Sporadic Sequential
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

OK, having now read the actual contract in full, I think a boycott on Tokyopop is unwarranted. Based on the accounts I'd read online, I was under the impression that Tokyopop's Manga Pilot pact gave Tokyopop rights over a creator's entire intellectual property (i.e., the characters, concepts, etc. — what Tokyopop calls the capital-P "Project") but the "pact" is specifically limited to the work produced for the Pilot — that is, the one-time 24-36 page one-shot (what Tokyopop calls the "Manga Pilot"). If Tokyopop wants to do anything with the creator's intellectual property (i.e., the "Project") beyond the scope of the Manga Pilot and its one year Exclusive Period (which is only entered once the Pilot has been formally accepted/approved), that would require new negotiations and a separate contract on Tokyopop's part. (Yes, Tokyopop does say it retains the rights to publish the Manga Pilot in any format forever and ever amen, but again this only applies to the 24-36 page one-shot, and it also allows the creator to publish it simultaneously in whatever format he or she sees fit. So theoretically speaking, if you let Tokyopop publish the Manga Pilot but then decide you want to publish your Project on your own once the Exclusive Period ends, you could include the Manga Pilot as an introductory chapter in the trade paperback collection of your self-published comic book series.)

I still think the whole thing is stupidly written (as many have pointed out, the efforts at striking up a chummy tone have the opposite effect), and I still don't see why Tokyopop can't give creator credit in almost all circumstances (in almost every graphic for Bleach that Viz runs, no matter how small, I always recall seeing the notice "BLEACH © 2001 by Tite Kubo/SHUEISHA Inc"), but it's not what I initially thought it was. So I apologize for jumping to conclusions and suggesting a boycott without first investigating the matter in greater depth. As an act of penance, I suggest boycotting this blog for a couple weeks.

(On a positive note, this means I can use those Sgt. Frog scans I already did. Plus, now I won't be sad come Dec. 16th.)

UPDATE: Right after posting this, this post from Brigid at MangaBlog showed up in my feedreader. In it, "the TOKYOPOP Pilot Program Team, Paul Morrissey & Hope Donovan!" responds to the controversy surrounding the Pilot Pact, and they confirm that the contract only applies to the Pilot material. There's one part that's awkwardly phrased, however: "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." [Emphasis added] According to how I read the contract, however, creators never sign away any rights to the Project (remember, that's the overall intellectual property); they only agree not to give the rights to the Project to anyone else besides Tokyopop during the one-year Exclusive Period. ("Remember, you’re not giving us those rights, but you’re promising you won’t use or give anyone else those rights before the Exclusive Period ends.")

Oh, and I'd also disagree with their assessment that the contract is "accessible." Given that so many people came away with the wrong impressions about this contract, I'd say there's something very inaccessible about the way it's written. I think it'd be better to go back and clean up all the attempts at "cutesy" conversational lingo and just set out the details straightforwardly.

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