Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Extra Credits quits Escapist Magazine

Apparently there is some drama going on in Escapist Magazine, considering the show Extra Credits which discussed all sorts of interesting topics. It would seem that Escapist has failed repeatedly to pay Extra Credits (puntastic!), and as such Extra Credits will leave Escapist Magazine.

Here is a thread to forums, which has quite good summary on what has been going on. I'm going to quote both sides here, so... walls of text inbound. You have been warned.

Edit:/ link got broken during the night, should be fixed now.




Here are the tweets this far:
Last thursday was our final episode on the escapist
Dan and I work on it for free and I pay Allison's salary out of pocket each month, then, in turn, The Escapist was supposed to pay us
- not much, but enough to cover Allison's wages - unfortunately they were never able to.
That meant when Allison hurt her arm I was out over $20,000...which is why we had to turn to all of you
And that week really was one of the best of my life. Better than releasing games or speaking at GDC.
Unfortunately, I had to ask the Escapist to send me some of our money then to help Allison (this was before I put up the Rockethub)
When, after a lot of wrangling they sent us $1000, we asked them if we could trade them some of what they owed us for our IP back
Because the contract they had us sign made us give up all the right to the show
We actually thought we were operating in good faith and getting the IP back so we could do things like make Tshirts would be easy
But they shot back informing us that they felt like they were entitled to 75% of the Rockethub money
And that, despite having paid us once over a year, we actually owed them $9500
Yeah. This was probably one of the most disappointing moments for me in quite some time. I thought we were all playing for the same team.
After that there was a lot of ugliness that I won't go into
The short of it is we told them we wanted to discuss our IP and they gave us a long run around saying they magically found money
and wanted to make sure we got paid before we started to talk IP (which would have basically ensured that we didn't get our IP back)
But the money never materialized and so we gave them notice two weeks ago and terminated our contract last Friday
We're looking for other outlets at the moment, but we promise we'll keep doing the show on Youtube until we find one
I'll be on on Thursday to post a link
(But for legal reasons I haven't been able to talk about the show or the rockethub or anything for a while
And that's really the worst part. All of this takes away from actual good things we could be doing...
Of course this means that the rockethub rewards will have to change (no Escapist Club memberships) but we promise we'll find something
I just hope everyone else on the escapist is getting better treatment than we did...
We could use your help thursday to spread the word when we post the Youtube link. I don't want to let down people expecting an episode
(I've now spent more on lawyers than we were ever paid for the show...this isn't what I wanted at all)
Also, there are still a lot of good people doing a lot of good work on the Escapist. I don't want to see this screw over any of them
(also, it struck me as a funny last moment when the Yahtzee fundraiser came up for...$20,000...a day before they said money would appear)
People are asking if this can be discussed. The die has already been cast; if there's any blowback from this it'll be from me talking.
And here's the response from The Escapist, made through Facebook:
Hey guys. This is Alexander Macris. I'm the publisher. Jame's statements are very one-sided so I think they deserve a response.
Yes, we are having a very unfortunate dispute with James over Extra Credits, and yes, he's planning to leave The Escapist, despite our repeated requests that he stay. It's also true that we fell behind in paying James.
Here are the key facts as I see them:
1. From November 2010 to June 2011, James told us not to worry about paying him and to focus on paying other people. His exact words were "I really don't want to squeeze you guys if you're in a crunch, so you can put us to the bottom of the list for right now..." Given that we have been in a crunch due to the recession, we took him at his word, thanked him profusely for the flexibility, and focused on paying down other debt. (Several other shows were cancelled around November 2010 you'll recall, as we couldn't pay them, but James' flexibility allowed us to keep working with him to promote Extra Credits.)
2. This continued until June 2011, when James emailed us to alert us that he needed funds urgently. The request was partly for family matters and partly for Allison's surgery. He asked for our permission to raise funds through Kickstarter. We more than gave permission, we threw our weight into supporting it. Unfortunately, Kickstarter refused because they don't do charity. I then suggested James try RocketHub and RocketHub agreed. We again collaborated to make it a joint effort. Our agreement was that we would be compensated for the wholesale cost of the t-shirts and Publisher's Club, and that the funds would be used to save Extra Credits. I reasonably interpreted "save Extra Credits" to mean that anything beyond what was needed for Allison's surgery would be used on Extra Credits production. I also Pay-palled James as much money as we had available at that time.
3. After the RocketHub was enormously successful and James had decided to use the funds to create an indie publishing label rather than to "save Extra Credits", James decided he would no longer speak to us directly and instead assigned a "business development manager" to speak to us. James' new business development manager demanded that we assign all the IP of Extra Credits to James.
4. We indicated we would be happy to work out an IP transfer but that before we did that, we would like to make sure we got paid for the wholesale cost of the t-shirts and the Publisher's Club memberships, and that we would like to see the Extra Credits RocketHub money used to create more Extra Credits. We did NOT ask that James send us $9,500 - we said he should use $9,500 to create more episodes of the show that the money was supposed to be used to save.
5. James' business development manager at that time emailed me and told us that his position was now that we had no rights to the show, no deal, and that our entire contract was invalid. This was out of the blue as far as we were concerned. We had no understanding at this time of James' intent to use the "Save Extra Credits" money to start a publishing business.
6. At this point, Russ Pitts, our editor in chief, flew out to meet with James and his business development manager personally. They agreed that we would continue to work together; that we would transfer the IP to James in exchange for some fee to be negotiated; and that James would handle the EC t-shirts directly rather than through us. We agreed to swallow the cost of the Publisher's Club memberships, a few thousand dollars.
7. I then emailed James and his business development manager to explain that I wanted to get them paid as quickly as possible so that the back debt was not a sticking point in negotiations. I then emailed them again to say that I had talked to our Board and investors and that payment would come in about a week.
8. At this point, James had his lawyer send us an email stating that we were in breach and that unless we sent money more quickly than I had just stated we'd be able to send it, that James was terminating his relationship with us. I presume that James thought we were playing games with him, although we were not.
9. We went ahead and mailed James the money we got from our investors the next week as we had promised. James' lawyer nevertheless sent us an email indicating they intended to terminate our agreement.
10. Finally, I should add that as of last week, we had paid James over $14,000 of the $20,000 we owed him, and that as of today, our company has mailed James all payments he is owed.
I have all of this documented extensively in email. James is simply in error if he believes we have ever lied to him or any of his staff. We are prepared to defend ourselves against future defamation in a court of law.
Cordial regards,
Alexander Macris

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