PR: What Not to Do: Copy Protection Problems

I recently got an email directing to me to where I could download a PDF copy of an upcoming graphic novel. Actually, I got two — the first one said “we’re having technical difficulties, so we’ll be providing you with information later on obtaining an online review copy.” This was a waste of time, in my opinion. If someone sends me a link and the book sounds halfway interesting, I’ll take a look. Sending me a message saying “we will be sending you something” — especially when that message is clearly a form letter, not to me personally — doesn’t mean anything to me.

Anyway, they sent me a message about how to download their PDF, which was a complete copy of their 48-page graphic novel. Only they’re apparently really concerned about piracy, because they password-protected their PDF (although they put the password on the webpage where you download the file instead of sending it in the instruction email), which caused my computer to throw an error message.

They also put black Xs over every page of their comic. Around page 3, this became really annoying. The comic has a good amount of dialogue, and when slapping the Xs on the page, they paid no attention to what they were obliterating. It’s hard to read fluidly when you’re stopping at least three times a page to figure out what a covered word is by the context around it.

In short, they’re assuming that the reviewers they’re trying to solicit coverage from are going to violate their copyright and must be forcibly prevented from doing so. They didn’t think this through, though, because their insistence on making their sample “not reproducable” also made it not readable.

In general, I’ve found that the more obsessive someone is about protecting their intellectual property, the less worthy it is of protection. That may be an unfair over-generalization, so maybe I should say that assuming the worst about a group of people will not predispose them to say nice things about your work or incline them to jump through hoops to help you out.

I thought the timing on this was particularly ironic, given that this is a week where AIT/Planet Lar has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention for making it easier for readers to sample before buying. They’ve recently posted more information on just how successful their experiment has already been.

8 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Copy Protection Problems”

  1. Chris Arrant Says:

    The first email explaining why they don’t have a PDF seems inane. Why not just wait until they have their ducks in a row before soliciting it to the press?

    And the idea of using big Xs to mar the PDF to avoid it from being re-distributed is a bit much. The online review copies I’ve got that have been the most practical have been passworded PDFs with a watermark. For color comics, they’re usually sans colors.

    If they’e going to so much trouble in making thier digital review copies uncirculatable, it might be less hassle for them to print it out on colored paper and mail it to reviewers.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Well, yeah, but that would cost them money!

    Which may be why I’m seeing people recently saying “I don’t read comics online, if you want me to see something, mail it to me.” It’s a level of filtering to see who’s really serious.

  3. Chris Arrant Says:

    If they’re really concerned with comics piracy, then a B&W proof of the book printed on colored paper (as to hamper photocopying or scanning) would be the best option. I understand printing and postage costs some money, but in the end it would solve their piracy issue.

    And yes, asking for a mailed copy does in some ways act as a filter for less business-minded publishers. In the standard book review world, it’s a standard.

  4. ADD Says:

    I got this same series of e-mails, and while I asked for and was told a preview copy was mailed out, the tone and implications of the e-mails definitely turned me off. The Elk’s Run gang pulled a very similar stunt just prior to their debut. Haven’t seen or read an issue of that before, and certainly not since.

  5. Christopher Allen Says:

    I tend to agree with Johanna on this, that those who go to the trouble of protecting their pdfs don’t have much worth protecting, anyway. And it really feels like an insult, or like you say, ill-considered, to do this and give the impression that potential reviewers are not to be trusted. I can’t think of a single case where I read a pdf version of a book, liked it, and decided the pdf was good enough and I didn’t need a paper copy. I HATE reading pdfs, really, especially of graphic novels, as it slows the reading process down and makes the book have to be that much better to compensate for the inconvenience.

  6. Johanna Says:

    No, Alan, the Elk’s Run folks didn’t do that. An independent source who thought they’d “help” did that on their behalf, which they then had to clean up from.

    Christopher, I’m with you — if the book’s that good, I’m going to get a print copy anyway.

  7. Alan David Doane Says:


    You’re right about the Elk’s Run thing, but I do have to say the spectacular way they mismanaged the aftermath did turn me off the book completely.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Then it’s a case of different memories, because I thought they did a fine job of cleaning up the way someone else thoughtlessly put them in a troublesome situation.




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