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Tokyopop's Manga Pilot Pact Signs Away Legal Rights

posted on 2008-05-28 19:45 EDT
Clauses dictate that aspiring creators give up certain rights to approve changes

Veteran comic creator and onetime Gainax employee Lea Hernandez pointed out that Tokyopop's new Shining Stars Manga Pilot Program uses a pact that dictates that aspiring artists and creators "agree to give up any 'moral rights' they might have." "Moral rights" (droit moral in French) is a legal concept for a creator's rights to be credited for a work and the rights to control the future direction of the work. Authors can maintain their moral rights even if they signed away the economic rights to the work. However, legislation in the United States and other countries dictate that creators can waive their moral rights as well. In the Manga Pilot Program, creators submit "pilots," or comic shorts 24-36 pages in length, that Tokyopop posts online for reader feedback and possible expansion as a full-length title.

Scott Pilgrim comic creator Bryan Lee O'Malley notes that the current version of the pact does not list the fee paid to the creator until after Tokoypop accepts the pilot, and dictates that Tokyopop can ask for a second pilot installment for another fee of the same undisclosed amount. The pact also states that creators give Tokyopop "the right to reformat, adapt, and modify the Manga Pilot for iManga, [Tokyopop's] motion graphics video format, as well as for other ways that [Tokyopop] may change it in order to display, print, and exhibit it." As part of the relinquishing of moral rights, Tokoypop may not credit a creator's name in part or in full "when the space available or the conventions of a format won't permit it or if it would have to be too small to read (for example, when the Manga Pilot is viewed on mobile phones)."

Tokyopop released a statement that emphasizes that it does not retain rights to a manga pilot "that doesn't pan out" after the one-year Exclusive Period. In this scenario, Tokyopop says it will "have no stake" if the creator were to take the same pilot and land a deal with another company. However, Tokyopop also acknowledges that it can still adapt the existing pages of the pilot for other media even after the Exclusive Period ends. Contracts for creators vary widely in the North American comic industry, with some dictating that creators relinquish all rights on a work-for-hire basis and others giving creators complete control over their works.

In Tokyopop's other program for aspiring creators, Rising Stars of Manga, the entry form dictates that winners grants TOKYOPOP "a worldwide, royalty-free, exclusive right and license, but not an obligation, to use, reproduce, publish, distribute, and display the winning submission and his or her name, address, and other personal information (in whole or in part) in any media now or hereafter known and in perpetuity…."

Hernandez, Publishers Weekly's The Beat, Digital Strips, ANN, and Tokyopop itself have more links and discussions on the topic.

Thank you to Aaron White for the news tip.


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