rights to the project are returned to the creator after the one-year Exclusive Period ends.

We'll just leave out that the contract also gives us right of first refusal for ANOTHER YEAR FOLLOWING THAT FIRST YEAR. First refusal is a contract term creators are advised not to accept from reputable companies.

After that, the creator is free to take that exact chapter created for us as well as the property anywhere they like—whether that’s self-publishing, publishing with another company or putting it on the back burner.

Did some say "first refusal?" Not us! We're awesome here! No, we said we could match offers, and that you have to tell us what they are so we can match them, and we can drag our feet.

At this point, for example, if the creator were to land a film/TV deal based on their Pilot property, TOKYOPOP would have no stake in that venture.

Unless we match your deal.

We cannot dictate the future of your project after the Exclusive Period ends. We only retain rights to those pages that were created for us, and have the right to adapt those existing pages as cell phone manga, imanga or other print publications. We do not have the right to create more material. We can’t add to your story or create new chapters—it belongs to you. We can only reprint the material you created for us.

With or without your credit. We might make audio presentations (Mangapods, anyone?), use them as clipart in our dreadful Manga Creator, make books out of them.

Oh, um, and not pay you again past that initial $750. And, um, we own those pages forever.

We hope that the discussion generated from putting the contracts online helps potential creators to understand the deals that we offer.

Yep, having people like myself and Bryan Lee O'Malley explain how much they suck helps people understand them.

We urge you to talk about them, that’s right there in the contract. The deals may not be for everyone, but we’re glad that everyone can read and consider for themselves.

Which I hope means they're totally pleased that the dialogue has mostly been respected, experienced comics professionals leading a chorus of "Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!"


Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
sclerotic_rings
May. 29th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, I absolutely adore the two-year waiting period. Not only can they drag their feet about letting you take your project to someone else, but it's also a great way to guarantee that another publisher will lose interest or change editors before the rights are released, meaning that you come back to TP with less negotiation room.

That's an old trick with entertainment journalism: if you're on a story that could be embarrassing for a real or figurative fuckbuddy of the editor or publisher, the trick is to take the story right away and then keep delaying the alleged appearance of the article. By the time the author realizes that s/he's getting played, it's too late for the story to matter, and the person profiled usually has plenty of advance warning to prepare a counteroffensive. Better yet, there's nothing quite so much fun as discovering that another publisher would have paid real rates if the offer had been made to them, but doesn't want sloppy seconds on an article previously offered to the competition. Oh, I got quite familiar with that stunt when I was working for Film Threat.
doodlesthegreat
May. 29th, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC)
Holy crap. If the TP people were any bigger tools, you'd find 'em at a Home Depot.
charles_rb
May. 30th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)
I'm seeing some commentators stepping back and moderating what they said in response to rebuttals. Then I look at comments by you, Tom Stillwell, Mark Waid (on PW Beat comments), Jon Gray and others, and in-depth analyses of the contract.

And then I think "well, fuck thinking this might've been overblown then".
divalea
May. 30th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)
The commenters backing off, generally, have an interest in being more moderate.
Tom is right, I'm right, Mark is right.

I do not agree with Heidi that Brad Fox has a moderate stance. Brad's expertise lies in movies, and the TP deal, from a movie business point of view, DOES look better.

However, I'm reminded of a writer's comment on John Favreau's Dinner for Five, "The WGA (Writer's Guild of America) is the only union that started by screwing its members."

As Tom said, plenty of contracts are bad, he's offered to take apart any contract presented him.

charles_rb
May. 30th, 2008 02:55 am (UTC)
"the TP deal, from a movie business point of view, DOES look better"

The implications here are horrifying.
divalea
May. 31st, 2008 05:19 am (UTC)
Indeed. I think that writing an original screenplay would be the most depressing job ever.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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