DC’s online comics initiative, Zuda, have posted their creator contracts online. Following along with Joey Manley, I will at least congratulate them for being transparent, though much of that transparency probably came because of the yelling and screaming that went on… they kind of allude to that in the second paragraph on the site there, actually.
So I’ve gone through the contracts to the best of my ability, and looked at all of the stuff that’s been written about them–both publically and privately–and I’m kind of at a loss what to say here. Most importantly, it’s a contract that I would never personally sign, I’ll say that much at least. But I don’t really know what else I can say to communicate that this… really isn’t very good… without coming off like a nut, or a ‘hater’, or whatever.
“[The] thing that jumps out at me is that if you’re still up in the air about whether this company’s offers matches your own standards in terms of basic rights and obligations, you may be better off thinking about things in greater detail — and discussing it with that lawyer — than reading about it. There’s not likely to be easy consensus anywhere you look. Further, creators rights issues in comics are a close second to retail issues in comics when it comes to inspiring demented rhetoric. Discussion gets strident and defensive really, really quickly. You’re going to run into everything from angry jeremiads about big companies being unable to [not] screw anyone with whom they come into contact to exhortations that it’s okay to subject yourself to a crappy deal because you can always think up new stuff (after all, Jerry Siegel co-created Superman and Doris Evans), or, as it’s usually put, if you can’t think of more than one idea, you have no business being a creator. Stuff like that. So be careful.”
– Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter.
I don’t particularly want to get into the middle of another ‘thing’ about this, but… yeah. I don’t understand why someone who is smart and talented enough to create an idea from whole cloth, an idea that will be decreed as ‘good’ by both a large publisher AND the public at large, and not have the faith in it to see it through, wait for the ‘big money’ that could be down the line. It’s nice to be paid a page-rate for your work and all, but that $14,000 salary cap ($1000 purchase price plus 52 weeks @ $250/strip) seems to be pretty limiting, in terms of the potential revenue that could be generated off of a successful webcomic. It’s not bad money I guess, but here’s the thing… It’s less than the money you would make doing a half-page of comics art at DC or Veritgo even, and it also involves selling off the intellectual property for your work for an unlimited amount of time (seriously, at $500 a year, Time Warner could quite easily afford to pay you that fuck-off money forever). The idea that you should fully own what you fully create? It’s a good one, and one that I feel should be taken seriously. I also personally feel that every time someone takes a very bad deal like this, it makes it that much easier for publishers to OFFER very bad deals.
The one thing that everyone agrees with, even Zuda, is get a lawyer to look at the contract before you sign it. Hell, before you submit anything. The deal–to me–has a very “Siegel and Shuster 2.0” kind of a vibe, where those fellas sold the idea for Superman for a weekly paycheck and a pat-on-the-back. Except this time I don’t see the industry rallying around you to be properly credited for the work, whether you “own the Copyright” (but not the Trademark or have any real power) or not.
Would you sell off Superman for $14,000?