Webcomics are a young and rowdy medium, and in recent years, Tapastic (recently rebranded as Tapas.io and owned by Tapas Media) has become a hub for webcomics of all kinds, offering subscription services and an excellent layout.
A recent change to the websites’ terms of service, however, threatens to alienate hundreds of webcomic creators. The Terms of Service updated in the last month, and include this dangerous clause;
Right of First Refusal
If user desires to sell, license, exercise or otherwise dispose of, indirectly or directly, any rights or any interest in any content posted on the Platform (the “Offered Right”), then the user shall give written notice to Tapas Media of such desire. Commencing upon Tapas Media’s receipt of such notice there shall be a 30 day period in which user will negotiate in good faith with Tapas Media for Tapas Media’s acquisition of such offered rights. If by the end of 30 days no agreement has been reached or if at anytime Tapas Media declines interests in the offered rights, then the user shall be free to negotiate elsewhere with respect to such offered Right.
Essentially, what this means is that if a webcomic creator wants to sell their work – their intellectual property – they have to ask Tapas Media first. After reading the clause – posted on several websites, including Bleeding Cool – several comic creators took to Twitter, Tumblr and other social media sites making their opinions clear.
— George Rohac (@GRohac) May 18, 2017
In response to the outcry from their community, Tapas first made this announcement;
In it, they clarify what they are attempting to offer – however, the tweetstorm refused to abate, and a few hours later, they followed up with this:
In this most recent announcement, Tapas pulled the ‘Right of First Refusal’ clause immediately, putting an end to the discussion.
TAPASTIC DRAMA CONSEQUENCES
In many ways, this is excellent. It shows the power of the consumer for content aggregators like Tapas Media. Change happens quickly, even in business terms, when all of Twitter is a-flutter about it.
However, it’s bringing up larger questions about the nature of webcomics, online content and rights. Tapastic changed its terms of service without warning. If it hadn’t been for the keen eyes that noticed the new clause, it would affect rights of creators without anybody realizing. Furthermore, now that it’s deleted, there’s nowhere on Tapastic to see previous versions of the TOS. Only screenshots of the offending clause remain.
In a world where Patreon, Ko-Fi, Etsy and other businesses based around helping creators succeed have become so important, it’s worth remembering how important contracts are. It’s one thing for an artist to put up their own comic and fund it through Patreon; it’s quite another to keep track of all the various clauses, many of which may threaten their livelihood.
What do you think of Tapastic’s decisions?