Digital First Comics – Straight Work For Hire Contracts With No Royalties?

Injustice_Gods-Among-Us_1_Full-665x1024There’s been some general fuss of late amongst certain DC Comics creators over their contracts. Not all creators, just those working on the Digital First books.

The Digital First line is something DC had pioneered against their main rivals, offering a line of digital comics aimed at the casual reader, the games player, the TV watcher, the film viewer, the statue licker, who may be less likely to go into a comic store, but more likely to download on their iPad. And then putting them into print afterwards.

It seems to have come as a surprise to some that the contracts most of them sign for these jobs are straight work for hire, with no room for royalty or incentive payments. A straight flat fee for the digital work. No room for extra payments based on print copies and trade paperbacks, let alone character creation or exploitation in other media. It’s a done-in-one, thank-you-ma’am WFH contract. It’s almost like nothing after 1985 happened. There does appear to be room for individual agreements with some people, but the consensus that was reached by the Big Two seems to have faded in this regard.

Now practically, that might not make much of a difference. Even in print, royalties are only paid on titles that sell over 40,000 and the Digital First titles rarely reach that high.

But Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 is onto its third printing. And when Arrow goes into trade paperback, that could bring in some healthy TV-related bookstore sales.

And the creators may not see the benefit of that. And there’s also no knowledge of how well those Digital First books are selling digitally as well… could this all be an attempt to hide digital sale information from the general public? Or is that just seeing conspiracy where there just business as usual.

DC Comics did not respond to enquiries made yesterday, and no creator chose to speak on the record. I have however seen a digital first contract that doesn’t seem to have any allowance for royalty payments.

I know the industry seems full of eighties flashbacks. But when it comes to Digital First royalties, a flashback to the nineties may be preferable?


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