FBI Shuts Down HTML Comics

The HTML Comics site, a huge repository of online comics both current and older, has been shut down by the FBI, according to a press release from law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman.

Comic book pirating website www.htmlcomics.com has been shut down and all of its servers confiscated, following an FBI search based on a warrant alleging criminal copyright infringement. The FBI investigation was performed in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice, a consortium of comic publishers, and their legal counsel, a team of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP attorneys specializing in the areas of intellectual property, publishing, and comics, as well as local counsel in Miami.

Prior to the combined efforts of the consortium and the authorities, Htmlcomics was believed to have been the largest, best-known, and most easily accessible website of its kind, producing rampant copyright infringement on a daily basis and depriving artists and publishers of hard-earned and much-needed revenue. By April 2010, the website claimed to have an average of 1.6 million visits per day and more than 6,630,021 pages of comic books offered for unrestricted viewing. Ridding the Internet of such a large source of pirated content is a major victory for the comic industry and the publishing industry in general.

The consortium of publishers cooperating with law enforcement include Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Bongo Comics, Archie Comics, Conan Properties Int’l LLC, Mirage Studios Inc., and United Media [because Dilbert was included].

This is what happens when you run around loudly claiming you can put whatever you want online because you’re just like a library. According to one post in that thread on Bleeding Cool (link no longer available), the shutdown actually happened April 22. Rich first posted about the site April 12.

Even more interesting, Blog@Newsarama (link no longer available) pointed out this site in January 2009, in a thread where the site creator showed up to respond. Does this mean that big publishers read Rich but not that blog? Or did it take over a year to coordinate efforts among all these forces?

I found this phrase from the PR — “depriving artists and publishers of hard-earned and much-needed revenue” — particularly pointed. Is the phrase “much-needed” an indication of how bad off Time Warner and Disney are, since they run the two biggest U.S. comic publishers?

Anyone who has read copied comics from that site or others: are you now going to increase your comic buying because that one free source is gone? Enjoy that victory, comic industry! I look forward to seeing sales figures jump next month, since shutting down copyright violators obviously forces readers to shell out more money, instead of creating competing products that better satisfy customer wants.

At Robot 6, commenters say they’ll miss the site, mainly due to the older, out-of-print material that was available.

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