Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

May 29, 2008

More On Tokyopop's Crummy Contract

* Tokyopop responds to recent criticism of the contracts offered creators in their new Pilot Program. Um... yeah. I think their weakest claim is that their program is progressive in returning rights for unsuccessful pilots to its creators, unless I'm missing some sort of language that sets standards for what constitutes an unsuccessful pilot, standards that actually deserve the progressive claim.

image* in the comments section on a link round-up at The Beat, Kiel Phegley suggests that the coverage of the contracts on mainstream US comics sites may fall on deaf ears because the people targeted aren't listening to mainstream US comics sites.

* Brigid Alverson writes about the contract. I think she's right in suggesting that people may still want to do this, and should always go into contracts with eyes wide open. I think she's wrong in two areas. For one, I don't see the shock that she asserts is out there: I see some anger about the seedy targeting of young kids with "hey, dude" language, but I don't see anyone particularly surprised that Tokyopop would do this. Honestly, I haven't seen a single commentator shocked. In fact, I think the opposite is true: Tokyopop has a history of being criticized for offering dubious contracts. This isn't shocking at all.

What's stranger to me is Alverson's assertion that Tokyopop's for-profit nature somehow absolves potentially exploitative behavior, in a kind of "that's just the way they are" construction.
"They're a for-profit corporation, not a charity, and it's not in their job description to look out for the little guy. That's why, when it's time to sign a book deal, you hire an agent, who is paid to stand up for your interests."
I don't really get this at all. Leaving aside the moral implications of such a statement, plenty of successful companies manage to offer contracts that aren't like this one; and certainly working in more supportive partnerships with creators via contractual arrangements of the kind that are easier to sustain long-term is an equally legitimate way to find plenty of profit. In fact, one can argue that offering creators bad contracts works against long-term profits in that it encourages creative talent to take future projects elsewhere. Second, these contracts don't seem to be, as Alverson seems to assert, first salvos in a long negotiation between the publisher and established creators with agents. They seem to be "take it or leave it" contracts targeted almost exclusively at new, uninformed talent. If someone out there manages to significantly renegotiate one of these contracts, I'll take that specific argument back, but I don't see that happening.

* I'm also not certain what the hell Zuda's apparently shitty contracts or the relative shittiness of deals at other comics publishers vis-a-vis these new contracts has to do with anything except to bizarrely recast what should be focused criticism into some kind of Internet argumentation construction that favors a kind of clammy even-handedness that avoids the 14-year-old's biggest concern: hypocrisy. I'm happy to take a tire iron to those contracts, too; if anyone wants to forward me one or direct me to one's promotion on-line, I'll do it today. Nor should it matter when criticizing one set of contracts if the same company also offers other contracts that are better. No one suggests that there aren't good contracts out there, and in fact, the existence of more equitable contracts brings up the question of why aren't the better contracts utilized uniformly?
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink

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