Opposing Viewpoints on Comic “Piracy”, Starting With Colleen Doran

Accomplished comic artist Colleen Doran started this latest round of the piracy discussion with a piece at The Hill’s Congress Blog, in which she blames “online piracy” for declining comic sales figures and her not making enough money online. (There are no facts cited for this claim, just a lot of correlations, which are more or less convincing based on what you already think about the issue.) Key quotes:

Like many artists, I’ve seen my sales figures chipped away as the print market shrinks due, in no small part, to rampant online piracy.

Pirates draw traffic from my site, and cost me millions of hits annually, which cuts my advertising revenue.

I am a middle class artist and farmer for whom a few thousand dollars a year in lost income means I can’t afford health insurance.

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.

I have some questions about her assertions — like that last statement. Apple showed that a “legit” outlet could aggregate music online, make money, and compete with free. It’s not that there “can’t” be a really good online comic site; it’s that what we do have provides too many hoops to jump through (proprietary format, no way to aggregate comics from different services, region locks, and prices that are too high) that many customers aren’t interested in. Someone might visit an alternate site, for example, because they’ll be traveling and want comics downloaded to their computer, not those you have to read a page at a time when you’re online.

To solve this problem, Colleen supports a bill to stop advertising on “pirate sites” and increased “respect for the people who create content.” (Let me remind my readers that the biggest “pirate site” of all, in terms of providing links to content online, is the Google search engine. Do you support shutting that down because it’s an accurate index of what people do online? Check out this article on how book piracy is about to explode.) I support the idea of building respect, but I think it has to start with the content producers. If I download a TV show, in most cases, I can’t tell you who wrote it or produced it. (There are exceptions, those creators who’ve made themselves into brands, like Chuck Lorre or Aaron Sorkin. Often, these occurs in spite of the people funding the entertainment, as can be seen when one of Lorre’s title cards is censored.) I have no idea who wrote most major movies. If you want me to respect creators, maybe you should pay media writers more and make their contributions better known and more visible? Legally, though, the creator is Paramount or ABC-TV, and why should I “respect” a faceless company?

In the case of comics, most comics that are widely pirated are corporate books made on an assembly line. If a publisher wants me to respect those creators, how about they start first? Don’t put dictates on what they make, like forced crossovers or pulling off a creator whose work I enjoy to put on a “bigger name” who’ll leave in another six months.

The superhero comics, which make up most of what’s available online as copyright violations, are sold based on brands (X-Men, Batman, Green Lantern) or universe continuity (Brightest Day, Curse of the Mutants). Those brands, in many cases, have long been severed from their original creators, and in many cases, those creators were not adequately compensated for their creations. Those brands are often interchangeable, and they’re not bought based on the creative names associated. The argument “you need to respect the creator and buy their work so they can afford health insurance” simply doesn’t apply in those cases. If I really like reading the new Batwoman because of Greg Rucka’s work, it’s going to be better for him if I buy one of his Whiteout or Queen & Country novels or comics, properties where he actually gets rewards, since he and DC had a falling out. (There’s also an argument that he didn’t create Kate Kane, since she’s really just a reinvention of someone else’s character. This is like trying to figure out Wolverine’s father.)

After all, look at it from the consumer perspective. Here’s something they’re interested in, it’s easy to get at no cost and minimal effort. Doesn’t that seem like the smart thing to do? Sure, it’s illegal, but lots of things are that people do every day. For most people, reading a comic online falls in the category of “speeding” or “shading one’s taxes” — things that everyone does anyway. Especially since most of the victims of this “crime”, and those raising the loudest fuss, are parts of huge corporations who keep raising ticket prices and cable fees and cover prices and then complaining that they’re not making as much money as they used to.

The question of whether the number of people who download comics online would actually pay for what they’re downloading is a tricky one. Not everyone who reads your work is willing to pay for it. In some cases, I believe people are simply hoarding. They’re grabbing everything they can to leave it on ever-larger hard drives. In some cases, people wouldn’t read the work if they couldn’t get it for free, since they have more time than money, so they’re not lost sales. I do agree, in the case of a single creator/personal work like Colleen’s A Distant Soil, I think the rules and behavior should be different. People who enjoy samples of that they see should buy the work, because it’s not a faceless corporation who’s being affected. Strangely, that’s exactly what Steve Lieber found out when his work appeared online. But Colleen isn’t convinced.

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.

Why not? In the comments to that post, she goes on to assert that people who support free online content models are actually paid shills by Google. (She later backtracked on this when told she might have been misinformed.) Then she says, “Years of piracy, and my sales were flatlining. One year of a webcomic, and up they go.” Yes, exactly. You’re building that connection with the public. You’re providing them a regular reminder of your work and free tastes to make sure they like what they read. Most importantly, you’re providing easy links to actually buy the books. That’s what Steve Lieber did right. Once his book Underground appeared online, he said “and you can buy it right here” or even just “here’s how you can pay us for the reading experience”. Make it easy for consumers who want to do the right thing.

I have limited sympathy for those who argue based on “I can’t make the same amount of money I used to make working the way I used to”, whether artist used to being hired for a certain sum or company with a business model affected by the rise of the internet. I am neither, but the same thing happened to me, as well. I can no longer count on a long-term salaried position at a company with excellent benefits. (My parents and I had a lovely conversation at the holidays about how pensions have disappeared and how that means my retirement will probably be very different from theirs.) So I changed the field I work in. I would have liked to have had a dream job, but I made a responsible choice to support my family. I developed new talents and marketable skills. I found alternate income streams. I adapted. Why shouldn’t artists and entertainment businesses?

The folks at Techdirt are a bit more angry than I am about Colleen’s post. Their response blames her:

if you, the creator of the comic, can’t differentiate yourself from filesharing sites that offer fans no connection with you, no insight into the work, no expertise in the offering, and no personal involvement with the creator, then that is YOUR problem, not the “pirates.” For God’s sake, people want your stuff! And you were smart enough to price the content the same as the unauthorized places! All you had left to do was offer them something the pirate sites couldn’t, and you’d be home free! Instead, she expected money to just show up at her doorstep.

… that last part, about there being no connection between fans and creators? That’s YOUR job, not the fans’. You have to make that connection. We’re not mindless moths, fluttering about the heat of your light, desperate to slam our bodies against the fixture. You connect with us, since you’re doing the selling, not the other way around….

I think that goes too far. There’s nothing wrong with having different expectations for different types of material. Some may call this splitting hairs, but I prefer to think of it as nuance. The idea of a “one size fits all” solution, or blanket declarations that “piracy” is always wrong don’t help — and actually make the situation worse, in making harder for involved parties to understand what motivates the others. There is no one way to buy or consume entertainment. Different customers want different things. And this, surprisingly, is something Colleen and I agree on. As she says, “we treat various copyright infringement issues differently because each situation is different.”

One last thought: People who file-share don’t hate you, artist. They aren’t even thinking about you. They’re thinking “here’s something I’d like to read/hear/view, and it’s easy, so I will.”

122 Responses to “Opposing Viewpoints on Comic “Piracy”, Starting With Colleen Doran”

  1. Dwight Williams Says:

    Surely, there’s people willing and able to help Colleen out in setting something up online that would make paying her directly (easy/easier than the present competing outfits)?

  2. Jennfer Hachigian Says:

    I have some thoughts on this. Dunno if they’re any good, but here goes…


    Right now TV/film sales fuel the health and pension plans of animators and other unionized TV/film workers. Writers get residuals from these sales. A sale lost to piracy does hurt union workers, even if the audience does not know these workers by name. The TAG Blog often posts about piracy because it affects the financial well-being of animators.


    As for artists and entertainment businesses adapting to piracy…I have two thoughts on how that might turn out.

    First, I doubt most artists would adapt to the loss of residual-fueled benefits. Most digital artists I meet focus on art, technical skills, and/or becoming better artists. Few understand or are interested in financial planning. Because of this, artists who work union gigs with residual-fueled benefits usually end up much better off than artists who do not. Removing or shrinking those residual-fueled benefits just means a harder life for more artists.

    Second, I see studios adapting to lower sales by making less expensive films. That way the films won’t need as much in sales to make back their costs. Studios would fund fewer spectaculars like Avatar, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and create more economical films like Moon, Scream and Shaun of the Dead. Less expensive films would mean fewer jobs for people who work on films.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Dwight, I wouldn’t presume to speak for her, but I get the impression that she’s not looking for a solution just for herself but for all kinds of affected artists.

    Jennifer, thanks for providing more background information. Interesting that the cheaper movies you mention I found much more entertaining than the overblown big-budget ones. It would be a sad thing for people to lose jobs, but in general, that’s the way of the economy over all, isn’t it? We no longer need as many factory worker or secretaries, either, as automation replaces blue/pink collar employees. Many middle-class jobs are going away, and it appears, never coming back.

  4. Dwight Williams Says:

    Sounds like she’s got the makings of a co-op venture already underway, then…?

  5. Jennfer Hachigian Says:

    Johanna, it’s true that the economy affects the entertainment industry. Less disposable income means fewer ticket/DVD sales and more NetFlix/GameFly rentals. Piracy just adds to the hurt.

    It’s also true that TV shows and films do not need to be expensive to be entertaining. It’s possible that we will end up with the entertainment that we can afford. I just hope the floor stops at the budget required for Moon ($5 million) and not at the level required to create Blair Witch Project ($60,000) or Paranormal Activity ($11,000).

  6. William George Says:

    Bah! This story pisses me off.

    She is making an 80s style B&W SF comic that doesn’t fit in with the current tastes of the markets she’s trying to make a living off of. Her declining sales / pageviews have nothing to do with piracy and everything to do with her not being willing to give up her pet project.

    Success online = Nerd gags.

    Success in the direct market = Wolverine.

    Dave Sim like success stories of the artist with the successful personal vision are few and far between. If you MUST get that personal story/ vanity project out there at all costs, you MUST accept full responsibly for others not picking up on it (for whatever reason).

    Piracy is just the latest in a long line of scapegoats comics people use for poor sales that are the result of their own decisions. (There was no bit torrent when the direct market crashed in the early 90s.) Luckily, internet piracy isn’t very sympathetic, so it’s been making for a good target to point a finger at.

    Kirby, Ditko, Lee: They adapted to the audience. At some point, comic artists forgot they needed to do that and now they don’t have much of an audience left…

  7. Jennfer Hachigian Says:

    William George, I must disagree with you. Just because you do not like A Distant Soil does not mean an audience does not exist for it.

    Although I already own the A Distant Soil graphic novels, I subscribe to the A Distant Soil RSS feed. I enjoy viewing Colleen Doran’s beautiful work one page at a time. In some ways, her art for A Distant Soil reminds me of what I admire in Aubrey Beardsley’s ink art — clean lines contrasted with large areas of white and black, fantastic use of pattern and intricate costume designs. The fun and expressive characters, fantasy story and handsome men are icing on the top for me.

    I have not read comics starring Wolverine since the 90’s because of constantly shifting writer/artists teams and odd editorial decisions (bone claws? Seriously?!). I think A Distant Soil should appeal to anyone who loves beautiful storytelling with a consistent vision.

  8. William George Says:


    But none of my argument was related to the quality of the work, nor did I state an opinion on the quality of A Distant Soil.

    There have been many good comics that don’t sell. There have been many shitty comics that do. The ones that do, sell because they are tailored to that market.

    Justin Beiber does not get angry when Slayer fans don’t buy his CDs. He refocuses on 10 year old girls.

    You get where I’m coming from, now?

  9. James Schee Says:

    Interesting article Johanna, as one of those who doesn’t make as much money as I used to (I worked for the postal service and made 40K a year, but my job got phased out by improved technology and now I’m barely making 22K at different job.) I can empathize with those making less.

    Its probably one of the reasons, along with knowledge of who the people behind the boks are, I don’t do the shortcuts I know I could take if I really wanted to read them.

    Unfortunately technology isn’t going anywhere and you can’t rail against it. Once the monkey is out of the box, you aren’t ever going to get it back in again. Hoping big brother is going to solve your problems for you is kind of a scary proposition to me. Hopefully people will eventually find a way for a legal means for people to get comics they want at a price point and format that works for people.

    Just as Itunes did for music.

  10. Jennfer Hachigian Says:

    It is hard to get where you’re coming from, William George, but I’ve done most of my comics shopping outside of comic shops since 1999. Are modern direct market readers’ tastes truly as narrow as you defined in post #6?

    With the wealth of comics material reviewed on this site, I don’t like the idea that most direct market readers restrict their purchases to “Wolverine.”

    With the great variety of online comics from minus to TwoKinds, I don’t like the idea that most online readers restrict their reading to “nerd gags.”

    But…let’s say you’re spot-on about the narrow tastes of the direct market and online readers, and that A Distant Soil failed to connect with either market because it lacked Wolverine and nerd gags.

    What about the regular bookstore market that A Distant Soil also targets? Bookstores carry a lot of non-superhero material like Sandman, Bone and shojo manga. These books have no Wolverine and no nerd gags. Shouldn’t A Distant Soil feel at home in the regular bookstore market?

  11. William George Says:

    It doesn’t matter what you, me or anyone likes. If the audience doesn’t want to buy your material, they won’t.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Jennifer, while I am dismayed at William’s blunt comments — especially since this post wasn’t about attacking Colleen or her work — I’m afraid he’s right in terms of the direct market audience. With more comics available in bookstores and other alternate venues, those left devoted to the local comic shop are mostly hard-core superhero fans. There’s little support for self-published independent titles, especially those starting up. Bookstores, on the other hand, seem to be seeking current material. The last Distant Soil collection came out early 2006. I’m sure the whole series would be restocked if a new book came out, but until then, maybe not.

  13. Jaylat Says:

    Colleen is a bit strident, but I fully agree with her philosophy and statements. Piracy is wrong, whether or not it’s eating into her sales.

    To me, the logic is very simple:If an artist (like Colleen) asks you not to pirate her work, then don’t do it. It’s both illegal and rude.

    And if you disagree with her business model that is – literally – none of your business. It’s her right to sink or swim as she pleases. She may very well be wrong that, absent piracy, she would sell more, but that’s her call, not yours or mine or anybody else’s.

  14. William George Says:

    I should have recharged the clue stick before swinging it…

  15. Johanna Says:

    The point of having a discussion, Jaylat, as I see it, is to expand beyond my choice or her choice or your choice. She’s discussing business models as part of advising and informing others. If she’s making statements that apply only to her, but someone misunderstands and thinks it applies to everyone trying to do business online, that’s a misconception to correct, don’t you think?

    I do agree with you that I’d like to see copies of self-published work disappear online, because it does make it more difficult for an artist to make a living.

  16. Jaylat Says:

    Joanna, I agree that there are different business models, but what I see Colleen defending is her right to have a particular business model. I agree that she has no automatic right to be successful. But she should be able to try her best without being undermined by piracy. Just because her model doesn’t work for everyone doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be allowed to employ it.

    I’m glad that you agree that piracy of creator-produced work should cease, but it looks to me that you are in less than 100% agreement that in cases like Colleen’s piracy is wrong.

    “People who file-share don’t hate you, artist. They aren’t even thinking about you.” They may not hate you but they are being disrespectful and rude. Especially if the artist / creator has specifically asked that they not do it.

  17. Johanna Says:

    Well, if someone has a business model that requires other people to act contrary to their interests, that business model may not be the most successful. (Talking here in generalities, not specifics.) I don’t think anyone has the “right” to a particular business model. That’s the argument that record companies use, and it’s been shown to not be particularly effective in convincing their customers to go back to the way things used to be.

    It’s a bit weird that you keep using the word “rude”. That’s not a term I often see employed in economic discussions.

  18. Rivkah Says:

    I wonder that many artists don’t just put watermarks over the bottom corners of their pages. All you have to do is put the link to your website so people know where the original source is if they want more. Most people want to do the right thing, and if they know an artist is putting up their work for free online, they’re going to go to the artist’s site instead of risking viruses and heaven only know what else downloading from a pirate site. And most pirates are too freakin’ lazy to edit out watermarks.

    I use pirate sites, but that’s because I like to check things out before risking purchase, and the things I end up loving, want to revisit again and again, and want to read or watch in higher quality, I turn around later and buy. Or I buy other products from artists/writers/directors/etc that may not be available online because it’s practically unknown. I prefer seeing things in print or on DVD, but I have a minimal amount of disposable income (food and art supplies tend to take preference) and pirate sites have exposed me to creatives I never would otherwise have taken the risk on. I’ve even bought manga that hadn’t yet been translated in the US but was scanlated by a fan group.

    And if I hate something I downloaded? I usually end up turning it off no later halfway through anyway. But nobody charges you half-price to see half a movie or read the first chapter of a book.

    As for ads … I use adblocker. Text ads (like google’s and several other sites) still pop up, but image ads do not. I even turn off adblocker for sites I support like this site and DailyKOS (which even has a note at the top asking you to if you visit a lot, which I think is a FANTASTIC idea to let people know how ads affect revenue for their favorite sources), Boing Boing, The Beat, etc. But it seems like most pirate sites I’ve been to use image-based ads. So… are they really making money by my being there?

    Or, if someone’s linking directly to your images from your website and costing you bandwidth, there’s several codes you can get online that’ll make a default image pop up (of your choosing) anytime your images are externally linked.

    Btw. I went and looked just now because I follow “A Distant Soil” on Colleen’s website, and I don’t see any torrents for it. So… I’m not sure where the rest of the piracy is coming from? Just outright banning ads on pirate sites won’t do anything. Especially since well … most piracy sites are hosted overseas anyway! I’m really not sure how this bill would fix anything. If people want to pirate, they’ll find a way, no matter how you try to restrict them. The black market doesn’t go away, it just finds new ways to disguise itself. At least this kind of black market doesn’t raze towns in Mexico … at least as far as I know!

    Plus, as Johanna points out, how do you define a piracy site? Isn’t Google image technically piracy? But it’s also a wonderful tool that gets me to exactly where I need to be, and it links directly to people’s sites rather than hosting on their own servers. So … by supporting a bill like this, you’re ignoring the gray areas that would also be affected by it that do more good than harm.

    Bill and laws don’t fix everything. It’s better to find ways to outsmart the pirates and use them to your advantage!

  19. Bill Williams Says:

    Some of the old business models are losing their punch. New ones have yet to fully form into something profitable except for the brand name exceptions. It is lunacy to attempt to make a business plan work when the fans have a financial incentive to walk away from it.

    For example. In and around my freelance work, I have been writing and drawing a webcomic called SideChicks for four years plus. As a free comic, it has moderate success with 10,000 page views this last Wednesday when a new comic page came out. With the rest of the art team, we knock out page after page after page which get eventually collected for sale as individual issues on sites like WOWIO and Graphic.ly and in a few iPhone shops. The digital collections trickle a few dollars in, but the incoming revenue does not support the creation of the material. For now I am losing money making SideChicks, but I enjoy the work. For that project and except for adding additional material, I have no answer for this question “Why should fans of the series pay for another digital version when they have already read the material?”

    My next webcomic project is a new look at that old business plan. From day one of the new webcomic, the collection is available for digital download. So the project will unspool for free online at a rate of three pages a week for eight months making a total of 51 story pages. (The daily pages are half comic-sized pages for better online viewing.)

    By sitting on the pages as they were created, I was able to time the release of the collection (the paid part of the equation) to the start of the webcomic (the promotional part) which in theory will drive new fans to the sites that sell the finished material. Instead of making the ‘Here’s why you should pay for this…” pitch, I get to make the “Finish reading it early here…” argument which might work better in the digital Gold Rush.

    The end result… Thanks to a few ads on Facebook, I am selling the collection before the webcomic even launches. I’ll know more when the webcomic version of A Cat’s Tale launches on December 1.

  20. Jaylat Says:

    Johanna, I think “rude” perfectly encapsulates what pirates are doing, when they post artist created work against their will. (And I have an advanced degree in economics) I shy away from the word “illegal” (which is a valid description) as many observers, including you, feel that just because something is illegal is not a good reason not to do it.

    Colleen or any artist that has properly copyrighted her work definitely has a “right” not to have pirates post it online. That’s what laws are for – and that’s why they call it copyright.

  21. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for elaborating on that, Jaylat. I’m not sure I find “rude” preferable to “illegal”, but it’s certainly a thought-provoking way to look at it. And thanks, Bill, for describing a creative alternative.

  22. Shaenon Says:

    Will, Colleen’s complaint isn’t that people aren’t reading her comic online. It’s that people are stealing her comic and putting it on pirate sites, directing traffic away from her website. Obviously, people online like her work well enough to steal it, so your argument is bullshit.

    I’ve said this elsewhere, but the naked hatred directed toward comics creators by comics fans really depresses me. If an artist asks you not to steal her work, don’t fucking steal her work. How hard is that?

  23. Andre Says:

    Johanna, it’s somewhat disgusting that you fail to see what’s rude about promoting pirating peoples work. This failure presents you in a bad light. I’m not trying to cause you any problems, I’m just pointing out the errors in your logic. And some person whose working for Marvel or DC has just as much right to have their work protected as someone who’s being selfpublished does. I understand you have issues with DC, but this doesn’t give you any right to steal from their freelancers.

  24. Johanna Says:

    What you see as hatred, Shaenon, I think is more likely ignorance or apathy. But I don’t think that’s a convincing or helpful argument to those feeling hurt and stolen from.

    Andre, so glad you decided to come here to insult me instead of doing it elsewhere, as you have been.

  25. Shaenon Says:

    “There are no facts cited for this claim, just a lot of correlations, which are more or less convincing based on what you already think about the issue.”

    Speaking of rudeness, if you’re going to dismiss the facts creators provide to support their arguments as mere “correlations,” it would be polite for you to cite, oh, I don’t know, ANY FACTS AT ALL to support your absurd fantasy that piracy has no effect on cartoonists’ ability to make a living and control the distribution of their own work.

    Oh, wait, I’m sorry. Apple, one of the largest companies on Earth, is able to provide a money-making aggregate by selling music with the full permission of the artists. That’s totally the same as some anonymous pirate site stealing Colleen Doran’s work so they can make money from it through advertising, none of which will go back to Colleen. Watertight argument there.

    Seriously, Colleen says she doesn’t want her work stolen. Don’t fucking steal her work.

  26. Johanna Says:

    You’ll notice that that’s the same thing I said: “People who enjoy samples of that they see should buy the work” in her case, and those of other self-publishers. (Only I managed to do it without the profanity, which I do try to keep off this site. If you could express any further comments without it, I’d appreciate it.)

    I don’t think I’ve ever said “piracy has no effect”. I think it has less effect than some want to attribute to it, because I don’t believe every online copy read represents a lost sale.

  27. Andre Says:

    Johanna— The thread on Gail’s forum was about the comments and reactions I’ve seen at the Beat, TechDirt, TheHill. CWR was simply part of the discussion, and another example in the creepy new “fans being shitty to artists” culture these articles reflect. It’s not all about you- you just happen to have been one of many horrible reactions I’ve seen to this issue.

  28. Bill Williams Says:

    Sometimes people just like free stuff and feel no sense of obligation to the person that entertained them. That seems to be the dominant internet culture that has people doing back-flips to justify dishonesty.

    On my end, I packaged a collection of three short stories in the mystery/ detective genre as a promotional item with the intent of driving people to the material for sale. That give away collection is available for as a free .pdf download from WOWIO. Almost 400 downloads later, the experiment has not worked. The promotional collections went out, but no extra dollars came back even though there is an afterword stating that if you liked ‘X’ you can get more of it in ‘Y’ for $3.

    Unfortunately it seems the pirate/ theft culture is the dominant internet culture.

  29. Grant Says:

    I’ve often wondered if the majority of those downloading stuff illegally aren’t part of a younger demographic that don’t even have disposable income to begin with. That is, a younger block of people with no record as a buying power in the marketplace who aren’t likely to buy anything. It seems the older folks, early 30s and up are the demographic who actually purchase things.

    This is purely anecdotal, but I don’t know anyone my age who download from pirate sites. If they want a movie they watch Netflix. If they want a comic, they buy it. If they want a trade they go to eBay or Amazon.

    I don’t see how someone stealing and then offering the stolen goods on some pirate site is something that can be considered anything but wrong. And this attitude I see on so many blogs (and I’m speaking in general here) calling it a new business model or it’s the victims fault because their site is more complicated to view free stuff than the pirate sites seems like a rationalization. Kind of reminds me of the Woody Allen film Manhattan Murder Mystery where Keaton is reading an article about some serial killer and Woody says “well, it’s a lifestyle” Not that I’m comparing internet piracy to murder, just the dismissal of doing something wrong as a lifestyle or “that’s just the way it is now“.

    I’ve read Coleen’s articles and kind of agree as it seems pretty common sense to me. In todays world it seems like a losing battle, but I admire her passion. I’ve read Nina Paley’s stuff and find just about everything she says completely incomprehensible. But I’m sure it’s just me. I’m just an old dude who can barely work his email who still buys newspapers from the news stand, so I probably should just stay out of this one all together. ;)

  30. Andrew Farago Says:

    Why is “piracy” in quotes in the title of this piece, by the way? Are the people stealing and redistributing Colleen Doran’s work against her wishes and completely without her consent somehow not pirating the material? Just curious.

  31. Johanna Says:

    Bill, I’m not sure how a poor conversion rate for a free sampler equals a “theft culture”. Although now you’ve got me wondering about Free Comic Book Day publications and *their* conversion rates for follow-up sales. Or free first chapters for online books and their corresponding sales rates.

    Grant, I suspect you’re right in generational differences playing a large part. But then, we don’t know if they will start buying when they do have disposable income. (Or if they’ll ever have disposable income, given what a mess we’ve made of the economy.) Another anecdote: I did a lot of song taping from radio and friends’ albums when I was in school, but as soon as I could, I bought the music I liked most. Now, if I listen to something I’ve sampled online more than a couple times, I buy it too. That fits with many other anecdotes — those who are most actively involved with music online are reportedly the biggest buyers.

    I talk about complicating factors with this issue not to rationalize it, but to aim to understand *why* it’s happening. I don’t believe you can come up with an effective deterrent unless you understand why people are doing it and meet that need another way. Wagging fingers, calling names, or putting out guilt trips (like you, speaking generally) doesn’t effectively fix the problem, so it won’t stop the undesirable behavior.

    Colleen’s articles are effective educationally, but that’s like showing a teenage speeder those crash films in health class. They still aren’t inclined to change behavior until it affects them.

  32. Andrew Farago Says:

    “Although now you’ve got me wondering about Free Comic Book Day publications and *their* conversion rates for follow-up sales. Or free first chapters for online books and their corresponding sales rates.”

    The fundamental difference there is that any FCBD books or the other examples that you mentioned have been distributed by the owners, artists, and/or copyright holders. If a company doesn’t get great follow-through from their FCBD release, that’s their prerogative.

  33. Johanna Says:

    Yes, and so was the free online download that Bill mentioned and I was responding to.

  34. ADD Says:

    Great post, Johanna, this really should be the last word on file sharing, not just comics but any digitally distributed works. It’s too bad some are misinterpreting your nuanced analysis as an ad hominem attack on clueless creators, but, you know, same as it ever was.

    By the way, I’m guessing that the work Colleen Doran is upset about having been pirated is Orbiter, the space thing she did with Warren Ellis. I’ve seen that in the pirate site listings when, you know, researching the subject for journalistic purposes and whatnot.

  35. Jaylat Says:

    Johanna, you just asked a commenter not to use profanity (which I agree with).

    But why should she comply with your request? Because you asked her not to do it? Because if she continued to do it, it would be rude? And how is that any different from asking someone not to post their artwork, where the stakes are much higher?

    Like it or not, “finger-wagging” is what society does to stop undesirable behavior. Just because it’s not always effective doesn’t mean the behavior is any better.

  36. ADD Says:

    She should comply because Johanna is her host, and if she wants to continue to be a part of this discussion, she should follow her host’s wishes in regard to how she conducts herself on this site. What that has to do with file sharing is beyond my ability to comprehend.

  37. Comics A.M. | Pirate Bay convictions upheld, digital piracy debated | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] Carlson and Tim Geiger wade into Colleen Doran’s recent argument against digital piracy. [Comics Worth Reading, […]

  38. Johanna Says:

    Jaylat: Yep, it’s a parallel situation. Glad someone picked up on that. But Shaenon didn’t know my policy until I pointed it out to her — what I considered basic polite behavior either didn’t match her definition of what was acceptable or hadn’t occurred to her.

  39. darryl ayo brathwaite Says:

    I think it’s wrong…dead wrong to sneer at people who have to adapt to making less money.

    As if comic artists have a history of making lots of money to begin with!

    Also, most of the cartoonists who I know who make their living on webcomics are young, single–essentially in a perfect position to survive on love and a few bucks. Try telling that to a decades-long professional in their forties with extra living expenses and financial concerns. You’re saying that those people need to adjust and take a hit in the pocket. I mean, really?

    I have zero understanding of that argument. The comic book artist, of all beings, is the person who needs to buck up and learn to do with less money. This is exactly what is meant by selfishness and fan entitlement. Fans who want the world and want it for free. Fans who see even the hand-to-mouth indie creator as some faceless adversary to be circumvented. We’re living in a generation of people who’re growing up not understanding the value of a dollar. People believing (and knowing) that all that they desire is theirs for the taking. That no pleasure has any cost or value. That ANY desire to make a living at one’s labors is greedy and old fashioned.

    THAT is the new reality and it hurts so violently to see the frustration of a comic soldier recast as a silly old person whining for the glory days.

  40. ADD Says:

    Except Johanna isn’t doing that, Darryl — she’s offering wise advice to creators on how to adapt to changing times, and also suggesting they not get hysterical and make themselves look foolish in the process.

  41. Johanna Says:

    Darryl, I’m sorry you read my comments as unsympathetic. In the paragraph where I talked about changes in my own job life, I intended the opposite — to show that many of us are having to make difficult economic decisions because jobs we liked and wanted to keep doing were taken away from us. We’re all trying to get by on less, and changes are being forced on many people, wrongly in many cases.

  42. Glenn Simpson Says:

    Thank you Johanna for presenting this view. I don’t think people should scan or download the material, but at the same time I think this is because of the legal issues, not because of some assumed level of harm to the creators.

    The scanners are certainly doing the wrong thing, but as someone else mentioned, watermarks or other methods of reminding people something wasn’t meant to be scanned would help.

    But as for the downloaders, I most emphatically believe that the sales lost are very small. There are a ton of scenarios involved.

    1. Guy was buying comics, learned how to download, stops buying and just downloads.
    2. Guy was buying comics, loses much of his income, cuts his buying down and downloads the rest.
    3. Guy wasn’t buying individual issues, was just waiting for trades, so now he downloads the individuals so he can keep up with the story while waiting for the trade to buy.
    4. Guy orders his comics from an online subscription site that only ships monthly. Guy downloads and reads the books he’s already ordered while waiting for his shipment.
    5. Guy buys books, but wants versions to keep on his laptop or as “reading copies”. Downloads what he’s already got.
    6. Guy gave up on comics a long time ago, figured out how to download, starts reading again.
    6a. The guy might have purchased them if they were a lower price, but since $3.99 or $0 are his only choices, he goes for $0.
    6b. Guy reads a few downloads, gets excited about it again, starts buying again, either singles or trades.
    7. Guy buys comics, but on new series he downloads the first couple of issues to make sure he wants to get the whole series.
    And on and on…of all of these scenarios, only #1 and maybe #7 costs anybody any money. A couple of them actually increase sales.

    Making unreasonable assertions does not help the creators’ case.

  43. Brian Fies Says:

    My sympathies lie on the Doran and Garrity end of the scale. I blogged about Colleen a while ago and my position is about the same:

    Creators’ rights are important. Copyright is important. I created something. It was hard work. It took a lot of time. Without me, it wouldn’t exist. I get to decide if my work is best presented on paper, pixels, shadow puppets, or theater-in-the-round. If I want to give it away free, fine. If my publisher and I set a cover price of $4.95 or $24.95, you can pay it or not if you think it’s worth it or not. Those are your only ethical choices. Downloading a copy that someone scanned without my permission is not an ethical choice. It is not the behavior of someone who professes to be a fan.

    It’s not about the money. I’m thrilled when people loan my books to friends or check them out of libraries. I think “Great, another reader!” not “Rats, another lost sale!” It’s about respect. When you take my stuff, you’re telling me it’s literally worthless. I disagree. We may have a legitimate argument about whether it’s worth $4.95 or $24.95, but it’s not worthless.

  44. Melinda Beasi Says:

    When you take my stuff, you’re telling me it’s literally worthless. I disagree. We may have a legitimate argument about whether it’s worth $4.95 or $24.95, but it’s not worthless.

    I think Brian’s comment here really gets at the heart of the matter, and I really hate the fact that so many fans are essentially willing to spit in comics creators’ faces in order to justify having what they want, however they want it.

  45. Jennfer Hachigian Says:

    #42 – 6a. The guy might have purchased them if they were a lower price, but since $3.99 or $0 are his only choices, he goes for $0.

    For what it’s worth, $3.99 and $0 are not the only choices available at this time.

    – Marvel offers all of their modern titles and most of their classics in digital format for $10/month or $60/year ($5/month).

    – DriveThruComics.com has several titles for $0.99/each to $1.99/each in DRM-free PDF format.

    – ComicXology.com also sells digital titles for $1.99/each.

  46. Johanna Says:

    Melinda, Brian, I think someone saying “I’ll read this for free but I’m not willing to pay for it” isn’t the same as “it’s worthless”. They think it’s worth their time and attention, but not their money.

    I agree that creator rights are important. I wanted to highlight in this post (a point I fear got lost in the more emotional debate) the contradiction in companies claiming copyright protections while NOT respecting the rights of the true original creator. That’s one of the reasons I think our copyright system (especially the near-perpetual extensions) needs revision. Brian likely has a different perspective on this because he’s worked with book publishers, which traditionally have had more creator-friendly expectations (like rights reversions) than the American comic publishers.

    Jennfer, don’t forget Archie’s online comics, which works similar to Marvel’s program. The problem is that these services may not provide books a particular customer is interested in. New releases are mostly missing.

  47. Stuart Moore Says:

    Johanna, as usual I agree with the bulk of your post. But I don’t understand this:

    “If I really like reading the new Batwoman because of Greg Rucka’s work, it’s going to be better for him if I buy one of his Whiteout or Queen & Country novels or comics, properties where he actually gets rewards, since he and DC had a falling out.”

    Only Greg could analyze his royalty statements/participation agreements and tell you whether buying WHITEOUT or BATWOMAN is financially better for him; you can’t say that for sure. And either way, DC pays royalties on copies sold to all creative people, even those who hate their guts (which I don’t know is the case here, I hasten to add). So buying a copy of a BATWOMAN trade definitely provides “rewards” for Greg. Am I missing something?

  48. Thad Says:

    Good post and good thread (at least, up until the ad hominems started flowing).

    Here’s the part that got my attention:

    “Pirates aggregate content in ways creators and legit publishers can’t.”

    The correct word isn’t “can’t”, it’s “don’t”.

    I’m not up on illegal comics distribution, but I’ll use TV as an analogy. It would be trivial for a company with the resources the major networks have to create a tool more effective than sabnzbd+. Give me a show right after it airs, DRM-free, in 720p, stored locally and indexed by title and season. Some XBMC-style presentation with metadata would be nice too.

    And if the networks did it, they could provide more reliable availability than Usenet posts, and for God’s sake could index The Daily Show properly and strip “The” off the beginning of its folder name.

    I’d pay for a service like that. They’re not offering it. Instead they’re being unbelievably reactionary — to the point of actually blocking Google TV from streaming shows from their websites. (Because if there’s one thing no programmer will ever be able to figure out, it’s a way to make a Web browser spoof its identity.)

    Not an apples-to-apples comparison, I realize; Colleen does not have the resources of a TV network at her disposal, or even a major comics publisher. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to offer the same kind of service that pirates do; what it means is the infrastructure’s still being built.

    As for the debate on etiquette, I see it as rather a moot point. It should be pretty clear at this point that there are three things that absolutely do not curb piracy: DRM, lawsuits, and moralizing. While I definitely feel for creators who don’t get fairly compensated for their work, telling people they’re being rude is not an effective deterrent to piracy.

    It’s hard to compete with free, especially for an independent creator who doesn’t have many resources at her disposal. But the only way to fight piracy is to provide a more attractive option.

  49. Glenn Simpson Says:

    @Jennifer – I was, of course,only throwing out an example. I only included that to point out that people who download might be interested in buying if the price for that particular item were lower, as opposed to the popular notion that they would have bought it at the asking price if they weren’t just so darn lazy and evil.

    And before someone tells me that doesn’t make it right, I know that. I’m addressing the motive/intent and how it affects lost sales, not the morality of the end action.

  50. Johanna Says:

    Stuart, you’re right, I was guessing in that case. I hope my point — that works that are creator-owned and controlled are likely more rewarding in the long run than work-for-hire — still makes sense. And by rewarding, I don’t just mean financially, but creatively. A story where you control your characters is going to be more satisfying than one where corporate can make declarations that change what you can and can’t do.

    Thad, good points, but you left out one of the major factors preventing existing companies from doing new and exciting things that address customer wants: too many established business models to protect. Comic publishers, for example, are afraid (and rightly so) of damaging the direct market of comic shops if they offer all their new releases day-and-date. How you get from here to there is the hardest question to answer.

  51. jgraff Says:

    Just because someone invents a means for you to do something, that doesn’t mean it’s okay. People are so in love with the “democratization of information” (barf) that they convince themselves the internet’s every use is morally acceptable. If someone invents a new app that allows you to drive by a farmer’s field and beam the crops into the back of your truck, is it okay to do? I guess the farmer should just get with the times and find a new line of work.

  52. david brothers Says:

    Who in this thread has said that piracy is okay? Johanna’s position, and I hope I do not do her a disservice by paraphrasing her here, is that piracy is here, it exists, and it isn’t going anywhere. Now, how can creators adapt and continue to make money in spite of it?

  53. Johanna Says:

    Thanks, David, I’m glad that’s coming through. Yes, my approach is aggressively practical, not idealistic.

  54. Kenny Cather Says:


    I think from now on, when anyone asks me what I think, I’m going to say, “Go read Johanna’s blog.” Once again I find I share an opinion extremely similar to yours only you state it better than I ever could.

  55. Jennfer Hachigian Says:

    I was, of course, only throwing out an example. I only included that to point out that people who download might be interested in buying if the price for that particular item were lower, as opposed to the popular notion that they would have bought it at the asking price if they weren’t just so darn lazy and evil.

    Fair enough. However, I’m starting to wonder if the legitimate, lower-priced digital releases can ever compete with “free.”

  56. Steve Horton Says:

    Johanna and I share the same viewpoint on this, almost to the letter.

    This wouldn’t even be an issue if creators were making money at it. If the income were flowing toward them, most would forget all about the fact that their work isn’t supposed to be distributed that way.

  57. Jay Says:

    I agree with Colleen Doran. Overall piracy hurts not helps the industry and creators. As consumers we vote with our wallets. If you think $3.99 is too much for a book, don’t buy it. If you want digital comics, then get them digitally (& legally).

    PS behind the “evil” corporations, are hard working artists & writers that just want to make a living at their chosen profession.

  58. david brothers Says:

    “Fair enough. However, I’m starting to wonder if the legitimate, lower-priced digital releases can ever compete with “free.””

    Yes, they can. ComiXology is doing very well, from the outside looking in, and Marvel has reported great sales for Ultimate Thor, their first day and date digital series.

    Some people aren’t going to buy legit ever. They have been here forever, they aren’t going anywhere, and honestly, they’re irrelevant as far as this argument goes. Other people pirate because it’s easy. Other people want to support, but can’t. IDW has had 40% of their sales come from overseas, for example.

    It isn’t going to be the same as it was before, and expecting everything to remain the same is just… backward.

  59. Glenn Simpson Says:

    @Jay – not meaning to be argumentative, but you don’t have to tell people not to buy something that costs $3.99 if they don’t think it’s worth it. That’s what’s happening now. What needs to change is to make more people feel that paying $3.99 IS worth it, for whatever reason.

    On a different note, one concept that occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve seen addressed is the notion that if you spend $3.99 on a physical comic, one might feel rather obligated to keep up with it, store it, worry about what happens to it. Even if you plan to get rid of it, one doesn’t often just throw away something that costs $3.99. That’s going to make it difficult to compete with a free download that you can just erase later and not feel like you’ve lost anything.

  60. Melinda Beasi Says:

    Melinda, Brian, I think someone saying “I’ll read this for free but I’m not willing to pay for it” isn’t the same as “it’s worthless”. They think it’s worth their time and attention, but not their money.

    I suspect that to the creator, there’s really no difference. You’re basically telling them you don’t think their work is good enough for them to be paid for it. The message is pretty much the same.

  61. Andrew Farago Says:

    Just to save everyone some time when going through this whole discussion:

    Brian Fies: Right.
    Colleen Doran: Right.
    Shaenon Garrity: Right.

    The people who are, you know, actually create content that’s being pirated and whose livelihoods are threatened by people not treating content as something of value.

    Now let’s get back to the piracy advocates posting variations of “it’s not worth as much as they’re asking me to pay,” “but I really wanted it,” “it’s the artist’s fault for not being a better businessperson,” “there’s no way to prove that piracy actually costs people sales” and “Steve Lieber made money off of people stealing his work, so that model will definitely work for everyone else.”

  62. Brian from Canada Says:

    David Brothers says it right: expecting everything to remain the same is just… backward.

    What he forgets to mention is that it’s the larger corporations that have those expectations — even if they won’t admit it.

    Local comic shops are done. They lost to competition just like the newsstand lost to the supermarkets in the 60s and 70s. They’re now card shops and hobby shops as well, and it all really comes down to what focus the business wants. If the store owner or employees are pushing gaming, gaming is going to outsell comics.

    Diamond got them into book stores to match manga. Now they have to enter the digital market… and that’s going to be tough because it’s going to take a major plunge to think in iTunes numbers.

    What do I mean? I mean that lower price = higher sales.

    DC and Marvel’s best iPad sales MUST start at the free comics. Every teenager I’ve seen reading comics using those devices is starting with the free and working on to the sale items.

    And that’s the market that online piracy is connected to. Yes, we all know it’s wrong and it’s stealing — but look at the way it interacts with the community: downloaders follow their interest about what the product is, and pay for it IF they think it has value.

    That’s what I hear at the local bookstore: comments on what graphic novels are good because what’s been read online, either through paid subscription, free samplers, downloaded or reading someone else’s copy. (Note that all four have little revenue to the main publisher until the sale.)

    It’s also what we’re seeing online. Sweden has the highest downloading rate… and the highest music sales. Canada is berated by the US for its lax approach to copyright, yet sales are (on some sites) said to be per capita higher than in the US.

    And then there’s the whole Radiohead fiasco: Radiohead went suddenly mum after saying that only 40% paid the $5 for In Rainbows, but it was more money than they saw from EMI.

    I feel for Coleen Doran and all the other creators out there. I really do. It is a labour of love to get your creations out there and want to succeed. Independent artists need that.

    But at the same time, you can’t blame piracy outright. It is a force in the market that has continued DESPITE the lawsuits and complaints against it. Someone has to come up with a model for handling it, and with each Facebook or YouTube campaign we’re beginning to see more and more that we’re headed that way — for the ‘net generation that sees piracy as old-fashioned as stop signs to run through and speed bumps that exist to just annoy.

  63. Glenn Simpson Says:

    @Andrew Farago

    Just because the artist is the one being potentially harmed doesn’t make that artist an expert on how to solve the problem. If someone commits a crime against me, does that make me an expert on their motives? No, all I know is what is happening – I’d have to by psychic to know why. Heck, in most crimes I’d at least be able to definitively say what my damage was, but you can’t even do that here.

    I also disagree that you have to be pro-piracy to feel the need to point out flaws in someone’s anti-piracy argument. If someone wants to fight it, that’s great – fight it on the basis that it’s illegal, and that it MIGHT be costing you some sales. Use true and knowledgeable statements to make your case, and people will be more likely to sympathize with you.

    But just to make sure my comments fit in…”there’s no way to prove that piracy actually costs people sales!” :)

  64. david brothers Says:

    “Now let’s get back to the piracy advocates posting variations of “it’s not worth as much as they’re asking me to pay,” “but I really wanted it,” “it’s the artist’s fault for not being a better businessperson,” “there’s no way to prove that piracy actually costs people sales” and “Steve Lieber made money off of people stealing his work, so that model will definitely work for everyone else.””

    Has anyone here said any of this? The closest, and really not even close at all, was Johanna saying that it’s better to support Rucka’s creator-owned work than his corporate comics.

    Your Steve Lieber point is especially absurd–it just shows that being in the right place, at the right time, with the right product can give you a bump. Who says that’s a viable business plan for everyone ever? Or even a business plan at all? It worked for Lieber and Parker because they saw an opportunity (a particularly dedicated person on 4chan pirating their work and extolling its virtues, rather than a faceless torrent on Demonoid) and jumped on it (Hey, if you like it, we’re selling it, too! Also here is some fun Q&A) and then (most importantly for me) learned from it (Underground is now available digitally).

    You’re running down talking points that don’t actually apply to the argument at hand, and are instead just stock “Piracy is wrong. FULL STOP.” rhetoric.

    Of course piracy is wrong. Everyone knows that. It also isn’t going away, just like how back when I was a kid, barbershop bootleg tapes were prevalent or a gang of people I knew had more blank cassette tapes and CDs than actual discs or tapes. It’s probably just like how art forgery was the new hotness a few hundred years ago.

    Times change. One of those changes is piracy. It’s not going back in the bottle, and to be honest, it’s not like people just now started stealing movies/music/etc. The question isn’t whether or not piracy is wrong. It’s “how do we make money in spite of it?” rather than shouting “This is bad horrible ugh what is the deal!” every time someone so much as mentions piracy and forgets to say “But also this is bad.”

    I mean, that method doesn’t work for the War on Drugs, sex education, adultery, music piracy, police brutality, racism, alcohol prohibition, murder, or people wearing those awful teal green skinny jeans. Everyone knows that all of those things are of questionable morality at best, particularly those ugly jeans, but the problem is educating people as to risks and alternatives (or whatever, depending on the argument in question), rather than telling them how stupid they are for having an opinion that isn’t purely binary.

    What I can’t figure out is why Johanna’s post deserves the “you’re a big dummy wrongface you piracy advocate possible pirate” treatment.

  65. Bill Williams Says:

    Again with this. Why does a reasonable discussion of digital theft always break down to the old ‘Piracy = Murder’ argument?


    Actually fear of punishment motivates some people to keep from stealing.

    Does anyone else feel like there is a ‘Quitters Inc.’ type story in here?

  66. Andrew Farago Says:

    “What I can’t figure out is why Johanna’s post deserves the “you’re a big dummy wrongface you piracy advocate possible pirate” treatment.”

    Maybe because that’s the dismissive tone she took with, among other things, Colleen’s claim that piracy has had a direct effect on her bottom line?

  67. Andre Says:

    “What I can’t figure out is why Johanna’s post deserves the “you’re a big dummy wrongface you piracy advocate possible pirate” treatment.”

    Don’t forget the “I can’t have my dreamjob, so why should you?” logic. That’s a pretty harsh suggestion to anyone working full time in comics. I think Johanna underestimated the logic of her argument- it’s a lot of insulting hoops to jump through.

    Bill- I’d say it’s less Piracy=murder, as Piracy=Rude Behaviour that’s also Criminal. Like Shoplifting, or Graffitti, or a Mugging. I’d say it’s most like a mugging “You can’t stop me, so give me all your comics!”. People survive it, but it’s not exactly the most tasteful thing to do. It’s rude, decietful and disrespectful of their rights as a content creator.

  68. Andre Says:

    To clarify, my stance is that an artist’s rights are an artist’s rights- that by itself should be enough reason not to pirate their work. All the blather about how you can’t stop piracy, or how grey morals are, or how the youth today are differnt [incidentally, I’m guessing I’m younger then most of the posters here, so I don’t really accept the “young people don’t care” diatribe] is just that, blather to justify doing someonelse a horrible wrong. Tom Spurgeon’s posts http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/more_on_comics_piracy_entitlement/ explains it all far more eloquently then I can. So go read that, as I have nothingelse to say.

  69. William George Says:

    One more time. In convenient bullet point form;

    – The direct market is hostile to A Distant Soil type material. The internet is less so, but it’s still not the favored style.

    – All comic titles in the direct market shed readers as it goes on. All of them.

    – The above have been constant factors in the industry for decades now. Thousands of titles have fallen by the wayside for reasons not related to the internet.

    – A Distant Soil (and many other titles) experiences the same decline in a market it wasn’t well received in to begin with.

    – Logic leap: It’s because of piracy and we should get the government to pass some invasive laws.

    Piracy is an unsympathetic target. I can see why so many jump upon it for a failing project. And I know geeks like to feel like they’re under attack all the time as well so a shady collection of malicious internet pirates fits that roll perfectly.

    But there are better, more reasonable reasons for the “Sales are slipping” situation under discussion.

    I’m done with this topic. Too much idiocy being spouted.

  70. Jaylat Says:

    As a comic creator I find this blog post and this discussion very disconcerting. Apparently it’s more of a big deal to post a profanity on a blog than it is to copy someone’s life work and post it for others to download for free. Piracy is to be expected – live with it artists and writers! But using the F-word in my blog? That’s going too far.

    I’m sorry I don’t want to be hash but that’s the clear message I’m getting from you Johanna.

  71. Glenn Simpson Says:

    Artist’s rights are reason enough that people shouldn’t pirate their work. That has nothing to do with whether you can stop it. Nobody’s saying you shouldn’t stop it if you could. They’re saying you can’t even if you want to.

    That doesn’t make it right. Speeding is wrong, but you’re not going to manage to stop people from doing it.

    I don’t think anybody is trying to defend it as right. They trying to defend it as unavoidable at this point. There’s a difference. To quote David Brothers from like 7 posts up…”Of course piracy is wrong. Everyone knows that. It also isn’t going away…”

  72. Rivkah Says:

    I find it odd how this discussion centers more around whether pirating is right or wrong (which it seems everybody agrees that it’s wrong) and less about the pirating issue being used to pass a law that would be invasive and potentially take away other freedoms.

    Are people so quick to secure their works behind iron bars, that they’re willing to give away other freedoms? And not just their own, but other people’s as well? The repercussions of passing this law seem far worse than the rights that it would protect, and considering how modern digital pirates work … if at all! They’ll just keep finding other ways to function. Closing down Napster didn’t stop people from downloading music; they just found other ways to do it.

    And then the restrictions such a law could potentially place on the advertising market and legit file sharing outlets. I mean, look at modern copyright laws: most of them were set up to protect creator and company rights, and yet they’ve become so restrictive that they’ve suffocated the creative, technological, and scientific markets.

    And then think of the money it would take to ensure sites are complying. There are MILLIONS of sites out there. How many tax dollars would need to go to comb every site? Would it require people to register their site as sharing files? The logistics of this law are insane. There’s no way to enforce it without enabling a technological, social, and monetary nightmare.

    It’s one things for everybody to agree that pirating is generally wrong, but the disagreement in this thread actually falls on the solution: to send out the police and lock down the streets so NOBODY gets through, or to outwit the pirates and steal the goods back from their ship?

    Personally, I’d rather be the creative person who outwits them and works WITHIN the system, than the one fighting it from without. FIGHTING. DOESN’T. WORK. Look at the music industry! So many laws to prevent pirating of music and people are STILL downloading illegally. And the rest of the honest folk are stuck with DRM and programs that only work a certain way and a million loopholes the pirates don’t have to jump through because guess what? The pirated stuff doesn’t have all the bull you have to wade through. It seems to me, that by passing law after law to restrict pirating, you add more and more shackles to the honest folk out there.

    This wouldn’t normally get me if there weren’t already so many laws in the US aimed at protecting people that end up shackling honest people’s hands as well. Passing laws like this rarely creates the solution that the laws creators hope for. I think it’s stupid and that there are far better ways to find a solution than hoping that lawmakers and police and judges, and the government know how to put this law into action without hurting honest folk in the process.

  73. Steve Horton Says:

    It’s an irony that many DVDs now have an unskippable sermon about not copying movies, a sermon that only law-abiding citizens will ever see.

  74. Johanna Says:

    This is for Jaylat, because I enjoyed his/her earlier comments and I’m concerned s/he has exactly the wrong impression in #70 — I do not support pirating self-published comics by individual creators. I don’t think people should do it.

    And yes, like Rivkah, I’m very scared about the government having the right to shut down sites someone disagrees with. A lot of “pirate” sites are just search engines to material hosted elsewhere. That’s like shutting down the newspaper because they print where crime happens.

  75. Johanna Says:

    Thanks to everyone for keeping this relatively civil while expressing some very differing opinions.

  76. Andre Says:

    Johanna- then what about creator owned works published by large publishers? Does an artist deserve to be ripped off because they managed to parlay their skills into good-paying work?
    And what about decent, hardworking freelancers? Do they deserve to have their work undermined [whose continuation depends on sales through legit venues] just because they work on a for-hire project like Might Thor, a Disney comic, or something for IDW?

    When you start breaking down who deservers protection and who doesn’t, it becomes a disturbing affair. Shouldn’t all artists deserve equal protection??? It’s like saying only poor people should be protected against credit card fraud. Middle-class folks should be protected against it too. Rights are rights- it’s not for you to decide who gets them. Everyone gets them.

    Last I check, Newspapers weren’t an inbetween for crimes- they jsut post the news. If the aggregators were just a list of articles, not a direct venue to find criminal activity to participate in, it’d be a different story.

  77. Rivkah Says:

    “Last I check, Newspapers weren’t an inbetween for crimes- they jsut post the news. If the aggregators were just a list of articles, not a direct venue to find criminal activity to participate in, it’d be a different story.”

    Actually, pirate sites work very much the same way. Rarely do pirate sites directly host copyrighted material; THAT issue was taken care of nearly a decade ago by copyright laws passed by the music industry! Instead, like 95% of the internet, they host links to other sources. In the case of pirate sites, they link to torrent files that link directly to people’s computers that hold bits and pieces of a larger file spread across countries. The pirated info isn’t in one place. It’s spread everywhere; it’s the loophole they’ve found, and there’s no effective way to close it without shutting down MOST of the internet. A simple youtube video embedded in your site? Or a link to a picture you liked? Where do you start to draw the line? That’s link-sharing, just like pirate sites us to run their businesses. Soooooo … how do you legally determine who’s a pirate and who isn’t?

    Actually, I can’t think of any sites that directly host files except for occasional bulletin boards, and there already ARE legal repercussions for that; you can sue people who directly share files. Unless they’re in another country that doesn’t recognize you country’s copyright laws, that is. Not everybody online lives in the USA.

  78. Rivkah Says:

    Btw, a lot of “pirate” sites also often contain non-copyrighted and creative commons material or freeware. I actually find it more reliable to get freeware via torrent sites I trust because I can vet the file for potential bugs and viruses via the comments and feedback. There’s a heckload of sites out there that offer supposed freeware that are merely mediums for back doors into your computer.

  79. Jaylat Says:

    Johanna, thanks for your reply, but if you feel that way it doesn’t (to me) come across in your writing. You appear to be rationalizing piracy with statements like these: “Sure, it’s illegal, but lots of things are that people do every day” or “why should I “respect” a faceless company?” Also your using quotation marks for the words piracy and crime make you appear to be less than convinced at their accuracy.

    Your latest reply is what I was looking for and didn’t find in your discussion: “I do not support pirating self-published comics by individual creators. I don’t think people should do it.”

    As a comic creator I would love to see your statement as the title of a blog post, not buried in the comments. (And without the quotation marks!)

  80. Johanna Says:

    In this case, of the original post, I wasn’t making my own statement on the issues — I was responding to comments and arguments made by others. That’s why I was shooting down some of the common anti-piracy statements in the statements you quote; if you see that as “rationalizing piracy”, well, that’s probably because I think we’re starting from different positions and assumptions. :)

    I do find the word “piracy” kind of silly, and calling it “theft” even more so. Thus the quotes. By adopting that terminology, anti-sharing folks are, in a way, making the act seem sexier and daring. Of course, “copyright violation” is much longer to type.

  81. Rivkah Says:

    Goodbye free speech. Already they’re pulling down sites that have legit uses: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/11/us-government-seizes-82-websites-draconian-future

    Technically, E-bay could be taken down with this new law that passed, too. They just fought a copyright lawsuit against Tiffany’s for fakes sold on their site (you really expect large sites to know if EVERY item is real or not? like the sites already taken down, they remove products they’re made aware of being frauds. As a reseller, you can’t know if EVERYTHING you sell is legit or not. that’s why they have a seller feedback system in place to prevent it.). But new laws such as this could potentially allow the government to go around the legal ruling and take down such sites without the site even being taken to a court of law.

    SO DUMB PEOPLE! The right to a FAIR. TRIAL. is in our CONSTITUTION. Stop giving away our freedoms!

  82. Rivkah Says:

    I feel sick. The internet was once supposed to be the ultimate of technological freedoms, and yet it’s being taken over by THIS: http://boingboing.net/images/xeni/seized_cf6b.jpg (yes, that’s the actual image that pops up on the sites that are taken over, not just a made-up boing-boing image)

    In many of these cases, some of these sites were examples of the USERS of websites, not the CREATORS abusing and infringing copyright law. Many of the sites took down files they were made aware were violating copyright. Heck, most news aggregate sites could be taken down by this because there’s almost always eventually copyrighted content that sneaks its way in.

    People who want to pass a law for every little bump in the night, disgust me. These are the small things that gradually turn a freedom loving country into a police state. This is why I want to bury my head every time I read the news anymore. You people trembling beneath the covers, wishing the government to take the boogeyman away should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Or as Ben Franklin so well put it: “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”

  83. Rivkah Says:

    Or rather: “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” Apparently I was misquoting, but same concept.

  84. Thom Says:

    “Don’t forget the “I can’t have my dreamjob, so why should you?” logic. That’s a pretty harsh suggestion to anyone working full time in comics. I think Johanna underestimated the logic of her argument- it’s a lot of insulting hoops to jump through.”

    This is a deliberate misinterpreation… her point was simply, the rest of us are making less money-facing cuts and so on…why should an artist expect to be immune. Sometimes the dream job is going to mean one suffers a paycut…no matter what industry you are in.

  85. Darryl Ayo B. Says:

    Joanna (reply at # 41)

    It is my own mistake if I misinterpreted your stance. I would like to indicate that I withdraw my comment as no longer valid.

  86. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify, Darryl. I suspect you weren’t the only one thinking that. I should have been clearer in the first place, but at least I could elaborate on my intent.

  87. Andrew Farago Says:

    “I do find the word ‘piracy’ kind of silly, and calling it ‘theft’ even more so. Thus the quotes.”

    Yeah, “silly” is definitely the word I’d use when discussing an artist’s livelihood or intellectual property rights. Oh, those silly pirates” and their “theft.” LOLZ ROTFLMAO :)

  88. Jaylat Says:

    Johanna again thank you, but you are still giving me the clear impression that “piracy” or “theft” of artist content is really not a big concern for you. I suspect if you were the artist yourself you would not find it “silly” to use these terms to describe their unauthorized distribution. And it’s not ”sharing” it’s taking, against the artists will.

    I still think that “rude” is the best adjective for pirates, although taking one’s art without consent is actually much more than just being rude.

    And I think the best way to stop piracy is to have people consider it socially unacceptable. Just like using the F-word on your blog. Only worse – much worse.

  89. ADD Says:

    Jaylat — I don’t think Johanna is saying piracy is not a big concern, I think she’s saying it’s as inevitable and unavoidable as gravity, and therefore requires a change in thinking at every level of the industry. Doesn’t mean it’s not a concern, just that a lot of the posturing and complaining ultimately is meaningless, while efforts to adjust to the situation and attempt to make it work for individual creators is a better use of time and energy.

  90. Johanna Says:

    Jaylat, I’ve had my creative work — essays and posts here — pirated. Some of it I’ve been able to stop; some I haven’t. I’ve come to terms with it and done what I thought best at the time. Please don’t assume that I would agree more fully with you “if I were an artist” — I am, in terms of creating content and running a business around it.

    Also, please don’t read too much into me attempting to create a more light-hearted tone here (as a counterpoint for some of the dogmatism). Maybe, along those lines, the “rude” approach is a better way to go. :)

  91. Andrew Farago Says:

    “Some of it I’ve been able to stop; some I haven’t. I’ve come to terms with it and done what I thought best at the time.”

    That’s great. That’s the approach you want to take with your work. Colleen Doran apparently takes a different approach with her work. If an artist has a zero-tolerance approach to piracy, then that should be respected. What’s so hard about that?

  92. Jaylat Says:

    Johanna: Sorry, I didn’t mean to say you weren’t an artist (there are a lot of hot buttons in these conversations!).

    I agree that dogmatic is not good, but there is a clear boundary here between right and wrong. I think calling piracy “rude” is a good alternative – I hope you will consider using it in the future.

  93. Johanna Says:

    Oh, no offense taken, Jaylat — I just thought it was a good point to throw in that I’ve struggled with having my work copied online as well. Some people don’t realize that. And maybe we have come to a workable compromise with your suggestion. How exciting for an internet discussion!

  94. Andrew Farago Says:

    Again, it’s all well and good that you’ve come to terms with people pirating your work, and you’ve apparently found a solution that works for you. Colleen Doran (and plenty of other artists) don’t want to go that route, so why not respect that?

  95. Johanna Says:

    Andrew, you apparently missed comments 15, 26, 74, and the original post, where I said people shouldn’t copy Colleen’s work.

  96. Andrew Farago Says:

    “I do not support pirating self-published comics by individual creators. I don’t think people should do it.”

    That’s your moral stand on this? Rip off work from larger publishers all you want, but hands off anything that’s creator-owned?

    “I do agree with you that I’d like to see copies of self-published work disappear online, because it does make it more difficult for an artist to make a living.”

    Same comment as above. I know artists who work for major publishers who are losing work left and right, and I can’t name a single comic shop that I’d categorize as “thriving” right now. Just because Disney and Warner Bros. are giant corporations doesn’t mean that there aren’t Marvel and DC artists who are barely getting by.

    If you’re fine with having that as your official stance, go right ahead. Download Colleen’s Vertigo graphic novels and pat yourself on the back for not pirating copies of A Distant Soil. And excuse me if I’m not going to cite posts 15, 26 and 74 as evidence that you’re a friend to comics creators.

  97. Johanna Says:

    I think the situation is more nuanced when we’re talking about comics whose legal creators are corporations. And I doubt we’re going to come to agree on much further. Your continued disdain and repetitive comments aren’t going to change that. It would be nice if, as Jaylat and I did, we could talk about the issues with respect for differing opinions and potentially come to additional points of agreement, but you appear to value dogmatism over discussion. That’s why I said on Twitter that I’m anti-anti-piracy — too many of the advocates approach fanaticism in their positions, and they seem to feel any variance from “all online copies are wrong all the time always” allows them to be as rude as they wish. I think that attitude helps make pirates, not stop them.

  98. Jaylat Says:

    Johanna, I hope you won’t reject Andrew’s message because of the way it’s phrased. I agree fully with everything that Andrew is saying, but I know you’re not going to be bludgeoned into accepting it. So I’m happy with small victories (“rude”) that might eventually grow into a larger agreement.

    Still, I have to wonder: if I hire a production assistant (or two) does that make me an evil corporation? At what point does my little comic empire turn into a nasty cabal that deserves to be pirated?

    And there’s plenty of vitriol on both sides. I can see why comic creators would get angry because of the time and effort they spend on their craft. But why do piracy advocates feel justified in getting angry? It’s hard not to think they are just being jerks.

  99. Thom Says:

    Technically, corporations consider artists doing drawings of their copyrighted characters that the company has not hired them to draw copyright infringement.

    An artist drawing, say, Wolverine, for a commission by someone other than Marvel is committing copyright infringement. Does that mean artists are guilty of piracy? What right does an artist have to draw characters they do not own to earn a profit? If DC isn’t paying you to draw Superman, but rather someone else is, what right do you have to draw Batman?

    Of course, Marvel and DC have tended to look the other way (but not always) and Disney has gone after artists in the recent past. As I am understanding the comments here, all artists would agree that it is wrong for them to make money drawing characters they do not own the rights to for money (unless the person paying them is said copyright owner).

  100. Andrew Farago Says:


    You’ve pretty much advocated the piracy of non-creator-owned work, hence my disdain for your opinions on the subject of piracy. You put “piracy” in quotes in your article title, you practically dismissed Colleen’s claims that piracy has hurt her work as fantasy, and you won’t use a word any stronger than “rude” when discussing how piracy hurts creators.

    As little respect as I have for your opinions, it’s still ten times the respect that you’ve shown to comics creators throughout this discussion. Yeah, that’s dogmatic, but I don’t think “fans” can claim any moral high ground by picking and choosing what they steal from artists.

  101. Johanna Says:

    Now you’re just trying to cause trouble, Thom. :)

    Jaylat, I really respect the way you’re participating in this discussion. You’re a credit to your “side”. I think the questions you’re asking about assistants and the like are covered in the term “self-published”. The person who actually created the work still holds the copyright, whether they call themselves Jane Artist or Artist Productions Inc. I’m contrasting that, in the “creator respect” part of the discussion, with corporations with boards of directors who had nothing to do with the creation of the properties they control. I think that’s a pretty clear difference to most people, even if someone like Will Eisner does end up going from one to something close to the other.

    I haven’t seen any sharing advocates getting angry, unless it’s in reaction to being called evil and the scum of the earth in anti-piracy diatribes. I understand that there may be more extreme positions elsewhere (someone mentioned someone talking about getting rid of all copyright, for instance), but at least it hasn’t wandered in here.

    Andrew, I don’t think Colleen’s claims are “fantasy” — I think they’re based in emotion instead of fact. No one has thoroughly studied how much sharing affects sales one way or another, because people are afraid (imo) of what they might find out. Everyone’s already made up their minds in most cases as to whether it’s beneficial (building new readership) or detrimental (replacing sales). No one’s got real numbers, although anecdotal evidence supports either one side or the other, depending on sympathies.

    I’ve never claimed the high ground, by the way. I’m making a practical argument that says, in short, you’re not going to stop people copying your work by wagging your finger and calling them names.

  102. Thom Says:

    Who me??? :)

    I just started to get curious, considering how vehement some folks have been, if they stick to their ethics even if it might impact their bottom line.

    I presume every artist involved would refuse to take money at a convention to draw a picture of Spider-Man.

    Or is that the line where it becomes more “nuanced”?

    But what do I know? I don’t download comics and my response to not being able to purchase them anymore was to just stop reading them.

  103. Steve Horton Says:

    Thom makes an excellent point. It’s easy to point the finger at piracy and call it theft and all that (and though technically, legally, it’s copyright violation, theft is a good moral word for it), but on the other hand, artists can and do make six figure incomes drawing commissions of proprietary characters without permission, at conventions and through the mail. Some even sell prints and sketchbooks featuring those characters. Morally, one violation is as wrong as another, but piracy seems more wrong because the creators aren’t deriving an income from it; the commissions industry seems less wrong because it’s badly needed income in between gigs. But both are equally wrong legally. Now, if creators can leverage filesharing for them (somehow; I don’t have any clue how) and turn it into an industry, it then falls into the “less wrong” camp, doesn’t it?

  104. Andrew Farago Says:

    “But both are equally wrong legally.”


    Corporations look the other way on commissions because the artists provide a service for them. Publishers tend to be cool with a one-off drawing of a character that’s not intended for reproduction. I don’t think anyone at Marvel from the top down has an issue with one of their artists, past or present, getting a little money from drawing one-off pictures of Spider-Man. It’s one of those perks that offsets all the hardship of being a working artist.

    Putting that on equal footing with someone posting this week’s Spider-Man comic online for free, undercutting Marvel’s online sales, the creative team’s single issue sales, eventual trade sales…I don’t think those are remotely in the same ballpark of “wrong.”

    Back on the Colleen Doran issue again, you don’t need to do much research to figure out that if she gets ad revenue from traffic to her website, then anytime work from her website is posted elsewhere, it’s costing her hits and advertising money. That’s something that was brought up waaaaay earlier in this discussion, and has been pretty much ignored, probably because it’s tangible proof that piracy can negatively affect a creator’s bottom line.

  105. Steve Horton Says:

    You just made my point for me, Andrew; commissions seem less wrong because it provides needed revenue for the “hardship of being a working artist”, as you put it. It’s still a cut-and-dried case of copyright violation, and companies have every right to put a stop to it, and have done so in the past.

    The difference to you is that you’ve been able to rationalize this copyright violation morally, and are unable to do so regarding another type of the same thing. Others have been able to rationalize it, and it’s not as cut and dried as “fans” versus “creators”, as you’ve made it out to be. Have you read Mark Waid’s Harvey Awards speech?

    (We’re getting off subject, but commissions seem more wrong to me when the artist spends his or her non-drawing time berating the company whose IP he or she profits from, or when the artist takes payment and fails to produce the commission in a timely manner, or ever.)

  106. Steve Horton Says:

    And I don’t think profiting from someone’s IP against their wishes is “providing a service”… in the end, you’re devaluing it and risking that company losing control of their copyright through non-enforcement.

    Likewise, it bothers me when piracy aggregators earn tons of money through Google Ads and the like. “Information wants to be free”, but you’re cashing the check, eh?

  107. Andrew Farago Says:

    How did commissions even get dragged into this, anyway? As I said, copyright holders are willing to look the other way on it for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it keeps the talent happy. How many covers is Adam Hughes going to do for DC if they issue a cease-and-desist on all of his convention sketches featuring their characters? Whether or not companies should be policing their freelancers on commissions is a completely separate issue.

  108. Jaylat Says:

    I think the whole economic angle is irrelevant. If Colleen is losing her blouse or rolling in dough doesn’t really matter. The point is that it’s her content and she is asking people not to pirate it. Why shouldn’t they respect her request?

    Also Johanna, I’ve had some pretty nasty interactions with piracy advocates who are (huge understatement) somewhat less than concerned over what happens to content creators. They can be really ugly for people with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

  109. Gail Simone Says:

    Respectfully, Colleen’s experiences are not imaginary. They are real, and practical. They aren’t hypothetical.

    It’s revolting to see some of the comments directed at her for trying to protect a project she has devoted most of her life to.

    The idea that it’s all some selfish foolishness is particularly nauseating. Aside from perhaps Neal Adams, I can’t think of another creator who has spent as much time working to preserve the rights of all creators as Colleen.

    I believe it’s possible to have this debate civilly even when you are diametrically opposed to your opponent’s view. But I would take Colleen’s account of her OWN website, her OWN product, and her OWN P&L over the random and flippant speculation of others.

    It’s a bit upsetting.

  110. Rivkah Says:

    Hi Gail?

    Do you happen to know if Colleen has any statistics showing exactly how pirating has affected her sales? I tried looking and didn’t see anything. And I don’t mean statistics showing that one month’s sales went from XXXX and then down to XXX the next month (because time itself has a direct affect on sales), but ones that show causal relationships between pirating and sales.

    It’s nice that, as a creator, someone’s looking after my rights, but I feel that this particular bill isn’t the right approach and that it’s even detrimental to the growth of the internet and free speech in general, invasive of many of our Constitutional rights.

    As a creator, I would abhor sacrificing other people’s rights in order to better secure my own. We can FIGHT the piracy battle. Smartly. But does it have to be THIS particular way? By passing laws that infringe on the gray area of other people’s lives, people who are actually making an honest living that could and eventually would be affected by this bill?

    I think instead of trying to pass broad-sweeping laws and bills, maybe instead it would help more to set up an organization assisting creatives about how to protect their work. There are already plenty of laws out there that allow creators to take legal action. But also, there are smart ways to keep people from directly stealing images from your site and ways to redirect pirated traffic BACK to your site. Just not everybody has the know-how. I mean, *I* can think of at least ten ways to deal with it in non-invasive ways that actually would help GROW sales for a creator, using the very pirating community that many find so invasive.

    So why couldn’t a community of such ideas and motivated be put together to that creators can choose FOR THEMSELVES whether or not to put such ideas into action?

  111. Steve Horton Says:

    I for one would really like to hear some of these ideas.

    As far as A DISTANT SOIL goes … a cursory Google search shows that it’s simply not available from pirates at the moment. Most of what you see is fake listings that repeat your Google search back to you, and try to get you to click on the links and fill your PC with spyware.

  112. Rivkah Says:

    Btw, the comic I’m finishing up now, which is entirely self-funded and self-published, I plan on implementing a lot of the ideas I’ve thought of to use the black market to advantage and establishing a way to keep track of where it goes.

    I’m not a big name, and it’s been a while since I last had anything out, but I do plan on publishing my sales as they go. Just because I feel that the black market isn’t such a bad thing, and I believe so strongly that it can be used to advantage if people just approached it right and with an open mind.

    That, and I don’t think my comic will be so terrible that it’ll flatline just because it sucks. :P (crosses fingers) Or so one hopes!

    That IS one “down” to the black market. Crappy product no longer has the advantage of hype to boost sales. If any portion of the major market has been affected, it’s been because of that. But personally, I’m not sure this is such a bad thing. I’m all for incentives to push people to create better product.

  113. Andrew Farago Says:

    Thanks to Gail Simone for summing it all up so neatly. Charles Yoakum weighs in here: http://inkdestroyedmybrush.blogspot.com/2010/11/techdirt-vs-colleen-doran-angry-angry.html

    And I’ve got too much work to do this week to spend any more time on talking about this. If you want to read a comic that’s in print, please buy it, borrow it from the library, or get it through legitimate means like Comixology.com or the publisher’s/artist’s website. ‘Nuff said.

  114. Thad Says:

    @Rivkah: “Goodbye free speech. Already they’re pulling down sites that have legit uses: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/11/us-government-seizes-82-websites-draconian-future

    Actually, they haven’t pulled down a single website; they’ve seized domain names, but the underlying sites are still there, still accessible by IP, and still easy to find in a Google search (which is increasingly how users access websites anyway).

    So not only are the government’s actions overreaching, they’re ineffective. Just like, not to put too fine a point on it, every single other technological measure intended to curb piracy.

    @Andrew: “Yeah, “silly” is definitely the word I’d use when discussing an artist’s livelihood or intellectual property rights. Oh, those silly pirates” and their “theft.” LOLZ ROTFLMAO :)”

    It’s silly because piracy is when you hijack someone’s ship, steal the cargo, and in many cases take hostages and/or commit murder.

    Yes, Andrew, comparing copyright infringement to that is UTTERLY RIDICULOUS.

    And, your repeated employment of false choices notwithstanding, it is perfectly possible to hold that stance while still believing that copyright infringement is unethical. There are many unethical things which are not the equivalent of pillage and murder!

  115. ADD Says:

    “Buy it from the library?” But that means it was purchased once and is now being shared.

  116. ADD Says:

    Sorry, “Borrow it from the library.” Not only does that sound suspiciously like file sharing, but it reeks of socialism, too!

  117. Andrew Farago Says:

    ADD: See the dozens of other comments about libraries, single copies, tax dollars supporting libraries, etc.

    Thad: Here’s the definition of piracy:

       /ˈpaɪrəsi/ Show Spelled[pahy-ruh-see] Show IPA
    practice of a pirate; robbery or illegal violence at sea.
    the unauthorized reproduction or use of a copyrighted book, recording, television program, patented invention, trademarked product, etc.: The record industry is beset with piracy.

    Nothing about pillage and murder in that second definition, is there? For the record, everyone who downloads copyrighted materials does own a parrot and have a hook for a hand.

  118. Thad Says:

    Being an accepted definition doesn’t make it a not-ridiculous one. Merriam Webster’s second definition of “literally” is “virtually”. And apparently all it takes to qualify as a “hacker” now is to know where Sarah Palin went to high school.

    Words are important. Equating copyright infringement with murder on the high seas (for the anti-) or with swashbuckling adventure (for the pro-) is, I think we can agree, hyperbolic, even if it’s common.

  119. Thom Says:

    How did commissions even get dragged into this, anyway?

    Because it is a case where you-the artist-suddenly think copyright violation is okay and morally acceptable. Because you-the artist-benefit from it. At least the “pirate” doesn’t charge people for their copyright infringement.

    I am, personally, okay with commissioned art as well. I want artists to be able to keep a roof over their heads. I am not heartless. I like Colleen and do not want to see her suffer economic hardships at this point in her career. So, I understand the concern about piracy. But I think if you are going to take such a hard and fast commitment to copyright infringement, you ought to at least be consistent…although, maybe you are being consistent… “It’s wrong if it takes money from me, but okay if I take money from them” does have a sense of logic, I guess. And certainly, it’s human nature.

  120. 4thletter! » Blog Archive » “I’ma shoot a bootlegger!” [On Piracy] Says:

    […] sort of hardline, “We have to eradicate piracy!” stance that shows up in places like the comments here on Johanna Draper-Carlson’s latest post about piracy? That’s a fantasy. It’s got no basis in reality. It makes about as much sense as all […]

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