The webcomics blog about webcomics


Okay, neither of these things we’re about to talk about are directly related to webcomics per se, but they are both adjacent enough that we ought to discuss.

  • So it seems that Ubisoft (who are a videogame studio but that’s all I can tell you about them … I don’t know what games they make¹, or if they good/suck) are making a videogame. That’s cool. And this particular one has room for a lot of random art to be included — background elements like graffiti, snippits of song, etc. So far, so good.

    It’s also the case that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the actor that makes everything he’s in better than it would be otherwise, has a company/movement/Creative Commonsish platform called HitRECord that is designed to get people making stuff, then paid for making stuff. In a way, it’s a matchmaker service, but instead of a traditional agency where you work with specific clients, it’s got a userbase that uploads stuff, then gets paid by people who use it. I’m oversimplifying drastically here, but I think you get the gist.

    The latest project that HitRECord is working with is the Ubisoft videogame, and there’s a US$50,000 pot of money that will be divided by all the users whose stuff gets selected to be in the videogame. It’s also set off a lot of alarm bells that this is spec work, and I’m honestly a little divided about that.

    As we know, spec work sucks — thanks to Maki Naro for making it so easy to share why it sucks — as it’s a situation you spend a bunch of time creating a thing for no money, hoping it gets picked up. Depending on the terms of the spec deal (which may be structured as a “contest”), the people who are dangling the prospect of getting paid (or worse, exposure) may end up owning your stuff whether you get paid or not. And Ubisoft certainly has the money to pay people for work instead of crowdsourcing in this fashion.

    But I’m not 100% certain this is that. As near as I can tell, nobody has to submit new work — you have something hanging around your HitRECord account you can submit it and maybe it gets chosen, maybe you get paid. That appears to be the key model for HitRECord — people go browsing for something they need in a marketplace, buy the bits they like. Say you want music behind a Kickstarter video and want to be ethical about it, you find a clip somebody’s recorded and license its use.

    It looks to me like this particular situation is a more directed version of that marketplace model. Now if Ubisoft has their art directors look over a zillion things to mine for ideas and use them for unpaid inspiration (and I’d never put such a stunt past a large media company), that’s absolutely evil. But partnering with HitRECord to have a specific channel, with a specific budget, one for which HitRECord appears to be forgoing its usual 50/50 revenue sharing, I think that’s on this side of the acceptable line.

    Again, I have dug deep into the terms & conditions. If Ubisoft say that all submissions must be original, never used elsewhere previously, and if not selected can’t be used elsewhere later, that’s no good. But if already-completed work can be submitted, or not chosen submissions immediately returned to the HitRECord venue for sale to others, I’m inclined to think this is potentially not-evil (I know, low bar). I also think the pushback directed at Gordon-Levitt personally is misdirected — if the situation is spec work, that’s on Ubisoft². I’m perfectly happy to have a discussion in the comments, so have at it.

  • Now, if we’re talking about not giving away labor in unpaid situations, it’ll definitely be useful if the labor that you don’t give away is also not horrifically underpriced. We’ve all heard the horror stories of somebody that, say, wanted 32 full-color illustrations for a children’s book and generously offered US$200. Not US$200 per illo, two hundred dollars total. As in six bucks per full-color illustration. Yeah, no. Don’t agree to that.

    But what constitutes a fair price? For the past several years, the fine folks behind Creator Resource have been collecting tools for the comics freelancer, and they’re currently gathering input into what page rates get paid. Who’s good, who’s a nightmare cheapskate, who makes you fight to get paid? This is ground that’s previously been covered by Fair Page Rates (with surveys covering 2015 and 2016), but they seem not to have surveyed for 2017.

    So the questions asked by Creator Resource won’t necessarily track 100% with those asked in prior years by Fair Page Rates, but some imperfect data is better than none. The survey for 2017 page rates is here, and we’ll be sure to share the results when they get released.

Spam of the day:

Diabites destroyer
Peter’s a 53-year-old diabetic man who almost died after suffering a “diabetic coma.” But after adding THIS backyard “weed” to his spice rack, he not only lost an impressive 41 lbs in just 29 days.

41 pounds in 29 days? Wait, don’t tell me: “diabites”-related gangrene necessitated the amputation of both feet and the removal of a kidney, right?

¹ Which is to say, they don’t make any of the games I care about: Half Life/Portal, particularly goofy Team Fortress II stuff, Civilization/Alpha Centauri. Everything else is largely background noise to me.

² Unless everybody that’s mad also thinks that HitRECord is an unethical undertaking when it’s not working with Ubisoft; as near as I can tell, it’s a more directed version of Patreon.

Not much to comment on with regard to the meat of the matter, just a note that Paka (which I believe I have mentioned here a few times before) works for Ubisoft, and specifically on Beyond Good and Evil 2; though as a UI designer, so I do not believe he has much to do with the whole affair.

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