Marvel is finally cashing in on fan works, only they've put so many restrictions on what fans can make that no one is going to want to bother.
They announced a new platform in a press release yesterday that allows fans to create original comic strips using Marvel characters and stock background illustrations. Marvel gave it the ironic name Create Your Own, and added to the irony with the tagline “Your Own Marvel Universe.”
I cite the irony of the title because while we don't have access to the platform we do have access to the T&C (PDF). For starters, the terms forbid users from publishing a work elsewhere, or making any commercial art, and Marvel also extracts from users
"the perpetual, irrevocable, exclusive, royalty-free and fully transferable and sub-licensable right, for the full term of copyright protection available (including renewal terms), to use, reproduce, transmit, communicate to the public, print, publish, publicly display, publicly perform, exhibit, distribute, redistribute, license, sub-license, copy, index, comment upon, modify, adapt, translate, create derivative works based upon, make available, and otherwise exploit, in whole or in part, in all languages, anywhere in the world, by all means, methods, processes, and media formats and channels now known or hereafter devised, in any number of copies and without limit as to time, manner or frequency of use, without further notice to you, with or without attribution, and without the requirement of permission from or payment to you or any other person or entity"
Marvel is essentially claiming ownership of everything a user creates. Okay, that is par for the course for official fanfic platforms, although it does raise questions why anyone would want to use this platform rather than posting their work on, say, DeviantArt. (While an artist might have trouble selling a Marvel'inspired creation elsewhere, they at least have a chance to do so.)
But wait, there's more.
The Verge has culled a list of topics, images, and themes that Marvel has banned from the platform. They've more or less excluded 95% of Marvel titles as well as most female superheroes.
Here are some highlights from the very long list of no-no’s:
- “Content that could frighten or upset young children or the parents of young children.”
- Prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication, vitamins, and dietary supplements.
- “Suggestive or revealing images,” including “bare midriffs”
- “Sensationalism,” which is not defined but elucidated with the examples “killer bees, gossip, aliens, scandal, etc.”
- “Obscenity, bad or offensive language” or “proxies for bad or offensive language.” E.g. no “[email protected]#%!”
- “Noises related to bodily functions.”
- No politics, including “alternative lifestyle advocacies”
- “Misleading language”
- “A copy or parody of current or past Marvel advertising creative”
- Any “controversial topics,” including “social issues”
- Double entendres
- Any amusement parks that aren’t Disney amusement parks
- Any movie studios that aren’t “affiliated with Marvel”
What is utterly ridiculous about all these restrictions is that Marvel isn't trying to create something new.
The class of works that Marvel wants to profit from already exist. There are already tens of thousands of fans either remixing existing creations or drawing new works using existing characters. Many are professional artists engaging in acts of love. (I would cite a few I know through Twitter and their blogs except I do not want to bring Marvel's lawyers down on their heads.)
If Marvel had been smart their goal with this platform would have been to tempt existing artists into using it.
Instead, Marvel has given artists a hundred and one reasons to stay away.
Why even bother making the platform?