Sunday, January 31, 2010

The "Rights" Thing Redux

You might recall that last June I wrote of the letter I got from DC Comics, inviting me to sign away all of the reprint rights to everything I wrote between 1976 and 1998 for a portion of a portion of a royalty pool to be determined by the company. You might also recall that I decided it was not in my best interests to do so.

Well, this past week I received a new letter from DC. Unlike the original, this one acknowledges that the reprint agreements, guaranteeing the creators a fixed fee (and a royalty if the reprint sales reached a certain point), substantially increase their upfront production costs. But also, "it precludes contributors like you from sharing in the upside of the actual revenues that may be generated by sales of many collected editions."

"Accordingly, to enable DC to more actively pursue our collected edition reprint program. we are asking you to accept royalties on sales of all DC publications that include reprints of pages of your work in lieu of reprint fees." It goes on to say that these royalties will be paid "using DC's royalty rates in effect at the time of the new publication." And for my edification, they include the current rates.

What they don't say is how long these particular rates will be in effect, nor give any guarantee that they won't decide tomorrow that their new rates are 1/10th of that, or 1/100th of that or "We will pay you a penny per copy no matter how much of your work we include in a book."

And then there's the line, "Of course, DC may develop new formats for reprint editions and, if your work is included in such a format, you will receive the then-current rates that DC establishes." Um, like, some digital format? A streaming video version? Something that hasn't even been thought up yet? And by just signing this agreement, I can give away my rights to anything and everything and accept whatever amount DC decides they will pay...forever.

As I said the last time, I doubt that there is any groundswell movement to have my stories reprinted, but I still don't see a reason to agree that they don't have to at least make me an offer any time they want to include something I wrote in a book. As I also said the last time, I'm willing to accept the current royalty agreement for the Secret Society of Super-Villains stories I wrote. And if there are other specific stories, well, let me know what they are, DC. I certainly recognize that some money is better than no money.

But I'm not foolish enough to sign away everything with no guarantee of rates, except that they will be established by you. Might as well just offer me a cup of grape Kool-Aid.


  1. Solidarity, brother! I'd be more than happy to cut a royalty agreement with DC on any specific project. But I've no reason to believe that letting them do whatever they want will benefit me in the long or short run.

  2. I daresay most comics fans my age reading this post would have to say "Hell, if they're willing to treat Bob Rozakis like this, how little respect must they offer a lesser known name from their history? Or a newcomer?"

  3. I certainly don't care for the guilt angle. They're effectively saying, "other creators won't get any royalties because we won't reprint your stories if you don't sign this agreement."

    I admire your angle: let them negotiate each story individually, even if that takes them more time to do so.

  4. Mazing Man was my favourite of all your work and much as I'd kill to get a collected edition, I wouldn't want it at the cost of screwing you over. You made some great work and you deserve whatever financial compensation they have previously agreed with you.

    Also, while I can see this being justified in their eyes by DC Comics limited budgets, DC Entertainment sounds like a whole new ball game on that front.

    If there is no groundswell to get Mazing Man reprinted there bloody well should be.

  5. And what do you know, that groundswell seems to be starting on Facebook AS WE SPEAK

  6. I haven't seen a copy of 'Mazing Man since I was 14 years old and it's still one of the few titles that have stayed with me over the years. I'd love to see it reprinted as well. If and only if, DC honors the original contracts or renegotiates a new one.