Good Article on Digital Comic Book Piracy

May 8th, 2011 | Posted in News

This article over at TUAW is a good examination on how comic books are headed towards the same piracy concerns that almost brought the music industry to it’s knees. It points out how now is the time for the comic book industry to head this off by offering it’s complete line of titles digitally for an attractive price. This certainly is a problem… I see entire issues of MAD scanned and uploaded to file sharing sites almost the instant they are released, and the same happens to virtually all comics. It’s hard to believe anybody can call themselves a fan of comics and comic art while they are literally stealing the work of creators by putting it on the web for free downloading…but some people will apparently do anything to get attention on the internet. The reality is that there will always be some people who are either ignorant, dishonest or just don’t care and will pirate work. You can’t stop that entirely. What you can do is make it easy and affordable for those who are honest and understand that in order to keep the creative arts actively making the stuff they like, they have to SUPPORT those arts by buying the work, to be able do so. There is a limit to how much effort and money you can ask these honest people to pay, but they will do it if you offer them the right option…99 cent song downloads was the magic number. Right now comic book fans don’t have the option to buy digital copies of many (even most) issues the same day they come out… or at all… at any price…at least not for the portable tablet format. Giving it to them, and at a good price point, makes the most sense to make sure pirates don’t destroy the comic book industry.

I would love to see MAD available as a digital magazine.

Of course, in true TUAW fashion, the article credits Apple and the iPad as being the catalyst for this issue. The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) is a website I used to frequent quite a bit, being more than a bit of a machead. Lately, however, I have not visited much because their articles in general have become hopelessly fanboy-centric. So much so that even someone like myself, who owns a lot of Apple products, gets sick of hearing everything spun into how Apple is the Greatest Company Ever and does nothing wrong. This article is still worth reading, though.


  1. Ratticus says:

    Piracy has another factor that i’m not sure how people in the USA perceive it, or even see it: Foreign Piracy.

    I live in Brazil, we love foreign movies, music and comics/magazines. Thor is making people here crazy, as well as Furious 5. We had a big “brazilian” movie last year: Elite Troop 2, but that was it… Most of our entertainment is “overseas” as far as comics and movies go.

    The problem lies in the relationship between minimum wage and the price of products. Its just no taxes or currency rate.

    Wiki tells me that american people on “minimum wage” receives 7 dollars per hour of work (sure, there are lots of people who get less than this, but there are lots of people here too that don’t get minimum wage).

    So, if you work a 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, you get: 1120 bucks.
    If you do the same in brazil, you get 500 “brazilian bucks”. I won’t get into money conversion, since its a easy question of proportion.

    Mark Millar Spiderman TPB 2 is 30 “brazilian Bucks” here, and even if it was priced 30 dollars there, a brazilian would have to work 15 hours to get it, while an american could by it with 4 hours of work (Actually its 9 bucks on amazon, that means an american have to work 1 hour and a little to get it).

    With 30 brazilian bucks here, you got a broadband connection… Its too much to ask for a family man to take out 30 bucks of his “food money” to buy a comic, but at the same time, 30 bucks for internet is more acceptable, since its useful for research and even job hunting.

    Man, I write too much.
    About digital distribution of comics, my only problem is the resolution. Lots of websites fear that people will print copies, so they always release art and pictures at depressing low resolutions. Sure, most people can’t hear the diference between a 192kbs song and a 320kbs one, but everyone can feel when it comes to a 150dpi scan and a 600dpi one.

  2. willva says:

    The world is heading in a new direction and the standard method of selling content is becoming fast inadequate with the needs of the digital consumer. As always the rules of the game is adapt or become extinct, I would love to be able to purchase movie downloads online for $1-$5 (a reasonable price). Where a 100% of the profits go directly to the creator, who doesn’t have to pay for packaging or shipping.

    Personally I believe the wave of digital downloads in the current culture is the direct result of the current greed driven retail structure. Paying $20-$30 for a single dvd Stanley Kubrick film for example is a blatant rip off. I agree that downloading/pirating the film is bad and can be classed as stealing, but keep in mind the creator/retailer doesn’t lose a single cent when someone downloads their content. They don’t gain anything mind you, but complaining that digital downloads is stifling an industry is silly and should be seen as a direct message from the consumer, yearning for a change.

    As a future creator of content myself, I look forward to exploring different marketing strategies, instead of classifying this new culture as a threat, analyse it and turn it into a strength.

    apologies to Tom =)

    • Tom says:

      keep in mind the creator/retailer doesn’t lose a single cent when someone downloads their content.

      You are joking, right? What they lose is the money they would have gotten if that person had BOUGHT the content instead of STEALING it. Either directly through the sale as a retailer does, or via a royalty arrangement. Then there is the loss of future earnings if nobody buys any of the content they create and those that film, print, edit or distribute that content go out of business. Do you make the same argument that it’s not a problem for a local grocery store when an entire neighborhood steals food from a local warehouse instead of buying it from them? Also, how is any price supposed to be considered “reasonable” when the alternative is “free”? The fear of getting caught and prosecuted keeps most people from shoplifting, but there is no fear of that on the internet, which is why it turns “honest” people into dishonest ones in a heartbeat. They seem to think because they can steal with impunity, it’s okay. It isn’t.

      • willva says:

        No stealing is bad and I believe everyone is entitled to be honestly payed for their work. I’m simply stating that the world is changing, and obviously a big part of society isn’t happy with the current system. SO why not take the opportunity to change it, apple has already started in that direction and its going really well for them.

        Look at Minecraft for example, if the creator went through the standard ways of distribution its easily debatable that the game wouldn’t have taken off like it did. Selling the game for next to nothing as directly downloadable content and making millions with a mass distribution business model, very similar to what MAD did when they first started.

        I’m definitely not saying content should be free but allowing users to download content directly from the distributor for a fraction of the price of a dvd for example will sell much more copies and generate direct profit to the creator, skipping the price of the dvds, the shipping and cutting out the costs the middle men add. Actually selling more and creating more demand for content. It doesn’t mean people will stop buying dvds, cause lets face it we like having them on the shelf. But it caters for people who only want to watch the movie, who wants to collect things you only want to watch once? And for such an over inflated price?

        This is a really simple solution for the problem presented, I’d like to say its thinking outside of the box, but its not that complex. The internet is a vessel and has done something truly amazing. For the first time ever the creators of content are directly connected with their audience. I think people will eventually realise its potential and jump on board. But until then let the struggle commence =)

  3. Mark Engblom says:

    I also wonder about how other factors may affect the bizarrely “entitled” mentality of those who pirate. One of them may be the practice of chain bookstores allowing browsers to not only read a chapter or two (which is reasonable when searching for a new book), but in so many instances, most of the book over a period of hours or even days (as many acquaintances have said they do on a regular basis). Of course, policing browsers and making sure they read only one or two chapters is impossible and impractical….yet at the same time, maybe those crabby clerks at my local 7-11 were on to something when they’d croak out “This ain’t a library” to those of us huddled around the comic book spinner rack. Of course, at the time, we didn’t see it at stealing….but “consuming” a product without paying for it (regardless of whether it’s food or reading material) is stealing. Plain and simple.

    So, now that we live in a culture that provides endless opportunities to sample almost any product for “free”, is it any wonder that people who casually pirate movies, magazines, and 500 page novels don’t understand the harm they’re doing to the mediums they (supposedly) love so much?

  4. julio cesar naranjo says:

    Hi Tom im agreed with you, cause nobody is seeing you stealing doesnt mean that is not wrong. I think that most people on earth was not thought stealing since they were just little kids and thats a good example how kids get contaminated by this subject, if he or she learns to cheat at school what can you say with all your piracy stuff?. Take care.

  5. Brrr says:

    The problem with your analogy is nothing goes missing with digital piracy. The physical product is still there to be sold by those who would pay. You can’t call a download a lost sale because if they “would have” bought it, then they WOULD have actually bought it. The evidence that they would not have is the fact that they didn’t.
    As creators, we value our work, and we consider the work that we did as the property we are selling. Few consumers see it that way. What they value is the physical book. The reason people who would never shoplift a comic book have no compunction about downloading a .cbr, is that .cbr has no value to them, because it’s not the real book.

    • Tom says:

      That’s the thinking that the value of an item is in the paper it’s printed on, the binding and the ink. It’s not. That stuff is worthless when it is blank or still in bottles. The value is the creative content printed on it. If someone can get that content by stealing it off the internet because some asshole has scanned it and uploaded it, then why would they buy it?? That physical paper and binding might still be sitting in a bookstore somewhere available for someone else to purchase, but it’s still been stolen by that pirate because the part of it that has value has been taken. It’s like if someone could go into a bookstore, take a book, copy it on a copy machine, put the book back on the shelf, go home and then read it. Wouldn’t THAT be considered stealing, or is that different because he put the book back?


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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