Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tokyopop: It's not "Stealing" if we have a "Contract"

Tokyopop recently came out with a "Manga Pilot Program," nominally designed to get new artists published.

It's actually designed for the sole purpose of stealing your art.

Bryan Lee O'Malley has an excellent write-up (Lea Hernandez does, too) on how Tokyopop steals art the legal way: by using a contract of such biased and unfair proportions it qualifies as an epic trolling of the art community. Basically, their contract allows them to a) not pay you until they accept your art, b) allows them to use and modify the art without giving you credit for it, and c) allows them to use whatever art you submit to them for free even if they don't accept it for publication.

This means that if you send them a 24 page comic as a sample, Tokyopop's contract would allow them to take that art, strip your name from it, post it and change it anyway they like, and then tell you that it isn't "accepted" so you never get a dime.

The typical contracts I've seen have a clear "we won't use your art if we don't accept it" clause or a disclaimer that they can use the art you submit but will include proper attribution. Tokyopop is taking the position that anything you send them is theirs to do with as they please with no credit or compensation to you. Even when DC and Marvel were making one-sided contracts back in the early days of comics, they at least had the decency to acknowledge the creators.

Some people in the anime industry complain about fansubs and piracy. What Tokyopop is doing here is far, far worse than what any fans have done, because at least fansubs give credit to the original source and encourage people to buy. Tokyopop should feel utterly ashamed for having the gall to pass off such an unfair and immoral contract to up and coming artists. They should, but I doubt they do. They probably just think it's "good business."

Bottom line: if you're an artist, don't EVER go to Tokyopop to get published. Also, take a long hard look at whether you want to continue supporting corporate art thieves.