Has digital availablity of comics put a crimp in piracy?

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This iFanboy interview with a comics pirate who recently quit indicated that even among the scanning community, the good old days were awesome. Now, not so much.

As to why I quit, the “Scene” has become petty and incestuous. No one cared about “preserving” comic books in a digital form anymore. It was all about getting YOUR copy out FIRST so that you could flood the fileshares before someone else could get their version out just to acquire digital kudos from those around you. I grew wary of the “Race” and took a hard look at the current digital space. Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and even Archie have been pushing more and more digital initiatives. If digital archiving was really my goal, and not piracy, then wasn’t I fooling myself by continuing to scan and edit comics that the publishers were offering in a pure digital form? DC’s push for “day and date” releasing of all their mainline titles cemented it for me and I stepped away.


While not every comics pirate may have even the rudimentary ethical underpinnings of this one, at least he had some.

iFanboy plans more interviews with the Megaupload crowd—it should be interesting., But next time, the interviewee needs a nickname, like Pixeleg Pete or something.

Comments

  1. Charles Knight says:

    One of the biggest scanning groups called it a day when DC went to Day and date. However they were instantly replaced by people removing the DRM from the digital versions and uploading them as soon as they became available.

  2. Keyser says:

    Correct! Old ones leave and new ones come in so it will always go on. There is a burn out to it from doing it though so I can see why some drop out after a few years since it’s a lot of work if they do it right.

    There is a lot of the “Rock Star” status with scanners and who releases a quality scan first. Much like when a piece of news breaks, or during an election when they call a state going to the Republican or Democratic runner, and CNN tries to beat NBC, FOX, or MNBC, and others out by a few seconds so they can say they had it first. Same thing is going on now with scanners.

  3. Bruce Lidl says:

    What I think is interesting about what the scanner said is that almost none of his motivation, aside from the initial interest, had anything to do with what we normally think about pirates and their behavior.

    He wasn’t doing it to save money, since he had to buy the comics he scanned, nor was he doing it to stick it to the man, in reality he was doing it for prestige in his own sub-community. And really, he only got out of it when he basically “aged” out of that community, I doubt day and date releases really had much to do with it.

    It seems clear that the supply of pirated comics online is not likely to decrease (and DRM is a fool’s gold at best) any time soon. Publishers will have to convince their readers that their legitimate products are worth paying for, if they want to “compete” with the pirates’ offerings.

  4. Torsten Adair says:

    HA!
    Comics are trying to get new, younger readers, but don’t want those younger readers scanning comics.

  5. Snikt Snakt says:

    Not until the comic companies drop their price point, it won’t! :-O

  6. I will defend pirates to a certain point, because it would make a huge hypocrite of me if I didn’t. Pirated scans are what made a true fangirl of me, and not just someone who occasionally read a Sandman or Alan Moore TPB. I stopped pirating largely because I barely have time to read the comics I buy, but as an amateur comics historian, I am very much still invested in the “preservation” aspect of piracy.

    The main problem in comparing the music piracy issue and the comics piracy issue is that everyone who was pirating music in those pre-iTunes days was already someone who listened to music. Sure, you might get into a new band because your friends said “oh check them out”, and you’d fire up Napster and download a few tracks (or albums), but for the most part we were downloading songs that we already knew and were listening to on the radio, and it was better to make a WinAmp playlist or burn a CD (ah memories!) than record a mixtape from the radio. It made a stronger moral argument to tell those people to pay for the music they liked so much because they’d already had their free sample (on the radio) and the artists should get paid.

    People who pirate comics, on the other hand, may not be regular comics readers. And you’re not going to get new readers into comics behind a paywall. Webcomics are huge because it’s like the radio for comics. And I know plenty of publishers (indie mostly) do offer first issues and such for free, which is a great move, but even putting them on Comixology is not giving them the reach of the radio. It is a problem without an easy answer.

  7. Matthew Southworth says:

    Maybe I’m just crazy, but I can’t for the life of me imagine that there are significant numbers of people who don’t ALREADY read comics who are seeking out scans of comics and reading them. Am I wrong? Not being snarky, I just can’t figure out how you can get someone who isn’t already interested enough to go to a comic store to then seek out pirated comics.

    Personally, I like that there are historical archives of comics–loads of underground work by guys like Dan O’Neill, for example, old issues of BIZARRE SEX or SLOW DEATH, things I can’t find elsewhere. But of course the genie’s out of the bottle.

    And I love reading comics on a tablet. I’m just SURE it’s the future of periodical publication.

  8. RE: Snikt Snakt
    10/11/2011 at 1:50 pm
    Not until the comic companies drop their price point, it won’t! :-O

    Agreed. Until the publishers come closer to a $1.99 new comic and .99 cents for back issues, they’ll have limited success gaining new readers or moving readers over from print to digital. They also have to begin a better release of trades and lower those costs to about $6.99 for a standard 5-issue TPB.

  9. Kevin says:

    There are a lot of comics that I got into as a result of scans online, Invincible and the Walking Dead to name just two. Day and Date was the thing that killed it for me.

    Yeah, I would prefer a more itunes-esque price structure, in the same way that buying an album digitally is cheaper than buying a cd. Maybe $2.49 instead of $2.99, or something. If that was what really sealed the deal for me though, the fact that DC does a $1 (25-33%) price drop after a month is pretty significant.

  10. @Southworth, like I said, I was already a fan of Sandman and Alan Moore by the time I discovered pirated scans, but those are the sorts of readers the comics industry should be targeting. DC’s “After Watchmen” idea was a start, but those shouldn’t have been $1 comics you had to go to a shop and buy, those should have been free PDFs on their website that they advertised on every entertainment news site (and maybe even some print ads). They should have been supplied to movie theaters as free giveaways to people who bought Watchmen tickets.

    Hell, I got people to read Watchmen by e-mailing them the pirated versions, and more than half of them wrote back asking if I had any more recs. Granted, they also asked where to get scans, but I still got people reading comics– because of a delivery system they found accessible. The apps are close– but I’m afraid still no cigar.

  11. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Alexa–I agree 100% with your comments about the marketing to new readers. I think the most disappointing thing about the comics business is the manner in which this infinitely accessible artform is treated like a clubhouse.

    At this point, though, I think mainstream comics have aimed in a hermetic, continuity-heavy direction (New52 notwithstanding, it is still confusing to an average new reader), and independent comics are being squeezed out of stores by Diamond’s (totally defensible) minimum standards.

    And for that reason, I think most potential new readers may just go “aaah, what a hassle, I don’t have time for all that nonsense”.

  12. AndyG says:

    iFanboy is owned by graphic.ly right? This seems like bringing a recent convert to testify at church. Because it sure does please the investors to think piracy is on the wane and digital comics providers were somehow a part of it.

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