I may as well jump into the Tokyopop fray, as I’ve had a draft about the TP.com website sitting here for a while. I may as well add my two cents (rant) to the current discussion as well.
Tokyopop’s Pilot Program pact has stirred up a lot of people in the last few days, with it’s casual language and questionable practices. But, is this really a surprise to anyone? Tokyopop is about as two-faced as you can get in the manga publishing industry. Their public face, the one they put out in press releases and at conventions, is one of a teen friendly publisher that is trying to help new artists get a break in the comics/manga industy, get them published, and give them a place to meet, talk and share their work online. Take a closer look at them, and you’ll see the truth that lies hidden underneath.
“Want some candy little girl?”
On the surface, the Tokyopop website looks like a good place for teens to go and talk with other fans of Tokyopop titles and other manga. You can have your own blog, upload pictures and manga stories (not part of the Pilot/Rising Stars programs), join a clan of like-minded people, and just generally share and enjoy.
The site is supposed to be appropriate for ages 13 and up. However, ever since they when to “Tokyopop 2.0″, the site has had a LOT of problems with pornographic materials not only going on the site, but showing up on the front page, and in places where minors can easily access them. If Tokyopop actually made an effort to curb this problem, I wouldn’t be so bothered, but their response to it has been more like putting a band-aid over a gaping wound. First, there is a radio button in the user’s profile that they can set to whether or not to view adult content. Yeah, trusting teenagers with raging homones to make this decision it a REAL good idea. Second, whenever content is uploaded to the website, there is a radio button that must be set every time content is uploaded or edited that states if the content is adult or not. Third, they make other users of the site do the work for them. Users can “flag” content they consider inappropriate, and if several people flag something, then it will be looked at by the web team. If they deem it inappropriate, then, it will be taken down. And…that’s it. There is nothing here that would STOP a teenager from finding and viewing adult content, especially since they can change their year of birth in their settings, so they appear to be over 18. These underage kids are even telling OTHER underage kids to change their age so they can read adult material without getting banned!
This is not how I expect a website owner and publisher of Teen/Teen+ books to run their website! They can at least make a real effort to keep the porn out and kids from getting to it. How, you ask? How about starting with locking down the birth year in the settings. If you don’t know what year you were born in when you sign up, then you’ve got problems. Then, connect the birth year to the adult content radio button in the settings. It’s grayed out until your age hits 18. I know this is all possible. I could do this in Microsoft Access 98! Better yet still, have a site JUST for adult content, so that the people who want to see that can go there, and leave the rest of us be. Yes, I know there will be kids that lie, and will sneak in, or make fake accounts, but at least it would show that they CARE. Because it sure doesn’t right now. And I have no faith in their “Tokyopop 2.5″. 2.0 made things bad, and since they have no real beta testing, I can see this next upgrade as being worse.
“Come to the Dark Side, we have Cookies!”
If you look around the Tokyopop website, you’ll see that most of it’s users, not all, but most are teenage kids. With blog posts about boyfriends, how their best friend betrayed them, and how much Mom sux, you can see clearly what the main audience is. Tokyopop’s Pilot program is obviously made to for them, and to take advantage of them. I’m not going to go into details about it, since so many others have done it much better than I could. The language this new “pact” uses though, is so like Tokyopop. They want to be thought of as fresh and hip. The founder, Stu Levy, goes under the pen name “DJ Milky” to try and fool the kids into thinking he’s some hip dude. So it doesn’t surprise me that they would try and bamboozle kids into signing a “pact” (that’s really a contract by their own admission), by using casual language that wouldn’t make them think twice about what they are doing. Most kids probably wouldn’t even read they whole thing, because it’s not really a contract, right?
<sarcasm>Who needs things like rights, right? These kids don’t care about copyright anyway, since they download movies and music illegally. They won’t miss their own.</sarcasm>
Whether it’s deliberate or just REALLY bad judgment, this looks like Tokyopop is trying to lure in young creators who don’t know what they’re getting into and stealing away all their rights. They really should have known, after the Rising Stars contract controversy, that this new contract(pact, whatever) would be looked over with a microscope. They should not be surprised by all the uproar going on. There are so many things wrong in this “pact” that it’s not even funny. It’s just plain sad that Tokyopop would stoop this low. And probably feels no shame about it.