The webcomics blog about webcomics

Well, This Is Some Straight-Up Bullshit x 2

Before we get to said bullshit, how about a little positivity? VanCAF (one of the standoout *CAF free comics festivals that has come about in the mode of TCAF¹) is this weekend, and every expectation is that the show made great by (founding showrunner) Shannon Campbell and (incoming showrunner) Andrea Demonakos will continue its trajectory of awesomeness.

Webcomickers expected in Vancouver’s Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre include Abby Howard, Alina Pete, Becky Dreistadt & Frank Gibson, Blue Delliquanti, Ed Brisson, Evan Dahm, Angela Melick, Jakface, Jeph Jacques, Kathleen Jacques (no relation), Katie Shanahan, Kean Soo, Kel McDonald, Kelly Tindall, Kory Bing, Lucy Bellwood (adventure cartoonist!), Sam Logan, Sarah Becan, Der-Shing Helmer, Steve LeCouilliard, Tony Cliff, and Tyson Hesse, along with featured guests C Spike Trotman, Chip Zdarsky, and Faith Erin Hicks.

On to crappier things.

  • Apparently, about seven days ago, Tapas (formerly Taptastic, the wecomic-hosting solution) changed its terms and services. The first person I saw that actually looked at the new T&S is webcomics superfan Michael Kinyon, who noted that there’s now a Right of First Refusal clause. This could be very, very bad or potentially not that bad.

    As the aforementioned and omnipresent Spike notes, First Refusal means you have to tell Taptastic/Tapas if you want to do anything with the stuff you host with them, and they have the first crack at making you an offer. She lays out a scenario where you could be prevented from doing stuff with your stuff, potentially forever.

    But, and this is why lawyers exist, the terminology doesn’t say that Tapa* has an absolute lock on future deals, just that you have to negotiate with them for at least 30 days. If you can’t come to an agreement “in good faith” in that time, they missed their chance.

    Of course, what constitutes “good faith”, or what constitutes you wanting to (quoting now) sell, license, exercise or otherwise dispose of, indirectly or directly, any rights or any interest in any content posted on the Platform is subject to all kinds of interpretation because (to my eye, at least) the clause is super-broad.

    But I am not a lawyer, so let’s hear from one, subject to the mandatory disclaimer:

    FYI, I do this type of legal work. Happy to give some general advice (none of you are my clients, & retain & consult a lawyer …

    me or s/o else, before relying on this (I’d do some actual research before giving official advice :), but here’s my “from top of head” take:

    Akiva Cohen’s read is that it’s really broad, but that right of first negotiation does not constitute an ongoing right to make counteroffers forever, and that the chief cost to you is time. He also notes a lack of specificity as to when you have to provide notice, and this next bit is pretty brilliant:

    Here’s where you get the benefit of someone thinking like a lawyer ;): The clause puts no parameters on WHEN you can give notice

    So, theoretically, you could provide notice, the day you sign up with them, that you “desire to sell, license, etc.” ALL content you have or

    will place on their platform, and offer them a 30 day period to negotiate for any rights to that.

    Result: either they give you a good enough offer before you post comic number 31 (if you’re a daily) that you want to take it, or

    their right of first refusal has been satisfied and you are free, 2 months, 1 year, or 5 years later, to take the work to market w/o …

    providing them any further notice or exclusive negotiating period

    Questions? Cohen put his email in the thread for anybody that wants to have a more detailed discussion, but remember — he is not your lawyer until you have a formal agreement for him to represent you. Which, he says, he’s willing to do at a preferred rate on on behalf of groups. Read the whole thing.

    My take: it’s not terrible, but I hate, hate, hate it when companies changes their T&S and force you to agree or discontinue use — if you don’t agree to Tapa*’s new rules, you have to delete your account (they don’t give a timeframe for acceptance), which definitely puts them in a position of imposing on their users. Also, Tapa* is clearly not taking the Katie Lane² approach of trying to find a mutually-beneficial solution for all, they’re trying to maximize their potential payouts in the quickest, least-defined way possible³.

    This all leads back to a few rules we would all be well served to remember:

    • If a service is helpful and free, you are being monetized somehow.
    • Nobody will care about your ability to make a living from your work as much as you.
    • Read the damn contract and then have a lawyer read it; unless an actual lawyer with experience in contracts has told you on multiple occasions that you’re good at contracts and unlikely to get screwed acting on your own, you are not good at contracts and are likely to get screwed by acting on your own.

    Tattoo ’em on the insides of your eyelids.

  • It gets worse, if you can believe it. Word broke yesterday that a webcomic had been hacked and deleted for the purposes of attacking the creator, for whom it was a main source of income. The creator, Sophie Labelle, was subject to coordinated harassment, threats, and doxing in the lead up, for the crime of being trans and making a comic that dealt with trans and non-binary issues. The website of Assigned Male [no link, about to explain] is presently down, which is actually an improvement as it was previously spewing Nazi imagery.

    Way to prove your innate superiority, Nazis, you’ve completely won me over with your impeccable logic and moral argument! Engaging in your righteous and in no way assholic behavior on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia was surely an unfortunate coincidence! Oh, and since there are such things as Tumblr and print copies, you didn’t actually manage to go back in time and erase Labelle or Assigned Male from ever existing. Way to accomplish nothing, you ineffectual, fragile, yet curiously convinced of your own genetic destiny dipshits!

    In fact, given that a lot of people hadn’t heard of Assigned Male before yesterday, I’m going to call this a pretty good example of the Streisand Effect. Patreon doesn’t show timelines of support (at least, not to random nosy-pants like me), but I’m willing to bet that you’ve driven the count of Labelle’s supporters up and raised her profile. People that didn’t have an opinion on trans issues have decided where they stand, and they’ve decided against hate.

    Assuming that anybody reading this page falls into that category4, do me a personal favor and take a peek at her work, maybe toss a few bucks to her Paypal to help with the sudden expense of having to move on account of Nazis are sending death threats and publicizing her address.

    Not too long ago, this sort of evil was ordinary; then things started to get better, and now the evil fuckers are trying to drag us back to when they could pull this shit and not be met with condemnation for it. Don’t let them get away with it.


Spam of the day:

Consolidate Debt — Shark Tank Star’s Recommendation

Is it that one obnoxious guy that thought he could be Prime Minister of Canada on the basis of he’s rich? I wouldn’t take advice from that guy if I was on fire and he was suggesting a dip in the pool.

_______________
¹ Indeed, it’s now produced in partnership with TCAF.

² Light-ning LAW-yer!

³ To be fair, they can’t renegotiate with all their users individually. They could, however, set a date for the new T&S to take effect, and offer tools to migrate content away from their platform for any users that don’t want to accept the new T&S. Even my credit card companies — as rapacious and evil an industry as exists with respect to one-sided contracts — gives me 30 days to accept new contract terms or to close an account.

4 And on the off chance that you don’t — that you think that what happened to Labelle was fine, or all in good fun, or what your deity of choice requires — kindly do me favor and fuck off. You’re not welcome in my house. The rest of you can come over and hang out.

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Sheesh. And double sheesh!

On the bright side, Donald Trump hasn’t started a nuclear war today. Yet.

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