Monday, January 2, 2012

Quacktion Figures™ Will Have to Remain a Dream

Back in November, I put up a survey to gauge interest in my series of Quacktion Figures™, created with the help of Lil Peck. Generally, feedback on the figures was positive, and I thought it would be great to have them produced. Personally, I would love to own one of each.

With the help of one of my readers, I looked at some companies that manufacture action figures to see how much it would cost. Turns out, action figures are friggin' expensive! There are some one-off shops that will produce very small batches of limited-run figures, but they tend to run into the hundreds per figure. Other companies can produce large batches, but they tend to have a minimum number of figures per order, like in the 2,000+ range. While the costs to those interested in purchasing one would be cheaper with the large-scale production route, I would really need to be sure that there was enough interest to make it worth my while. Otherwise, I'd be spending a lot of money to have hundreds or thousands of figures taking up space in my home.

And so, I did the survey. What did I find out?

It was a pretty simple design: one question to see if people would want to buy a figure or not, and another to see how much people would be willing to pay. In all, I got 34 responses. Five said they would not by one, 29 said they would. About half of those who responded said they would pay $20 per figure, with others willing to pay as much as $30 and others only $5.

Overall, the response rate wasn't exactly encouraging. From a cost standpoint alone, I'll need to leave the figures as virtual images only.

Phil Plait also gave me some very good advice about them: talk to a lawyer. While the figures are fine as virtual, satiric images on my blog, bringing in the commercial aspect introduces a whole new realm of issues to think about. It's one thing to use them for satiric commentary, another to actually market them. The biggest concern is that the figures are readily recognizable, leading to the potential for someone to claim that I am defaming them. There's also the issue of profiting from using their image without their permission. Some of the folks depicted might not take very kindly to such activity, leading to problems for me (and Lil) further down the line. This is especially troublesome when thinking about the types of individuals depicted; they tend to be of a more litigious bent.

Despite all the negative stereotypes about lawyers, they're really quite nice people. I managed to get some time to sit down and talk, in generalities, about the project with one. He was very professional and offered a lot of good points to consider. The very first thing he brought up was the legal issue of the right of publicity. In short, the right of publicity prevents others from using your image for commercial purposes without your permission. Even if I were to donate all proceeds to a charity, the person could still sue, as the charity may be one with which they do not want to be associated.

Now, there are some ways I could get around the legal issues, but it would involve significant changes to the figures as they appear on the blog. They may still have an entertaining element to them, but they just wouldn't have quite the same bite to them.

Given the legalities and the costs, it looks like real Quacktion Figures™ will have to remain a dream. But don't despair, they may be a series two in the future.

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