Thursday, September 27, 2007

Zuda Comics Creators' Contracts

This summer, DC Comics began a Web site where creators could submit their new, undiscovered, graphic novel work, with anticipation of (a) high trraffic and (b) getting picked up for publication by DC, a division of Time Warner Communications. The site, called Zuda, was, at first, hazy on creators' rights. Here's a July 7, 2007 interview from Newsarama with two of the DC editors who are behind the initiative.

The site is run like a contest, with finalists and then, a winner. There are, as of now, a series of contracts to be signed. Here's a comment from that Newsarma interview:

"Once one of the creators is selected, it’s a much more complicated relationship with contracts and so on, where there are participations and all of that."

"Complicated relationship" means that "You" (the creator of the winning work) "grant and assign to Zuda, its successors, licensees and assigns, solely and exclusively, in any and all languages and media, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, for the term of copyright, all rights in and to the Material (collectively, the "Rights")." The entire contract is here.

So ... you are giving DC the rights to your work. All the rights "throughout the universe."

I walked away from a book deal with another publisher (not the first) that wanted all rights. Another cartoonist, a good colleague, stepped up and filled the void, giving the publisher what he wanted. This is OK with me. I have no grudge against the guy, but I had to ask the cartoonist about it. He wasn't stupid. He knew it wasn't a good deal.

"But the cartoons they're going to buy -- they're just sitting here in my drawer, not making me any money. So, you know, I figured, 'what the hell,'" he told me.

The book was published last year. This book will be republished in CD-ROM format this year, and all of the people who created the content will not see any money, except the publishers, who crafted the contracts. I don't know how he feels about all this, but I would feel pretty bad.

So ... just to submit your work to the kids at Zuda, you have to agree to sign away rights. T. Campbell writes, "It's silly to think that publishers are evil for wanting to retain rights as long as they can." He adds more comments today, and there are good links there. Certain rights are OK for a corporation to have, but the Douglas Adamsy language of having all rights in all pandimensional universes is wrong.

Hat tip to Journalista! and good ol' Dirk Deppey.

Publisher's Weekly reports on reaction to Zuda's contracts here, and mentions that there are some people who are getting a different contract. Better? Worse? I don't know.

1 comment:

Kyle Miller said...

This has not been lost on the folks that work for DC. There's a gag in Captain Carrot And The Final Ark where DC heroes from an alternate universe send a cease and desist letter to comic artists depicting them in a different universe. "When they say they own the rights to something throughout the universe, the mean every universe!"