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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Seven Seas: Copyright to Creators

Publisher's Weekly: Seven Seas Rewriters it's Manga Pacts


"In a gesture that will have some comics publishers scratching their heads, Seven Seas Entertaiment, a small U.S. manga publishing house specializing in original English language manga, has ripped-up contracts that specified joint copyright ownership with the manga artists, and offered the creators new deals with full ownership."

DeAngelis began reading the online debates arguing the pros and cons of these contracts. "I started to reflect on it and feel downright guilty," he said. He explained that previous Seven Seas titles had been generated in-house with DeAngelis (who has also written several Seven Seas titles himself) finding artists and writers for new projects. "For properties that were already written and illustrated without any input from Seven Seas, how could I justify asking for partial ownership?," he said. "So, I contacted the creators and told them I wanted to redo the agreements in their favor and give them 100% ownership."


I think this is great news, and it goes to show that the tide is slowly but surely turning to the benefit of comic book creators worldwide.

Quite by coincidence, this very topic was the subject of rather intense discussion on the comments section of this blog, on the entry "The Significance of Republic Act No. 8293 to Philippine Comic Book Creators" dated November 8.

In the discussion, publisher Seven Seas was mentioned by one of the Filipino creators working for them. The news report of the contract re-writing at Seven Seas came out on November 14th, where Seven Seas founder Jason DeAngelis was reported to come to his decision after reading online debates about their contracts.

Though it's tempting to say that this blog had anything to do with it, it's more likely the debate had been going on much more intensely elsewhere. And I think THAT is what needs to be remembered about this. That *someone*, *somewhere* had the courage to talk about it and express dissatisfaction over it. What if that person decided to just stay quiet, shrug his shoulders and say, "Well, that's how they do things, who am I to say any different?"

Sometimes, all you need is to just talk about it. Some of these publishers just might not realize what they are doing is exploitative. Believe it or not, sometimes some of them are as clueless to the law as creators are.

In other cases, all it takes for a creator to do is to ask, as nicely as possible, about what is rightfully theirs. That's ALL it is. There's no need for lawyers or an advanced knowledge in economics. The worst they can do is deny it to you. But what if they say yes?

This is the difference when one works in comics. Things can become possible that's not possible or would take much more difficulty to accomplish in other fields.

I have to go back and reiterate one of the quotes from this story, from Jason DeAngelis, the founder of Seven Seas himself: "For properties that were already written and illustrated without any input from Seven Seas, how could I justify asking for partial ownership?"

Now that is something remarkable for a publisher to say, specially in comics. It's something truly revolutionary, and for that sir, you have my utmost respect. It is a statement that is respectful to creators, and it's a statement that is in accordance with what is lawful.

If your publisher cannot say the same thing, that should make you really think.