Doran launches valiant, probably futile piracy counterattack

a distant soil Doran launches valiant, probably futile piracy counterattack

Has the pirate menace changed the creative business model for good? Most would say so, but some people are still fighting back. Up on The Hill, Colleen Doran launches a spirited counterattack on piracy:

I spent the last two years working on a graphic novel called Gone to Amerikay, written by Derek McCulloch for DC Comics/Vertigo. It will have taken me 3,000 hours to draw it and months of research. Others have contributed long hours, hard work and creativity to this process. But due to shrinking financing caused by falling sales in the division, these people are no longer employed.

The minute this book is available, someone will take one copy and within 24 hours, that book will be available for free to anyone around the world who wants to read it. 3,000 hours of my life down the rabbit hole, with the frightening possibility that without a solid return on this investment, there will be no more major investments in future work.

Creators and publishers can’t compete with free and the frightening reality is that even free isn’t good enough. Pirates aggregate content in ways creators and legit publishers can’t. Why go to dozens of web pages for entertainment when you can go to a pirate and get everything you want? There’s no connection to creators as human beings who work hard and make money from that work, and who need income from past work to finance future work.


Doran is writing, specifically, in favor or a bill that would restrict things like Google AdSense from paying out to pirate sites.

This prompted Andy Diggle and others to muse on Twitter this morning.

Compare and contrast @Steve_Lieber http://is.gd/hlX1R and Colleen Doran http://is.gd/hlKUD Who’s right? I have no idea!


Of course, there’s always Nina Paley’s way:

ME 248 Obscurity 640x199 Doran launches valiant, probably futile piracy counterattack

Based on a famous quote from Tim O’Reilly. Because Mimi & Eunice are Free and Copyleft and ShareAlike and want to be copied, “piracy” poses no threat to them at all. But very few people know they exist. Please copy, embed, etc. – the more they’re copied, the less obscure they’ll become.

Doran clarifies some of her comments on her blog:

I tracked the piracy of my work and my sales figures for years. At no time did I see any increase in my sales. If anything, increased piracy was in direct correlation to a decrease in my sales. Only after I set up the online comic and posted regularly for a year did I see my sales and income increase.

Online pundits enthusiastically cheer isolated incidents of sales blips after pirated works manage to move stock which, by any objective standard, would be considered low. The sales blip isn’t about piracy as awesome, it’s about a clever way to frame a modest sales figure into a media event.

In other words, it’s not a sustainable business model. An isolated incident is exploited for pirate propaganda purposes, when the market as a whole shows ever-decreasing sales. Any evidence to the contrary is just propaganda from the evil RIAA!


(Aside: if you ever wanted to see the ultimate copyright/copyleft debate it would be Doran-Paley — both are passionate and VERY well-informed.)

Where does this leave us? No better off than before. As much as we might wish it to be so, free exists and isn’t going away. Future creators won’t even remember the quaint world in which authors did their work and shipped it off to publishers and then sat back and collected royalties. In the meantime, we’re stuck in the present, where today’s creators struggle to profit from their work.

Comments

  1. Not to be snarky, but just to ask the question. Did you get, or do you need to get, permission to put Colleen’s page up in this article?
    I post pages in my blog reviews all the time, but I confess to being sketchy on the legal aspects of this.

  2. Tom Spurgeon says:

    What’s wrong with respecting the rights of all creators to pursue whatever course they want to pursue? Why does every comics industry issue have to be described in the most childish Superman Vs. The Hulk terms?

    Steve Lieber and Nina Paley should have every right to pursue the course they want to pursue (as should the people putting it out there for free that haven’t set the world on fire); Doran should have the right and opportunity to pursue the course she wants to pursue. In fact, every creator should have this right project to project! Why on earth are they in conflict? What a silly way to see this issue. J. Wellington Wimpy would be proud.

    Shrugging one’s shoulders and saying, “Well, that’s the way of the world” is totally comics, too. The ironic thing about doing this in comics is that if the main thrust of cultural thinking were to be capitulated to at all times, the last comic book would have been published in 1957 and the last newspaper strip ten years earlier. Doran’s not advocating for wholesale world change, at least I don’t think she is, and she shouldn’t be judged on that standard, not even by inference. She’s advocating for certain changes in law, and putting her own story out there as counter-example. She wants to do her own thing, not convince everyone to do her thing.

    Good for Doran, good for Paley and good for Parker/Lieber. The world should be big enough for all of their choices.

  3. Tom beat me to it. If creators want to give their work away in an effort to sidestep obscurity, that’s their choice. Which I might point out, I gave a try with the second STRANGEWAYS book.

    It didn’t work out so hot. Of course, I didn’t just toss it out on bittorrent, either. Wonder if someone went to the trouble to compile it all?

    At any rate, the thing now is there isn’t any choice. It all gets thrown up there. You can argue that “Well, Marvel can take the hit” if you want to. I know that most independent creators could use all the help/support/customers they can get.

  4. Jonathan La Mantia says:

    One of the (many) issues I see on this one is that a lot of the creators who signed on doing their work at a point before internet piracy became a regular thing are getting the proverbial shaft on account of there was just no way to be prepared for it- the current group has the ability to see how bad (or good, depending on your view) things are and are able to jump in accordingly.

    I do also wonder how many creators where ever really able to sit back and collect royalties (I don’t mean that in any kind of snarky way, I’m actually curious how many creators where able to secure that kind of contract)

  5. Diana, it sort of comes under “fair use” or rather….”everyone on the internet does it.”

    I actually meant to crop the image in question but had to run out of the house before I did. So I fixed it.

    Tom: Colleen’s main takeaway is that piracy hurts the creator more than the media conglomerate. And I’m all for Google being held to the same moral standards as the rest of us.

    Of course everyone should follow their own business model, whether it be pamphlets or stone tablets or Facebook status updates.

  6. There is a book called “Blown to Bits.” Maybe it applies, maybe it doesn’t, but that’s what we’re really debating here.

  7. likefunbutnot says:

    I think the thing that Ms. Doran should take away from this is that there are some people on the internet who think her work is interesting enough to look at, but perhaps not enough interesting enough to purchase. Some of those same people might have checked her work out at a library or thumbed through it at a bookstore and come to the same conclusion, but the casual availability of .CBR files on torrent sites has added another dimension. If she’s not seeing a spike in the popularity of her work, I don’t know that piracy’s had any impact at all; those people who downloaded probably weren’t going to buy her book, while her loyal fans and readers will probably buy regardless of whether or not they chose to download or not.

  8. Andrew Farago says:

    Here’s another important line from Doran’s article:

    “Here’s hoping the next step in combating the lack of respect for copyright includes an initiative to instill some respect for the people who create content.”

    One of the most troubling things I see whenever these piracy discussions come up is a total disconnect from the notion that actual humans are creating the content that’s being shared/stolen, and that the wishes of the creators and/or copyright holders don’t seem to register at all with the pirates.

    And the people who are the most vocal defenders of their rights to scan, copy, fileshare, torrent and do whatever they please with content that they don’t own are just about never people who are trying to make a living off of their talents. It’s an unsettling trend, and I’m not sure what to do about the fact that there seems to be a whole generation coming up that doesn’t seem to associate compensation with content.

  9. “those people who downloaded probably weren’t going to buy her book”

    I see this argument every time piracy gets brought up (whether in respect to comics, movies, music, games, whatever).

    In my opinion, it doesn’t hold water. It’s just selfish rationalization.

    You want to read someone’s comics or listen to their music (that they’re not willingly giving away for free)? Buy it, or at least borrow it from a library or friend. Don’t steal it.

    If you’re not willing to pay for it, you don’t get to have it. Period.

  10. Brett says:

    I love Colleen’s work, always have. When it’s available, I’d like to buy a copy but now I’m worried.

    Colleen says it was supposed to be published by DC/Vertigo but due to falling sales in the division, many are no longer employed.

    Does that mean Vertigo is not putting the book out? I understand Colleen’s concern that once it is out, someone will put it online but I’m only concerned that it does still come out because I want one…

    In print.

  11. I’ve always admired Colleen’s work.

    Because I’m a big paper comics fan and have little interest in digital comics, I always use the music industry to reflect on the thoughts of a casual consumer of an art form. In recent years, the only music I’ve spent money on is stuff I’ve listened to for free. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I spent way too much money on CD’s that I didn’t enjoy. Today I am much more selective with my spending, and put my monetary energy into the artists that give me the most enjoyment.

    I’ve writen my thoughts out into an article called “Thoughts on Digital Comics and File Sharing” that can be read here for anyone interested in an opposing view.

    http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/09/05/thoughts-on-digital-comics-and-file-sharing/

    I’m sure most of it you’d disagree with, but I’d be curious what people think of it.

  12. Glenn Simpson says:

    @tekende:

    You are correct, EXCEPT when the creators try to position downloads equally with lost revenue – the two things are not comparable.

    Something like “thousands of downloads means thousands of sales lost” is not a true statement; it’s an exaggeration and doing so can make the reader less sympathetic to the creator.

    It ignores the fact that sometimes the work is simply not worth the price to some people.

  13. “Good for Doran, good for Paley and good for Parker/Lieber. The world should be big enough for all of their choices.”

    Tom I think you’re missing Colleen’s real point in bringing up the Lieber scenario here. Steve never *had* a choice what happened to his work. More accurately, he made a choice, the pirates blatantly ignored it, and he did what he could to make a crappy situation a little less crappy. On top of that, the flurry of discussion that occurred around Lieber’s book was nonsense because we were never given actual numbers regarding the sales effect. Taking a simple line graph out of any context and showing us a 90 degree angle in that graph is meaningless.

    I’d be VERY curious to see that line graph and what happened to it in the days after his post made the blogosphere rounds. How much more sales did he generate as a result of posting his little pirate forum fellatio session results out there for the world to see?

  14. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I wasn’t talking about Colleen bringing up Steve; I was talking about people taking their two different general approaches and placing them onto two sides of a coin and suggesting some sort of restrictive either/or situation.

  15. Dave Elliott says:

    @M Kitchen – Re: your article –

    Libraries do purchase the books they lend out. They often buy more than one copy and if a book is stolen they usually replace it by buying another. They lend each copy out one at a time. Are you equating it with the guy who buys and scans a copy of a comic and gives it away permanently for free to thousands of people?

  16. Andrew Farago says:

    “It ignores the fact that sometimes the work is simply not worth the price to some people.”

    That’s exactly the attitude that depresses me about all of this.

    If DC offers a five-page preview of Colleen’s next graphic novel online, I can read that and probably decide whether or not I want to drop $20 on it when it’s published. The idea that I’d be entitled to read the entire thing online for free, and that I’d need to do that to decide whether or not to support it financially, that’s just bizarre to me.

    With all the above-ground reading options available (free previews and full issues from big publishers, a zillion webcomics, public libraries, friends with comics collections, back issues and books filling up my house), I don’t have enough hours in the day that I can add pirated comics into the mix.

    If a book’s worth my time as a reader, it’s worth my money as a customer. This “I read it online and decided it wasn’t worth paying for” attitude pretty much sums up the entitlement that the modern comics fan feels, and I’m really growing to hate it.

  17. @Dave Elliott, Hi Dave.

    I AM equating it to that. Yeah. Not a perfect analogy, but it’s pretty darn close (if you ask me). It’s like listening to a song on a radio. Or having a friend make you a mix tape. Or reading a friends comic. Or reading the comics on the shelf at the local comic shop. But yeah, I understand that internet electronic distribution is that on a gigantic macro scale.

    But from a marketing point of view, that’s a lot of free eyeballs. If you can entice your audience, then you’ve gained a true fan. And a true fan will compensate you for your work.

    If they don’t want to compensate you for your work, then they’re not your REAL audience, are they?

    That’s the way I see it.
    And I do publish my own comic.

  18. Despite some of the protests on this thread, it’s hardly revolutionary to declare that all the downloads would not translate into sales, and I don’t think there’s a reliable formula for what percentage do. The argument just isn’t as simple as that. And while download numbers might be big, there is a precedent for lending books, either via libraries or to friends. Or buying a book and then trading it. There are all sorts of variables that make the downloads vs. sales argument invalid.

    One thing I’ve felt for a long time – comics, like music and books, have become ridiculously over-priced, so it’s not surprising that there are people out there who want to get them for free.

  19. I’m glad Colleen posted this. It really is a growing problem— I’ve been told that I’d be “lucky” to have my work pirated, and that it would be better than obscurity, but frankly, I’d rather be obscure and have control of my work and a few bucks in my pocket from said work. All this entitlement crud just makes myself and others feel disheartened, worthless and undervalued, and calling people names for defending their right to THEIR WORK is very, very petty. It’s made me feel very disenfranchised with fandom.

    BTW- Colleen’s putting her work online [so those calling her behind the times or saying her business strategy isn’t working, well, she’s doing what you wanted, so stop complaining], but people are still pirating it. I think that says a lot about some of the issues.

    And Tom’s right- it’s up to the artist what’s done with their work, not up to some random stranger on some corner of the internet who’s profitting off their work. Steve and Colleen’s approaches are both valid. It’s their choices. People should respect that.

    There’s no respect, and it’s a pretty horrible time to be someone who makes stuff.

    Andrew- I too want the whole anti-creator hatespew movement to go away. It’s becoming very annoying, and does not create an environment in which people want to make or share their comics.

  20. What if the revenue you lost on sales of your comic was money you’d have to pay to buy an ad to promote your comic to a potential audience, but instead of that narrow existing audience your work is being shown to a whole new potential audience who normally wouldn’t have seen your ad?

  21. Andrew Farago says:

    That library argument comes up every time, and it never holds water.

    When a library uses taxpayer dollars to buy a single copy of a book that’s loaned out to one person at a time, that’s not at all comparable to being able to download a comic/movie/book an infinite number of times, regardless of where that first copy was purchased.

    And the pricing issue? The web’s full of free, legitimately available content that’s sanctioned by the copyright holders. “The stuff I want costs money, but I don’t have money” isn’t the most endearing argument.

  22. “EXCEPT when the creators try to position downloads equally with lost revenue – the two things are not comparable.”

    I didn’t make that argument.

  23. @Brett: “Gone to Amerikay” is still going to come out from Vertigo. What she was talking about is the fact that some of the editorial staff at Vertigo who’d been working with her and Derek have recently been laid off, as an example of the people being harmed by low sales. The book is still go, however. I’m looking forward to it too.

  24. Dave Elliott says:

    @M Kitchen

    Yeah, it isn’t a perfect analogy. It would be if the library was giving out the books for free, but then someone would have had to pay for those copies.

    The work is being scanned and given away without your consent. I could refuse to sell to the libraries if I wanted.

    A couple of years ago, Steve Pugh and myself did a three issue series for Image called Shark-Man. Steve saw that it instantly popped up on the bit-torrents. Going into chat rooms he tracked down the guys who did the scanning and uploading…

    Their first reason for doing it was that the book was sold out and they wanted to share it with a friend. Did they mail their read copy for them to enjoy and mail back? No they scanned it in and put it on the torrents and told everyone else it was there.

    Funny thing, Steve was more upset about the quality of the scans because if you’re familiar with his art, he puts a LOT of work into it and it looks gorgeous.

    So what Steve did was to give them better quality jpegs and gave them permission to release it with a Paypal account on it so that anyone downloading it could pay something if they enjoyed it as well as a promise to stop distributing their scanned version.

    It raised a couple hundred dollars in a few months. Allowing for what I am told is reasonable expectations of the percentage of people that will donate like this, to reach that number about twenty thousand people downloaded the comic in that two month period. That doesn’t include the previous versions in circulation.

    The real kicker is that they thought of Image as a “big corporation” that had paid us to do the comic so they thought we wouldn’t be affected by it.

    Ooops, wish that were so, but they seemed shocked that people would spend so much time doing something for no upfront money and where there was no dependable revenue stream coming in…

    If there are any pirates reading this, please think twice about scanning new comics. The pay is crap and royalties few and far between.

  25. @Andrew Farago The way I see the Library analogy Andrew, is that we’re talking about people experiencing a work of art for free. In that light, it very much DOES hold water.

    Whether it’s sharing the comic you bought with a single friend, or sharing a library book with a hundred (maybe a thousand?) people or sharing it with the world. We’re really talking about the same sort of concept. At least, that’s the way I see it.

  26. Kitchen— The difference is a library can only share one copy of a book 17 times a year at the most. You can only lend out your copy to one friend at a time, during which time you don’t have said copy. If there’s more demand, libraries buy more copies- they make up a sizeable percentage of graphic novel sales.

    Meanwhile, digital piracy lets you keep it and share it with millions and millions of people who’ll never have to pay the artist a thing. There’s a major difference right there.

  27. @Dave Elliott – That is an amazing story!

    I think as creators, it’s very much about selling OUR story to the people who want more work. Because lets face it, if we can’t pay our living expenses through our art, we can’t make more of it. So if people WANT more, we do NEED to receive some sort of compensation. Even if it becomes a form of digital buskering.

    But this is where I see digital mass distribution serving the needs of an artist: I had never seen Shark-man before, so just now I googled it and found this: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=10914

    Which has digital pages displayed. Now those images are burned into my mind and I am now familiar with your work!

    So you can bet that the next time I walk into a comic shop and see a Shark-Man on the shelf, I’m going to check it out.

  28. @Andre Hi Andre, I do understand there is a massive difference in scale. But as someone who makes a comic, and wants people to read it, I’d be HAPPY if a million people were to experience the art I created. Even for free.

    I think artists are coming at this problem from the wrong angle when they come down on people who want to read their work. Even if they ARE pirates.

    My two cents.

  29. Glenn Simpson says:

    @takende – you quoted:

    “those people who downloaded probably weren’t going to buy her book”

    And then stated that people who aren’t willing to pay shouldn’t get access to the work. Which when I read it again, doesn’t have anything to do with the quoted statement, really. You may be right, people who don’t pay shouldn’t get access to the work. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that people who did download it probably wouldn’t have purchased it at full price. Two different issues. It’s a “should” vs. “would” difference.

    I perhaps didn’t read your response carefully enough – I assumed you were making an argument that people who downloaded it WOULD have paid for it (regardless of legality or right or wrong), and that’s something I feel is not necessarily true.

  30. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Andre – so would you agree the only difference between the library and the pirate-offerer is the scale?

    Are there other issues where morality changes with scale?

  31. Rob S. says:

    M Kitchen wrote:

    “But as someone who makes a comic, and wants people to read it, I’d be HAPPY if a million people were to experience the art I created. Even for free.”

    I get the sense that you aren’t financially dependent upon sales of your work. Would you be comfortable doing your day job for free, too?

  32. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Andrew Farago – that wasn’t exactly the scenario I was intending to present. It’s not “I read it online and decided it wasn’t worth paying for”. It’s “My interest in this character/writer/artist/story isn’t strong enough to pay $3.99 for it. I’d maybe pay $1.00 for it. Since I don’t have that option, I’ll just download it for free.”

    I know people who download comics. Some of them read the pirates and them purchase the hardcovers. Some of them just download, but there’s really not a scenario where they would ever actually pay for it. It’s just not worth it to them. It has nothing to do with the the actual quality of the work.

    For full disclosure, I do download sometimes, but only things that I have pre-ordered the actual book and am waiting for my once-a-month mail order shipment to come in, and just want to be able to go ahead and read it. I don’t even keep the scans.

  33. “What if the revenue you lost on sales of your comic was money you’d have to pay to buy an ad to promote your comic to a potential audience, but instead of that narrow existing audience your work is being shown to a whole new potential audience who normally wouldn’t have seen your ad?”

    So if I “advertised” free downloads of your comic on a message board you did not approve of, thereby linking your comic to an organization or lifestyle you did not approve of, you would approve of that action?

    That advertisement/endorsement could result in boycotts, even though you did not authorize it, thereby jeopardizing your professional reputation and livelihood, and possibly your freedom.

    Copyright is about control. The copyright holder has the right on how the work is copied. It is also about controlling how you promote yourself and your work. The ad you buy will also allow you to track how effective that ad is, via various tracking methods.

  34. No, the difference between the library and the download is not just a matter of scale. The library pays for the copies it loans out, and when a book wears out (and they wear out they are apt to get another copy. The more readers the book has at a library, the more money made by the publisher and the creators make… and that’s whether or not the folks who borrow it from the library choose to go out and buy a copy.

  35. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Rob S.

    To use your analogy, do you get to decide how much your salary is going to be, or did you have to negotiate that? If your boss decides this year that what you do in your day job is worth less to the company than it was last year, couldn’t they cut your pay? Well, they wouldn’t because that generally isn’t done, but not because it’s morally wrong.

    How’s this for an analogy – I could care less about basketball. But if a team sent me a free ticket to an NBA game, sure, I might go. Because what they do isn’t worth any money to me, but it might be worth a little of my time. That’s too bad for the basketball team, but they are providing entertainment, not something vital. People can be entertained with sticks and rocks.

  36. Abhay says:

    Maybe a comic book called GONE TO AMERIKAY’s biggest enemy isn’t comic pirates. Maybe it’s having GONE TO AMERIKAY for a title. That’s going to be a tough sell, even if comic pirates didn’t exist.

  37. Rob S. says:

    As a matter of fact, Glenn, I do. I’m a freelancer, and I negotiate my rates.

    But if you have a different philosophy, I’ve got a house you can paint anytime you’re available.

  38. @Rob S. My “Clark Kent” day job is in animation. I’ve done CG animation on a bunch of movies you’ve probably seen. There has been a squeeze over the past decade (as well as a change in personal priorites) that has had me reassessing where I want to spend my time. I would like to transition to creating my own work full-time however to do that I need a big enough audience. It very much becomes a “cart before the horse” sort of scenario. Distributing an electronic comic for free to millions of people (even if it’s done by pirates) presents the work to people who may have never seen the work otherwise. And of those people, I would hope a handful like it enough to track down future works and support it in one form or another.

  39. ps. It may be a leap of faith, but I have faith in my core audience.

  40. Andrew Farago says:

    @Nate: Yeah, scale’s just part of it. Another problem with the scanning vs. library analogy is that someone scanning and posting the work online becomes a de facto publisher of the material, and supplants the actual publisher’s intent for the material.

    @Glenn: Setting the pricing on books? That’s the publisher’s/artist’s/copyright holder’s call. If I want to give my stuff away for free or charge $500 for it, it should be my decision, and I can decide whether or not I’m getting the results I want. Letting anyone with a modem and a scanner decide how to run a publisher’s business for them is pretty hard to justify.

  41. Rob S. says:

    If you’re okay with pirates distributing it — and making money off it that you’ll never see — I’ve got no problem with it. That’s your business plan. And it might indeed be a reasonable marketing model to follow while you’ve got other means of putting food on your table — though you’re sacrificing a lot of control, not to mention money. Good luck with your comic.

    But there are thousands of creators and copyright holders who object to distribution through piracy. They already have the exposure they need, or see no advantage having their work distributed without putting any money in their pockets. They deserve that control over their own work, and their own business model.

  42. Rob S. says:

    That said, building a fanbase of pirates doesn’t seem like the soundest business strategy to me. It’s like marrying someone you started dating when they were married. You’ve already established that they cheat — isn’t it a matter of time before they start cheating on you?

    It’s one thing to use pirates to distribute your first book, written on spec. But your second? Your fifth? Sooner or later, it’s going to eat into your paycheck.

  43. @ Rob S. Here’s a real world scenario based on my own experiences. Way back around 2001, I had my first experience with mp3s. A colleague wanted me to listen to The Eminem Show, and put the album on my computer. Not being a rap fan, I would have never listened to it otherwise. But I listened to it and I liked it. Eventually I was given the CD as a gift for Christmas, I purchased the next two albums, and now with his latest release, with CD’s being pretty much obsolete in this house, I decided to purchase a vinyl to keep as an artifact.

    If you look at what Trent Reznor is doing with his NIN work, you’ll see he’s doing quite well for himself.

    Also look at what the folks from Penny Arcade are doing.

    And here’s a great video about Nina Paley (mentioned above): http://vimeo.com/8768785

    This seems to me the most correct ideological position to be in, AND profit from, moving forward into the future.

    Of course I could be wrong… but I really don’t think I am. Obviously.

  44. “One thing I’ve felt for a long time – comics, like music and books, have become ridiculously over-priced, so it’s not surprising that there are people out there who want to get them for free.”

    Be that as it may John, it doesn’t legitimize the piracy. Maybe record companies shouldn’t jack the price of CDs to maximize their own profits and leave the artists with pennies to the dollar. Maybe comic book companies should find ways to cut paper costs so that more can be given to artists. But no one should out and out steal art from someone and justify it with the cry of sticking it to the man. Artists have every right to make money to maintain a living for themselves. (The newly minted Mrs. Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, makes an excellent point on her blog about all of this)
    Colleen is absolutely right to call out the pirates on their actions. What they are doing is wrong, no excuses.

  45. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Rob S. – I would say that if what I really want to do is paint houses, but you have very little interest in my painting your house, I’d pretty much have to do it for free, regardless of whether it was my day job or not.

    Doesn’t mean you might not let me do it if I want to, but you’re not going to pay me to.

  46. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Donna M:

    “Artists have every right to make money to maintain a living for themselves.”

    No, artists have every right to TRY to make money to maintain a living for themselves. They don’t have a moral right to get paid just because they wrote or drew something.

    Yes, they have a legal right, but not a moral one.

  47. Rob S. says:

    Well like I said, good luck with the comic. I expect things are a little easier for Trent Reznor than it is for most people, what with the worldwide name recognition and the deep well of money he’d already amassed to fund his efforts.

    And there’s nothing wrong with getting turned onto music by a friend — but there’s a difference between that kind of one-to-one transfer and having it pirated all over the internet. It may only be a difference of scale, but scale matters. And personal recommendations matter, too.

    The Paley and Penny Arcade models are the most convincing, because they’re small-scale artists. But again, in those cases it’s their choice. It’s not the choice of Ms. Doran to have her work pirated, and nobody’s doing her any favors by doing so.

  48. Rob S. says:

    Wait, Glenn — so artists don’t have a right to to get paid for their own work, but some dirtbag who uploads it to the internet *does* have the right?

    That’s a colossally fucked up worldview.

  49. @Glenn Simpson

    I wasn’t arguing practicality or sales. My argument was a moral one.

    “I wouldn’t buy it anyway” does not justify stealing product you didn’t pay for.

  50. Glenn Simpson says:

    Rob S. – No, nobody has a moral right to get paid to do anything. Whether someone gets paid or not is an economic or legal issue, not a moral one.

    If I volunteer to paint your house and you let me, are you morally wrong for not paying me?

    This argument is about legality and economics, not morality, IMHO.

  51. “If your boss decides this year that what you do in your day job is worth less to the company than it was last year, couldn’t they cut your pay?”

    Yes, and then one has the option to leave that job. They cannot force you to work for less.

    That something is priced higher than one wants to pay makes for a good reason to do without; it does not make a good excuse to take it anyway.

  52. Rob S. says:

    Actually, the question is: If you paint houses, and I force you to paint mine for free, is that morally wrong of me? And yes, it would be.

    But I wouldn’t do that, for fear you would steal my lawnmower, because you weren’t going to buy a lawnmower anyway.

  53. Bobby Timony says:

    Stealing is a moral issue, Glenn. I can see how you wouldn’t want to frame it in those terms, though. If this were a moral argument, you would lose.

  54. Glenn Simpson says:

    @tekende

    ““I wouldn’t buy it anyway” does not justify stealing product you didn’t pay for.”

    In what way is an artist tangibly harmed if someone reads something they wouldn’t have paid for anyway?

    There are books that come out every month that I don’t buy. The fact that I don’t buy them may in some way be harming the artist, but once that’s a given, whether or not I managed to still read it isn’t hurting them.

    The only thing that would be hurting them is if I was downloading INSTEAD of buying. Which some people do, I’m sure. But not everybody, and we don’t know what the real percentages are, so it’s not worth bringing up. The artists should focus on the legal issue, not the moral one.

  55. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I find it tangibly harmful to have someone take control of my work in a way I didn’t intend. I really do.

    I’d take this line of thinking more seriously if the people who put it out there would leave their houses open — upon my demand, not theirs — so while they were elsewhere I could make a sandwich in their kitchen (my own groceries), take a nap in their beds (I’d make it back up), and then take a dump in their john (I’ll flush twice).

    You wouldn’t even know I was there. No tangible harm done.

  56. @Donna M.

    “Be that as it may John, it doesn’t legitimize the piracy.”

    No argument there. I’m merely citing a motivation, not trying to give an excuse.

    @Rob S.

    Wait, Glenn — so artists don’t have a right to to get paid for their own work, but some dirtbag who uploads it to the internet *does* have the right?”

    Actually, that’s the most interesting part of downloading piracy – the pirates aren’t necessarily making money off the actual items being pirated. The millions of people downloading an album, movie, comic are doing so for free and not paying anyone for that item. Whereas traditional piracy is a money-making effort, most Internet piracy is just sharing in large quantities for no profit. In this process, the money “stolen” from the copyright owner is theoretical money – money they say they would have earned if not for the piracy, not money physically in their bank account and taken out. Does this excuse it? No. But it does outline the difficulty in curbing the practice – if it is crime, it is not crime as we have traditionally recognized it, it is not necessarily theft for profit – at least on the individual consumer level.

  57. Rob S. says:

    The bill Colleen is supporting would cut off add revenue from pirate sites. That’s the money I was referring to, John.

  58. Glenn Simpson says:

    Rob, if I took your lawn mower, you wouldn’t have your lawn mower any more. Doesn’t compare.

    It seems like cause and effect keeps getting reversed here. I’m pretty sure nobody is downloading just because they weren’t going to pay for it. By that logic they’d be stealing all sorts of things that have no value to them, just because it’s not something they would buy.

    Rather they are downloading a copy of something they want. That’s that. Then, if pressed to defend that decision, you can get into the concept that it’s not depriving the owner of sales because it’s not worth it to them to buy it.

    I’ll retract the statement that it’s not a moral issue; rather, I’d say that going on about the moral issue isn’t really productive because you can’t prove that anybody has really been hurt.

    Speeding is morally wrong because it creates an increased possibility that someone could be hurt in an accident, but we don’t really usually bother talking about it in those terms. We focus on the legal issue.

    Is it morally wrong to sneak into a theatre and watch a second movie (after the one you paid for) when there are plenty of seats available? Yeah, sure, but who cares? Nobody was going to be in that seat anyway. You can get all mad about it on principle, but there’s no real damage done.

    It’s so weird that I’m having to defend this concept because I think I personally am in the minority among downloaders. As I mentioned before, I only download stuff that I have ordered that just hasn’t been shipped to me yet. Is that wrong? I don’t download other stuff because if I’m interested in it, I plan on buying it later, and I don’t want to confuse the issue by having stuff that I plan to buy but I’ve already read.

    Plus, I am willing to concede that I might have an irrational fear that comics artists MIGHT somehow be harmed by it and I am not willing to take that chance. But I can’t rationally defend that position.

  59. Chuck Melville says:

    M Kitchen: Frankly, if a million eyes are looking at my work, pirated or not, then, yes, they are a real audience. (I equate this with the George Burns definition of what makes a joke funny: “If they laugh, then it’s funny.”)

    If they’re not willing to pay me for the privilege of having looked at my work, then they’re an audience of mooching slackers, who are probably wondering why I haven’t also supplied the beer and pizza.

  60. Rob S. says:

    Glenn,

    So you concede that people are downloading things that they want, and then read them and don’t buy them. And you don’t see how this could cause economic damage?

    Surely you’re kidding.

    Some percentage of the people who wanted to read the book, but deprived of an avenue to read it for free, would pay to read it. Not all of them, certainly. But some of them. The percentages will differ for each work.

    That’s economic damage. In some cases, possibly a remarkable amount of economic damage. It might not be measurable, but it definitely exists. It’s transparently ridiculous to think of it as a benign system.

  61. Glenn Simpson says:

    “I’d take this line of thinking more seriously if the people who put it out there would leave their houses open — upon my demand, not theirs…”

    I’ll stop you right there. Nobody is “demanding” people publish printed comics in a world that has scanner technology. You’re putting it out there and hoping people don’t do it. It’s more like if someone invented a universal key. Are you legally supposed to go in their house? No. Are you damaging their house through their method of going in or depriving them of their house? No.

    Not to mention that for your example to apply, they would have to clearly be in the business of letting people come in to their house for a fee. Which means that doing so for free isn’t some terrible invasion – it’s just sneaking in without paying. On a day when nobody else was planning to come in anyway.

  62. Chuck Melville says:

    “In what way is an artist tangibly harmed if someone reads something they wouldn’t have paid for anyway?”

    By being cheated of the money he would have received for that copy.

    If that someone wouldn’t have paid for it in the first place, he would never have read it, except for the intervention of the Internet. Why should he get a free read, when the artist is getting paid based on the number of copies being sold? (The better a book sells, the better a payrate the artist is liable to get; the longer a series runs, the longer he gets a regular paycheck.)

  63. Glenn Simpson says:

    Rob – Yes, I’ll concede that it probably doing SOME damage. I’ll also point out that it’s also introducing people to comics they wouldn’t ordinarily sample and as a result they end up buying things they wouldn’t have ordinarily bought.

    How much of either of those is going on? I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows. So until someone can show me real numbers, I’m going to call the two a wash, as far as “damage/benefit” is concerned.

  64. Rob S. says:

    It’s awfully convenient for you to call the system a wash, since the work being stolen isn’t yours.

  65. Glenn Simpson says:

    ““In what way is an artist tangibly harmed if someone reads something they wouldn’t have paid for anyway?”

    By being cheated of the money he would have received for that copy”

    But you don’t know for sure that the person would have bought a copy. The artist might be making the same amount either way. It also might inspire the downloader to start buying the book now that he’s had a free sample. Or buy the trade later.

  66. Glenn Simpson says:

    I didn’t say the artists shouldn’t care; but if they care, they should focus on what’s important, which is that something they have a legal right to is being infringed-upon, and not try to convince people they are being morally harmed.

    You think the lawyers in the Warner Bros vs. Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster Superman suit are trying to convince a judge that they have been morally harmed by each other? No, it’s about legal rights.

  67. @Rob S.
    “The bill Colleen is supporting would cut off add revenue from pirate sites. That’s the money I was referring to, John.”

    Oh, I realize, and certainly have no problem with cutting them off from ad money. But that’s not a direct profit from the theft – that’s a side profit from people visiting the site, the same way any other site can make money. And the people downloading the files don’t encounter that profit from their downloads. That’s why the piracy argument goes over so many heads – the personal experience for an individual downloader is much more akin to sharing than stealing, because they’re not making a profit off the transaction. It can be viewed as wrong, but pleading is not likely to change the mind of someone who doesn’t see themselves as thieves in the traditional sense.

  68. Chuck Melville says:

    “But you don’t know for sure that the person would have bought a copy.”

    He was interested enough to read it. Whether or not he would have bought it, I ask: why should he get a free read? Especially if he’s not interested to buy? No monee, no tickee.

    “It also might inspire the downloader to start buying the book now that he’s had a free sample. Or buy the trade later.”

    A free sample is one thing, and the major publishers do that regularly online — but free samples consist of a handful of pages, not the whole danged book. Anyone who wants to read more than four to six pages needs to pay the devil — er, the artist — his due.

  69. Glenn Simpson says:

    “He was interested enough to read it. Whether or not he would have bought it, I ask: why should he get a free read? Especially if he’s not interested to buy? No monee, no tickee.”

    Are there not books that you are not sufficiently interested in to pay $3.99 but you would pay $2.99? Or maybe $1.99? Or maybe $.99? If so, then why is it so hard to imagine that someone might be interested in reading something, but not sufficiently interested in actually paying anything for it?

    None of which has anything to do with whether he should get to read it for free. It does relate to whether his reading it for free is hurting anybody.

    “A free sample is one thing, and the major publishers do that regularly online — but free samples consist of a handful of pages, not the whole danged book. Anyone who wants to read more than four to six pages needs to pay the devil — er, the artist — his due.”

    So what’s the magic number? 6 pages? 10 pages? Can’t one free book inspire someone to read additional issues? I don’t think the issue here is the amount of pages provided. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen complete full issues of series online provided by the publisher. The issue you bring up is legal permission, not a question of what type of free material might motivate someone to buy something later, which is what I was talking about.

  70. I used to live in a house with about eight housemates and one newspaper subscription – this was back in the days when people still subscribed to newspapers. Everybody in the house kicked in an equal share for the subscription, except for one housemate. He read the paper every day, but refused to pay a share for it. His reasoning? If we didn’t have the subscription, he wouldn’t buy a paper. I couldn’t believe the gall of this bullshit rationalization back then. I can’t believe I’ve lived to see it spread and take over the whole world.

  71. WOW! I mean…WOW! Never seen a debate this hot on here before. Anyway, I understand Coleen’s point of view very well, and I also understand that Tom’s trying to put a different light on this situation, that being that we shouldn’t put this is such black and white terms. Doran Vs. Lieber etc. etc.

    The big problem with that, and I have to agree with Coleen on this is, you know we work, we do the job, we get it out there…now pay us. I teach, its the commodity I use to earn money, I don’t teach for free ( unless its on some charity project as I have done innumerable times in the past), its what puts food on my table, pays my sons school and puts gas in my car. Coleen has every right to look at this in black and white terms, so does any creator out there trying to earn a crust at what they love doing.

    Will piracy go away? ‘Fraid not kiddies. It’s here to stay if we still want some laughable pretense at a free internet. As long as the technology exists people will do it, sorry but that’s the bottom line. Now what we have to do is find some way to work with this.

  72. I see a lot of people on the this thread bitching and moaning about the world changing.

    And then I see Steve Leiber too busy changing along with the world to be on this thread.

    Blown to Bits, people, Blown to Bits.

  73. I agree that the “morality” of it is shaky (not shaky enough for me to claim its perfectly fine no questions asked, but enough to feel uncomfortable framing it in those terms), but disagree that borrowing it from a library/borrowing it from a friend is OK just because it can only be done a handful of times compared to hundreds of thousands of times online. If something is ethically wrong, it’s wrong, and doesn’t magically become wrong once you do it more times than some magically defined number.

    As much as people wish that pirates would just own up to what they’re doing and say, “Yes, I got this for free because, while I wanted to read it, I didn’t want to pay for it,” I wish just as much that the people on the other side of the aisle would own up to the fact that, under their definition, borrowing that book from a friend, reading the whole thing and not paying for it is just as wrong, since you are denying the original creator payment.

  74. Glenn Simpson says:

    “As much as people wish that pirates would just own up to what they’re doing and say, “Yes, I got this for free because, while I wanted to read it, I didn’t want to pay for it,” I wish just as much that the people on the other side of the aisle would own up to the fact that, under their definition, borrowing that book from a friend, reading the whole thing and not paying for it is just as wrong, since you are denying the original creator payment.”

    Agreed. Although I think what the creator side of the aisle should admit to is that there’s no difference between the library/friend and the Internet, except that the Internet is potentially doing too much damage to their bottom line and now it’s potentially costing them too much money, so now they need to stop it. The only difference is the amount; the act (someone reading it without paying) is the same.

    I wonder if there’s any actual contractual agreement between publisher and libraries? Or do publishers just know that libraries are doing it and don’t do anything about it (since that would be an incredibly unpopular thing to do)? Perhaps making libraries sign some sort of documentation contractually allowing them to distribute the work would help the legal case against the scan distributors.

  75. Rob S. says:

    “Are there not books that you are not sufficiently interested in to pay $3.99 but you would pay $2.99? Or maybe $1.99? Or maybe $.99? If so, then why is it so hard to imagine that someone might be interested in reading something, but not sufficiently interested in actually paying anything for it?”

    Yes. And I don’t read them, because I am a mature adult who can deal with not getting everything that I want. If I can buy them at a discount from a legitimate source, I’ll jump at the chance. But as much as I’d like to know what the Avengers are doing, no one owes that to me. The seller gets to set the price.

    Yes, the world is changing, and new technology has changed everything. But the only ones who benefit from a free-for-all are the freeloaders who contribute nothing.

    All the talk about publicity and free marketing and word of mouth is just cover so thieves don’t feel like thieves. Or, if you dispute the term thief, then maybe we can all agree on “freeloading douchebag.”

  76. Glenn Simpson says:

    As long as it’s noted that the freeloading douchbags probably wouldn’t have bought the books anyway and therefore are quite likely not hurting anybody, call ‘em whatever you want.

  77. Right I must apologise to Tom Spurgeon here as I misread what he wrote and I came here before going to his excellent blog and reading his opinion there.

    As to lending a book to a friend, dude, most second-hand bookstores would go out of business if that ever came into enforcemet, not least to say that you lend somebody a book you liked and they read it, then you are encouraging them to buy that author’s next book.

  78. If you want to publicize my comics, you can buy one and tell your friends to buy one also.

  79. Fuck..

    It’s not 1991 any more. The audience has changed. The material they want has changed. And most importantly: How they prefer to get the material has changed as well.

    The internet is not your career roadblock. The direct market is.

  80. Chuck Melville says:

    “Are there not books that you are not sufficiently interested in to pay $3.99 but you would pay $2.99? Or maybe $1.99? Or maybe $.99?”

    If I’m not sufficiently interested, I don’t read them. Period.

    “If so, then why is it so hard to imagine that someone might be interested in reading something, but not sufficiently interested in actually paying anything for it?”

    I have no problem imagining this at all. It’s called being a freeloader — somebody interested in something only if he can get it for free.

    “None of which has anything to do with whether he should get to read it for free. It does relate to whether his reading it for free is hurting anybody.”

    It does. It hurts the artist, who isn’t getting paid for that read. And thus our argument comes full circle.

    Putting it in a fuller context… one person reading a book without paying for it isn’t that big a deal. But we’re not talking about one person. We’re talking about hundreds, maybe thousands (I don’t have specific numbers, but I imagine it’s a pretty darn big one) of people reading pirated work for which they won’t pay. That’s not a loss of a potential three or four bucks, but a potential loss of hundreds and thousands of dollars. Per book.

    And I don’t believe that ALL of those readers would not have bought the book at all if the Internet hadn’t given them a cheap out.

    ##A free sample is one thing, and the major publishers do that regularly online — but free samples consist of a handful of pages, not the whole danged book. Anyone who wants to read more than four to six pages needs to pay the devil — er, the artist — his due.##

    “So what’s the magic number? 6 pages? 10 pages? Can’t one free book inspire someone to read additional issues? I don’t think the issue here is the amount of pages provided. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen complete full issues of series online provided by the publisher. The issue you bring up is legal permission, not a question of what type of free material might motivate someone to buy something later, which is what I was talking about.”

    I’m not familiar with any book being fully published online, though I’m sure there’s examples — I’m thinking either they’re part of a specific publishing campaign (more likely by smaller publishers) or else archives of older out-of-print material. I haven’t seen new or upcoming material printed online in full; only short bursts of a handful of pages, such as DC and Marvel release to Comic Book Resources or Newsarama.

    I would say that five or six pages is a reasonable preview; it’s roughly a quarter of a standard comic and should be sufficient to give a taste of what the rest of the book is like — enough to allow any individual a basis on which to make a judgment to purchase or not.

    If he wants a free comic book, there’s always Free Comic Book Day — plenty of freebies to be had then.

  81. bad wolf says:

    Derek McCulloch for the win. Except now its one payer and seven mooches, who (vide supra) will just go on and on rationalizing their moral ‘victory.’

  82. I just want to accentuate the positive and on behalf of all comics creators thank the people who BUY our comics.

    Thanks to you, we are able to pay our rent/mortgage, put food on the table and raise families.

    We very much appreciate your support. We’ll continue to do our best to entertain and enlighten.

  83. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “think what the creator side of the aisle should admit to is that there’s no difference between the library/friend and the Internet, except that the Internet is potentially doing too much damage to their bottom line and now it’s potentially costing them too much money, so now they need to stop it”

    This is silly because libraries and friends don’t republish and distribute material they loan material out. I can give my friends my symphony tickets or give them to my local arts council to raffle but I can’t print my own tickets and leave them on a table outside the auditorium, or give them to everyone in rotary. I can’t even attend myself.

    I suppose there might be some special warrior out there that is arguing against one-to-one transference + loss at the same time everyone else is arguing against republishing and distribution. If you can find this person, treasure them. Because they are arguing something far more severe and strange and you have a better chance of winning.

    It shows how debased these arguments are that this sloppy conflation can be made with a straight face.

  84. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Tom – and yet the end result is the same. The method is different, but both ways, someone is reading the story without paying for it. The means by which they do it is irrelevant.

    Unless you want to take the legal route, in which case yes, the two things are legally different.

    So when creators will admit they don’t mind people reading it without paying for it, they just don’t want a LOT of people reading it without paying for it, then we’re getting at something more real.

  85. Glenn Simpson says:
  86. Equating illegally downloading a book with taking out of the library is wrong. Someone who takes a book out of the library has paid for that book–libraries buy their books with our tax dollars. The equivalent for checking a book out of the library is not downloading it for free–it’s if you and some friends pooled your money together and agreed to share the book.

    But anybody that tries to morally justify stealing isn’t probably that interested in rational arguments anyway.

  87. “Agreed. Although I think what the creator side of the aisle should admit to is that there’s no difference between the library/friend and the Internet, except that the Internet is potentially doing too much damage to their bottom line and now it’s potentially costing them too much money, so now they need to stop it. The only difference is the amount; the act (someone reading it without paying) is the same.”

    I’m sorry, Glenn. You apparently do not know how library works. Libraries pay for their books. Patrons pay for the libraries to pay for the books – generally through taxes. They may generally not be aware of the payment, but pay they do nevertheless. The library buying a copy and lending it out is making the creators money. (In some markets, although not in the US, libraries also pay an additional cost per loan, so each additional loan each send money towards the creators, in addition to the likelihood of generating the need for the library to buy an additional or replacement copy.)

    “As long as it’s noted that the freeloading douchbags probably wouldn’t have bought the books anyway and therefore are quite likely not hurting anybody, call ‘em whatever you want.”

    Similarly, a bullet fired at random is probably not going to hurt anyone, so closing your eyes and shooting is a-okay, right?

    Sure, pirates like to justify themselves by claiming that they wouldn’t have bought the books anyway, and probably they wouldn’t have bought as many as they downloaded – but what percent justifies it? If they only would have bought 10% of the books? Only 1% of the books? How much hurt does it take to justify them taking material that they have no right to?

    Perhaps they even believe that they wouldn’t have bought any, but there’s no reason -we- should believe that, no reason we should believe that their decision of whether to buy isn’t altered by competing with the same content being priced at “free”.

  88. @Torsten: “So if I “advertised” free downloads of your comic on a message board you did not approve of, thereby linking your comic to an organization or lifestyle you did not approve of, you would approve of that action?

    That advertisement/endorsement could result in boycotts, even though you did not authorize it, thereby jeopardizing your professional reputation and livelihood, and possibly your freedom.”

    You’re really stretching this fantastical scenario to an absurdity.

  89. But I raise my eyebrow of Colleen’s argument that piracy caused the firing of several Vertigo editors. That is also really, really grasping for arguments.

    There are no studies that prove piracy hurts the sales of Vertigo comics. Now, lack of promotion, bad editorial decisions, bad art, dull stories, shortsighted retailers, restructuring of the company… now there are far more likely candidates for the firing of said editors.

  90. chris7crows says:

    Lost in all the discussion of piracy is any mentioned of the actual law that Doran is lobbying for (and which she doesn’t appear to even mentioned in her editorial). I’m assuming she’s referring to COICA, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. It’s a real travesty as a piece of legislation, and potentially has far-reaching effects beyond simply preventing Google from advertising on certain sites (which seems like a fairly obvious attack on free speech in any case).

    It essentially amounts to censorship by government fiat in that any web site — anywhere in the world — that is deemed to support “piracy” can be eliminated from the DNS registry. Given our inability to even keep a federal “no fly” list that isn’t rife with errors, I’m not really comfortable with judges unfamiliar with technology or culture deciding which web sites I’m allowed to visit.

    As artists, I’m assuming we’re supposed to be _against_ that sort of thing.

  91. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Well, I don’t know how to argue against your stamping your foot and re-stating your infallible psychic insights into the minds of the creator hive-mind and then limiting the resulting inquiry to a number-based conception and only a number-based conception of those results because you’ve declared everything else irrelevant, so God Bless you.

    On the other hand, I think I can just declare “flipsies, no takebacks plus infinity” and as the end result is the same as if I’d made a convincing argument and those kinds of why and wherefores don’t actually matter, I win.

  92. Glenn Simpson says:

    @RJT – I’m not sure what difference it makes who buys the book, whether it’s tax dollars or just someone who wants to buy it. On the download side, somebody had to buy the book to scan it, so a purchase was made either way.

    (This is probably a good time to mention that every scan I’ve ever downloaded had a message at the end that said “Did you enjoy this? Go buy the real thing.”)

    @Nat Gertler – See above – somebody had to buy a copy of the book to begin with, in order to scan it. They don’t just appear out of thin air. I’ve seen where 3-4 different versions exist. Again, the only difference is the scale.

    People go out skeet shooting, target shooting, all that stuff all the time. It’s OK because they are doing it in a way that is not going to hurt anybody. They are shooting at a space that nobody was going to be standing in anyway.

    You ask what percent justifies it – what percentage of them buying something after trying it for free justifies it? It works both ways. And figuring out those percentages is irrelevant because nobody can figure out what the actual percentage is anyway.

    You can choose to believe what you want. I’ve talked to downloaders. I know downloaders. For some of them, there’s no chance in a million they’d buy those books. If the downloads stopped being available, they’d just stop reading comics. For others, they read the scans to stay up on current events and then buy a trade or hardcover later. Then there’s me, similar to be previous, downloading scans of things I’ve got ordered but haven’t been shipped to me yet. In none of those cases is a sale missed.

    Are some sales being missed? Probably, but nobody knows how many there are. I’m not saying a creator can’t say “I’m probably losing sales to this.” I’m just suggesting that saying “I’m losing thousands of sales to these thousands of downloads” is an exaggeration to the point of being ridiculous. And also spending time hammering at the wrong part of the problem, when they should be focused on their legal rights, not the harm.

  93. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Tom: OK, and when an artist comes out with “Scanning and downloading is bad because it causes polio!” that will be a valid and productive thing for them to say, because that’s what they think? How about encouraging them to make a valid argument, so they maybe can get some results?

  94. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Well, that’s at least more colorful than the last argument you made up on their behalf.

  95. Jim Caldwell says:

    I feel like I’m last one to know there’s a speakeasy in town. Where are all these scan sites pulling all this ad money?

  96. Is this the most commented thread in Beat history?

    I’d love to see that Paley/Doran debate. I might even pay to see it. ;)

  97. A few weeks ago at MangaNEXT I had a discussion with Nina Paley in person over the issue of copyright/wrong and creator’s wishes.

    Sadly for me, her argument did not allow for other points of view, including creators’ wishes that did not jibe with her own. The thing that disappointed me most about that was that I *agree* with Ms. Paley, but her method was to simply proclaim every source I quoted, every word I used invalid. She stood behind the shield of excoriating THE MAN (which includes all companies, all industry sources). It depressed me, because I was looking for a conversation that could grow a sustainable argument and that allowed for multiple viewpoints.

    That having been said, I still seek that discussion and this article gave me a new perspective for it.

    Ms. Paley is correct – when you have nothing to lose, sharing freely is a good thing, an important thing, a critical for life thing. Obscurity is the enemy.

    Ms. Doran is correct – when you have everything to lose, forced sharing is a hole into which you fall and cannot get out.

    I remain strongly on the side of sharing. If Ms. Doran had made her work available on her own, and provided multiple ways to purchase (before and after reading) it might make a difference. It might not, because her audience might not be her market. I don’t have an answer to that.

    But as we move forward into a new age when we are all having our work shared – with or without our approval – I think it’s important to acknowledge the different circumstances of different creators and find appropriate means of distributing for those different circumstances.

    I don’t believe that there will be one way any more than there was one way to do it 5 years ago. My goal is to see an age where flexibility and non-monopoly is built into any system that prevails. My worst fear is that hardware gods will dictate our content because we abdicate our own choice about what we read/draw/write just because we think a really thin computer looks “cool.”

    Cheers,

    Erica Friedman

  98. “You’re really stretching this fantastical scenario to an absurdity.”

    There is a concept called “association fallacy”. It’s usually known as “guilt by association”, and is a variation of ad hominem attacks.

    Remember how Marilyn Manson was linked to the Columbine shootings? That’s one example.

    Another example? During the Republican National Convention, Heart’s “Baracuda” was played to introduce Sarah Palin. Ann and Nancy Wilson sent a letter to the RNC requesting their song not be used, as they did not endorse the GOP’s political philosophy as it pertained to women. (The RNC had paid a licensing fee to ASCAP, so they did nothing wrong.)

    Another example? Horror comics are corrupting our youth. Therefore, all comics are bad. (1950s) (This caused the comic strip cartoonists to publicly disassociate themselves from comic books during the Senate hearings.)

    Or… juvenile delinquents read comics. So comics are encouraging children to act abnormally.

    “You advertise on a television show that I find disgusting. Therefore I will stop buying your products until you stop supporting that show.”

    Hypothetical: NAMBLA uses Batman and Robin on a poster to promote their cause.
    Real: Fairway Market in New York City uses Alfred E. Neuman to promote their organic, non-mad-cow-diseased beef.

    Again, it’s about control. The copyright holder is the only person who may decide how a work is published and distributed, in what form, at what cost.

    As for the movie theater analogy… what if those viewers don’t pay at all? Then the movie theater charges more per ticket to make a profit, which results in fewer tickets sold (a movie might be worth $7.50, but not $10), fewer movies being made, and more movie theaters closing.

  99. Glenn- “I’m not sure what difference it makes who buys the book, whether it’s tax dollars or just someone who wants to buy it. On the download side, somebody had to buy the book to scan it, so a purchase was made either way.”

    The point is that when I take a book out of the library, I helped pay for that book. Therefore I’ve contributed, a small part, in compensating that creator. If I download it illegally, I have not. The latter is called stealing.

    Also, the term copyright has the words “right” to “copy” in it. That’s the right that copyright grants: the right to copy the work, a right that someone who buys the book does not have. Scanning a book is creating a copy, which you have no right to do.

    But, please, continue to elucidate us in all the ways you stealing comic books is helping the world.

  100. maija says:

    99 comments and the the one line that stood out for me: “Distribution is [the pirates’] only concern” has hardly been touched on.

    Not to defend piracy at ALL, but I wonder how many pirates download a book because it’s simply not available to them through legitimate channels: either their LCS doesn’t have it or they don’t have an LCS. I realize it’s probably a small fraction, but that fraction could be a decent amount of paying customers if they had easy and cheap access to the book through a legitimate channel.

    The piracy genie isn’t going back in the bottle, but if legitimate publishers recognize that “distribution” today should mean “to the entire globe, NOW” and they make it available in high quality at a reasonable price, they might at least make some money off of the people who would prefer to pay for a high resolution, e-reader-formatted version rather than hunt through BitTorrents for a crappy scan. iTunes can’t be just a fluke.

    Time Warner is already considering Video On Demand release of films a few days after their theatrical release. I’m sure it won’t be long before theatrical and VOD release dates are the same.

    Oddly, there is a massive boom in theatre construction in India and China– historically notorious for film piracy… perhaps because there weren’t enough theatres!

  101. “somebody had to buy a copy of the book to begin with, in order to scan it”

    Or steal a copy… wait, we must assume that pirates are really honest people who would never do things like that, right?

    “Again, the only difference is the scale.”

    No, the libraries make zero copies, the pirates make lots. Saying that’s just a difference of scale is like saying we’re all just as bad as Jeffrey Dahmer, because we’ve killed zero people.

    “You ask what percent justifies it – what percentage of them buying something after trying it for free justifies it?”

    There is no percentage that justifies it. When you violate somebody’s rights, there’s no amount that automatically makes it okay.

    “You can choose to believe what you want. I’ve talked to downloaders. I know downloaders. For some of them, there’s no chance in a million they’d buy those books. If the downloads stopped being available, they’d just stop reading comics.”

    Pssst: Glenn?? These folks may be lying to you. They may even be lying to themselves.

    “I’m just suggesting that saying “I’m losing thousands of sales to these thousands of downloads” is an exaggeration to the point of being ridiculous.”

    I’m sorry – I miss who in this thread you’re quoting there.

    “And also spending time hammering at the wrong part of the problem, when they should be focused on their legal rights, not the harm.”

    I don’t know any of them who are overlooking their legal rights. But yes, the harm happens to matter as well — and there may well be folks downloading who, when faced with the reaction of actual creators and with the demolition of the normally thin-as-a-sheet justifications of copyright violation, may choose to take the more ethical route in the future.

  102. Public libraries are intended to serve a public service and so are provided a certain wiggle room to loan out books. But even then they too must comply with certain copyright restrictions on photocopying works or digitally distributing materials. When a library hosts a book club for example, they can’t just make unauthorized duplicates of the single book they own so everyone can have a copy. They have to buy multiple copies. Same thing often happens for popular titles such as Harry Potter and different formats of the same work.

    Most authors probably recognize the role libraries play in society and are willing to allow the loaning of their works under these restrictions.

    Except in individual cases of creators consenting to having their work reproduced and distributed by anyone and by any means, piracy represents a deliberate abuse of a creator’s labor and property for largely selfish reasons.

  103. http://blog.copyrightalliance.org/2010/11/artists-rights-front-and-center-as-hill-bill-moves-forward/ Go Comics creators! Colleen totally won said futile battle :) Internet hatespew can blather one, but laws are totally real ^_^

  104. Brett says:

    Whew!

    I felt like trying to get to the comment end of the post was like falling into the deep end of the pool. It’s a pretty far drop to the floor. ;)

    Anyway… thanks Jason. For a while there I was wondering if, in any of these posts here, someone was going to say if the graphic novel will be available.

    Glad to see it will be.

    Thanks!

  105. FreeFall says:

    I’m not a fan of piracy, but it seems the main difference between the public library and the pirates is scale.

    A public library buys a graphic novel, I see it’s available and put it on my hold list. After a period of time, it’s my turn and I read it. Eventually hundreds of people have read that single copy of the book. The artist doesn’t get a royalty payment from any of those hundreds of people.

    A pirate buys a copy of the book and scans it. The user sees it’s available and put it on their list. After a few minutes its downloaded and they read it. Eventually hundreds of people have read that single copy of the book. The artist doesn’t get a royalty payment from any of those hundreds of people.

    Pirates are faster and have a bigger range.

  106. Andre says:

    Actually Freefall, in many European countries, including England, authors get annual royalties from the library system for how many times their books circulate. Canada also has this for some authors [it’s not the same as England’s though], primarily in academic settings through the CanCopy act.

  107. FreeFall says:

    To me the term “Creators Rights” is very similar to “Creator gets Paid”. In that theme….
    Every so often, the web comic community I belong to, discusses the idea of micro payments. Man, that drives them crazy. They loathe the idea of paying even a red cent for any of the comics they follow. Asking them to pay a dime to read a comic is like asking if we could skin their dog.
    Seems pirates work because there are a lot of people who feel they should get their comics for free.
    How do you change that mentality?

  108. “Eventually hundreds of people have read that single copy of the book.”

    Not likely, no. Paperbacks just don’t hold up to that many readers, particularly the way library patrons read books (even the well-meaning ones are subjecting them to a lot more transportation and jostle than the books sitting on your bookshelf are getting.) Librarians I’ve talked to consider themselves lucky if they get a couple dozen loan-outs of a book before it needs replacing, much less hundreds. The books wear out and libraries replace them, creating an ongoing stream of money for the publishers and creators. With the way file “sharing” networks work, the more downloaders a work has, the more available it is without a further cent going to the rightsholders.

  109. Andre says:

    As I stated earlier, a book can only be circulated about 17 times a year at the most, considering it’s loaned out on 3 week periods. That’s if it’s constantly checked out, and never renewed or late, or stuck in transit
    To be circulated hundreds of times, they’d have to have dozens of copies… which would net the publishers a sizeable profit.
    Libraries account for a sizeable amount of the graphic novel market- you have educational publishes printing books only for the school market, hardcover versions of titles from Scholastic being published based on library system demands, and Diamond and other distirbutors/publishers having divisions who market their books to libraries.
    It’s unfair and somewhat disgusting to use libraries as a defense for piracy

    This article covers many of tehse concerns btw
    http://manga.about.com/od/readingcollectingmanga/a/Libraries-Are-Not-The-Same-As-Manga-Scanlation-Sites.htm

  110. “It’s unfair and somewhat disgusting to use libraries as a defense for piracy.”

    I personally was not trying to defend piracy. I’m just saying, look at this statement:

    “If you want to read a creator’s work you should have to pay them for it,”

    and tell me, honestly, how that allows borrowing from a friend/library or even second hand bookstore. Tom’s argument that there’s a difference because pirates are making copies and the library isn’t doesn’t AT ALL change what the net result is for the person reading it; it simply doesn’t matter.

  111. chris7crows says:

    @Andre: Yes, and thankfully the odds of that law being brought to the floor during the lame duck session are growing slimmer. This discussion of piracy is theoretical, the law is actual and not very well designed.

  112. “and tell me, honestly, how that allows borrowing from a friend/library or even second hand bookstore. Tom’s argument that there’s a difference because pirates are making copies and the library isn’t doesn’t AT ALL change what the net result is for the person reading it; it simply doesn’t matter.”

    There’s really no difference at all if my mom gives me fifty bucks for my birthday or if I just take it from her purse when she’s not looking either. AT ALL.

  113. Steve Horton says:

    “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
    Piracy is what it is; we can’t stop it, slow it down or affect it in any way, especially by arguing on the Internet. Steve Lieber and Mark Waid and others have the right idea: find a way to move with the tide instead of shaking our fists at it.

    Think about it this way: If you click on a YouTube video that’s not technically supposed to be there (probably over half), are you committing theft? If you rip said video to your PC, what about then?

    Put another way: Anime video site Crunchyroll was once 100% unauthorized content, then they got VC funding (over publisher protests), went legit and are now indespensible to the industry. How can we in the comics industry learn from this?

  114. Rob S. says:

    So you’re saying, “Stop complaining, because publisher complaints got Crunchyroll to go legit?” Isn’t that reason to decry piracy & theft even more loudly?

    There’s nothing wrong with legitimate sources for electronic distribution.

  115. Tom Spurgeon says:

    You can light a candle *and* curse the darkness.

  116. *sigh* of all the piracy arguements, the library thing may be the dumbest.

    Libraries LEND books out, people. Once you get it, you gotta GIVE IT BACK In a timely manner, or you’re charged a fee and so on. Why? They have a finite number of copies, and unless they buy MORE, if all said copies are out, there ARE NO MORE copies to rent. Which means you *gasp* actually have to wait for it to become available again. Can’t tell you how many times I had to wait on a book with my no-money-kid-budget because some goober had checked it out for weeks on end. And, once I do get it, read it, and return it, magically, I NO LONGER HAVE the book. If I want it again I gotta borrow it again, and if it’s the only copy the library has then nobody else gets it until I give it back, or until the library buys another copy.

    When you right click a .zip and choose “copy” from the menu (or click ‘download’ on a torrent), your computer box machine does exactly that. It COPIES that file, meaning you now possess a complete copy of it in every way, shape, and form. If the file poster takes down the link and makes it no longer available to others, you STILL have the complete copy of that file (and THEY still have it too). It doesn’t just disappear! Equating this to lending out physical media is clearly erroneous. There should be no argument. It is not the same, period.

    Comics are not yet at the shortest end of the stick of this whole mess, because scanned stuff is almost ALWAYS inferior to the actual product in terms of quality/readability/enjoyment. Since songs and movies are disbursed on easily transferrable media, you can have the same experience as the original, more or less, or the difference is incremental enough not to care. At least with comics, on most cases, if you want full enjoyment, you gotta buy the real deal.

    Web Comics are a whole other ballpark, but the best ones have adapted to an environment where they have the very same problems as movies/music (copied product is same quality as original) and still managed to profit. To learn from these is to deal with the issue, instead of trying to sue everybody (cause that worked out so well for music/movies…).

    Yeah, but libraries == file sharing, so let’s not proliferate actual discussion with that baloney.

  117. Ashland says:

    Every time a creator comments that piracy – or even WORKING with pirates – did nothing for them or their sales they are mocked or ignored. There’s Dave Elliot up there with his experience, but he might as well be invisible.

    From Colleen Doran’s blog:

    “What works is a sustained online presence and good communication with the public. If you choose not to contest piracy and are able to manage to make that work for you, great.

    But it did not work for me. I saw a marked decrease in my sales, and my web traffic was terrible.

    My web traffic has gone nowhere but up in the last twelve months, and so have my sales. In the five years BEFORE I began the webcomic, it was nowhere but down.

    I went from a few hundred page views a day to as many as 20,000…

    Years of piracy, and my sales were flatlining. One year of a webcomic, and up they go.”

    Every creator should have the right to choose what works for them. If they see no benefit from piracy, pretending their experience doesn’t matter or just ignoring it so you can go right on downloading without guilt won’t make your impact on the creator’s lives go away either.

  118. I think Colleen’s experience in the quote just above this is pretty CLOSE to the Leiber model actually — a creator-sanctioned legit option helps sales, while a pirate site doesn’t. Case closed.

    < ad hominem attack>You people who think libraries are the same as pirate sites are out of your minds. < /ad hominem attack>

  119. FreeFall says:

    “You people who think libraries are the same as pirate sites are out of your minds.”

    I disagree, the principle is the same, but the scale and speed is vastly different. Which makes make the library relatively non threatening, but the pirate sites are very threatening.
    Libraries are like lighting a candle.
    Pirate sites are like setting the whole block on fire.

  120. Andre says:

    chris7crows– I think you missed the link I posted- the bill has been passed, is awaiting a full sentate vote and just has to have the President sign it once that’s done- the White House has apparently indicated they will pass it.

    Freefall- Again libraries PAY FOR THEIR COPIES. Single copies which they lend out to one person at a time, respecting copyright. And with Ebooks/digital databases, they often have to pay usage fees w/royalties everytime it’s accessed. They have systems in place that makes them accountable, pays authors, and makes them structure their guidelines according to copyright law. You’re barking up the wrong tree. Though Heidi’s pretty much summed it up.

  121. Rob S. says:

    Does the Senate ever actually vote on anything except to prevent itself from voting on things?

    This ones *seems* to have bipartisan support, but it’s impossible to treat anything in the Senate as a fait acompli.

  122. > You can light a candle *and* curse the darkness.

    Tom, I really wish I could “Like” this.

  123. chris7crows says:

    Maybe, maybe not. From PCWorld Business Center (Google for link):

    Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said late Thursday that he would seek to block the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or COICA, from passing through the full Senate, unless the legislation is changed. Earlier Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 19-0 to approve the bill and send it to the full Senate.

    Wyden called the bill the “wrong medicine” for dealing with online copyright infringement. The bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek expedited court orders requiring U.S. domain-name registrars to shut down domestic websites suspected of hosting infringing materials. The bill would also allow the DOJ, through court orders, to order U.S. ISPs to redirect customer traffic away from infringing foreign websites.

    “Deploying this statute to combat online copyright infringement seems almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb, when what you need is a precision-guided missile,” Wyden said during a hearing on digital trade issues. “If you don’t think this thing through carefully, the collateral damage would be American innovation, American jobs, and a secure Internet.”

    Wyden’s opposition means the bill is likely dead this year. Individual senators can place holds on legislation, and there are only a few working days left in the congressional session this year. Sponsors of the legislation, including fellow Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would have to reintroduce the bill if it doesn’t pass this year.

  124. Steve Horton says:

    Rob said:
    So you’re saying, “Stop complaining, because publisher complaints got Crunchyroll to go legit?” Isn’t that reason to decry piracy & theft even more loudly?

    ————

    No, the publishers wanted Crunchyroll shut down completely. They protested vehemently when capital came in and the site became bigger than ever. Nowadays, their silence is deafening, because the site makes them money now that they can’t live without.

    It’s funny how publishers and creators call this a matter of principle, when really it’s a matter of money. If creators could earn a revenue stream from the illegal downloads, the complaining would stop immediately.

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