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Controversial Change To Tapas/Taptastic Terms Of Service Claims Right Of First Refusal For Webcomics [UPDATED X2]


Webcomic creators and the comics community in general are up in arms this morning over changes to the terms of service for Tapas, the webcomic and web novel syndicate formerly known as Taptastic, formerly known as Comic Panda. Founded in 2012, the website reportedly has over 16,000 creators, 26,000 series, and over 430,000 episodes on its service, with over 1.2 billion views through the Tapas mobile apps and website. But in the past month, the company has made a crucial update to their terms, including the following clause:

Right of First Refusal

  1. 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.

Though users were concerned with the change as early as two weeks ago on the site's forums


…with some even defending the change…


…in a post about changes to the terms, Tapas wrote:

Why were the Terms, Policies, and Guidelines updated?

The updates to our terms, policies, and guidelines coincide with our brand consolidation from Tapastic to Tapas. A year ago we relaunched the mobile apps under the Tapas brand, and as we bring the website in line with the style and features the apps introduced, the terms and policies needed to follow suit.

Many of the terms introduced along with the Tapas app concern purchases and content we've published, versus the self-published, user-generated content we previously focused on almost exclusively. Self-publishing and UGC are not going away, and we remain dedicated to supporting independent creators – we're simply expanding to offer more professional titles as well.

Finally, we want Tapas to remain the fun, friendly, and safe place for all creators and readers you've helped us build over the years. With that goal in mind, we took this opportunity to clarify our content and community guidelines as well. We've learned a lot over the years, and as the community continues to grow it falls on each and every one of us to help maintain a positive environment to create, share, and celebrate great stories.

But the message seems to gloss over the right of first refusal claimed for all content on the site, and seems to imply that unless users delete their accounts, they automatically accept the new rules:

What do I need to do now? 

If you are ok with the changes, there's no action needed – you can simply continue to use the Tapas website and mobile apps as you did before. If you're not ok with the changes, let us know, or you can choose to close your account by logging in to your profile and clicking "delete account" on your settings page.

If I close my account, what happens to my data?

If you delete your account, all data associated with your account, including content you've uploaded, comments or posts you've made, reading history, bookmarks, keys, and unlocked episodes will be deleted and may not be recoverable.

The rule change has sparked uproar on Twitter today over both the new clause and its implementation:

With Iron Circus Comics owner C. Spike Trotman recommending:

We've reached out to Tapas for comment on the changes, and we'll let you know if we receive a response.

UPDATE: Tapas has responded to Bleeding Cool with a statement on the controversy, which you can read more about here. In addition, they let us know that the last time the terms of service were updated was April 17, and that the more recent update dates shown on the website are an effect of opening the pages in their helpdesk software, and do not represent any changes to the content. As a result, we've updated this article to reflect the update times. Their full statement is reprinted below:

A bit of a tweetstorm has been brewing today regarding the Right of First Refusal clause in our Terms of Service. We're reviewing the language and will follow up soon, but wish to avoid a knee-jerk reaction. In the meantime, we'd like to clarify our intent and hopefully assuage some fears and negative assumptions swirling about.
The purpose of the Right of First Refusal is not to take any rights away or steal your content. The purpose is to help you. We've witnessed multiple creators on Tapas accept unfair, uncompetitive deals and sign away their rights for far less than their work is worth. Creators who should have been paid 10x what they were offered agreeing to terrible deals because they either did not know their market value or did not have any competing offers.
We have connections in traditional publishing, merchandising, tv, and film.  Our intention is to work with creators to bring additional offers to the table, and to create competition in the market so individuals get the best deal possible.
We did a poor job communicating this and for that we're sorry. We will continue to listen to you and make revisions to the language over the next week. Please let us know if you have additional questions or concerns, along with any suggestions on specific language you'd feel more comfortable with. We won't be able to respond to everyone individually, but will read and take all of your feedback into consideration.
Team Tapas
UPDATE X2: Tapas has decided to remove the controversial clause entirely from the Terms of Service, and they've provided Bleeding Cool with the following statement:

Hey everyone,

Feedback has always been key to sculpting Tapas, both as a platform and community. We've spent all day listening to your comments, and have decided to remove The Right of First Refusal clause from our Terms of Service, effective immediately.

Tapas has always been a creator-first platform. Our goal is to provide tools to make publishing easier, including free hosting, ad revenue sharing, the tipping program, and more.

We've always maintained that creators retain 100% ownership when self-publishing with us, and our goal with the introduction of The Right of First Refusal clause was to give independent creators more leverage when entering into negotiations with other publishers.

We apologize for the misunderstanding, and will attempt to clarify remaining misconceptions. We value your continued support, feedback, and participation.

Team Tapas

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Jude TerrorAbout Jude Terror

A prophecy once said that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero would come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events. Sadly, that prophecy was wrong. Oh, Jude Terror was right. For ten years. About everything. But nobody listened. And so, Jude Terror has moved on to a more important mission: turning Bleeding Cool into a pro wrestling dirt sheet!
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