Saturday, 8 November 2014

CAN SO-CALLED COMICS 'PIRACY' EVER BE A GOOD THING?


Here's a 'Babe of the Day' at no extra cost - PENELOPE CRUZ

The subject of 'piracy' seems to get some people hot under the
collar, going from a recent discussion on a certain comics forum.
(That's the one I resigned from and was then 'banned', after the fact,
"for leaving", by an over-zealous, biased moderator - even 'though the
site owner invited me to rejoin.  Running true to form, a disingenuous
detractor of mine continues to maliciously misrepresent the facts of
the situation over on his blog in an attempt to malign me.)

But that's by-the-by;  more pertinent is how one defines 'piracy'
in relation to comics.  Some people sell discs of comic collections on
eBay, comics that the copyright holders (if they can actually be identi-
fied) don't seem particularly interested in exploiting for financial gain.
It seems to me that some so-called 'piracy' can have positive benefits
which, in certain circumstances, mostly outweigh any negatives.

To give you an analogous example:  I'm a JIM REEVES
fan (don't shoot), and on occasion I've made compilation discs
for my own use which I've occasionally duplicated to give to friends.
No money is involved, except for what I spend in buying the originals
(not for the purpose of copying, merely for my own enjoyment) and
then on the blank tapes or discs when it occurs to me that someone
I know might enjoy listening to a sample.  I don't even let them
cover the cost of the blank disc, should they offer.

I know from experience not to lend originals because they
won't be returned in the condition lent, regardless of how well the
borrower may think they've looked after them.  So in the case of my
own music collection, being able to occasionally burn a disc for some-
one to see if they might like it is a handy thing.  As I said, I don't charge,
and in some cases, the other person has become a fan and then bought
other recordings by the same artist, thereby increasing sales.  So who
loses in that situation?  Certainly not the record company, who lose
no money by me giving a compilation copy to someone who
wouldn't have bought an original disc in the first place.

With back issue comics it's a similar scenario, although
collectors prefer to own the originals, and in most cases only
resort to facsimiles or disc collections as a stop-gap, until such time
as they manage to track down an acceptable-condition original at an
affordable price.  In my case (and I'm sure it's true with most folks), if
I really want a particular series and it's released in an authorised print
edition, I'll buy it - even if I already have it in digital form.  If I don't
buy it, it's because I'm really not that fussed about it, although I
may have it in digital form merely because it was available.

In that instance, as it's something I wouldn't have bought
anyway, me having acquired it in digital form from the internet
doesn't deprive the publishers of income.  I'm sure most of us own
something that we don't mind having because it was free, but would
never have purchased otherwise.  Obviously, I'm not talking about new
material (whether it be comics, music or movies) bought by one person
for the purpose of copying for friends (or selling to strangers) in order
to spare them having to buy an item they'd willingly pay full price for
if there was no other way of acquiring it  - I only mean out-of-print
comics, books or old records that aren't currently available
and don't look like being at any time in the future.

 In the case of facsimiles of old back issues, no surviving
contributors are deprived of any royalties as they were paid for
their work outright.  Nor are the publishers losing out if they don't
have any intention of reprinting the stuff as it first appeared.  And, if
the publishers ever do decide to reprint their back catalogue in some
form or other, the vast majority of avid collectors would readily buy it,
because they'd want the 'official' package with its superior printing on
quality paper, along with the informative introductions, prefaces and
appendices - regardless of however many digital discs or 'pirate'
facsimiles they already possess.  Those that wouldn't clearly
don't want it enough to spend money on it anyway.

In short, what I'm saying is that whether or not I buy an
official collected edition is determined only by how much I like
the material - not by whether I already own it in digital form.
That isn't a factor.  I bet it's the same for most of you.

I note with interest that one of the more vocal opponents
of so-called 'piracy' has no objections to people scanning their
own collections and making digital copies available to friends - so
long as no money changes hands.  What real difference does it make?
The contributors would never see a penny in royalties anyway - even
if it was an authorised publication, and those chasing their nostalgia
fix could well be dead before the current copyright holder (if even
known) extracts the digit and decides to make the material
available to an ageing and ever-diminishing audience.

What must be remembered is that the current crop of new
'Best of' Annuals now on sale are aimed at a readership whose
interest has been kept alive by internet comics blogs;  and digital discs
and amateur facsimiles have fed the appetite for vintage material in the
absence of proper print-editions - until some publishers took note and
realised that there was still a market for it.  A limited one, admittedly,
and ever-decreasing, but one that would probably have long since
perished had it not been for a dedicated group of enthusiasts
stoking the fires and keeping the spluttering flame alive.

So ignore those po-faced, self-righteous critics who are
lucky enough to be able to afford those scarce back issues for
themselves, but loudly decry anyone whose only option is to obtain
the much-missed, long-sought reminders of their childhood by the
only means open to them until something better comes along.

I don't know about you, but I've always considered the
"I'm all right, Jack" attitude of the 'haves' towards the 'have
nots' to be a particularly ugly one - whether it be with regard
to money, security, status, or even just comics.

     What say the rest of you?      

27 comments:

moonmando said...

I don't know about piracy Kid but what I will say is this, .....HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
You are an outstanding example of someone well into their seventies. Lol
Have a nice day. :)

Kid said...

Never mind that - where's my expensive present?

Dunsade Dave said...

Interesting post, Kid. My own thoughts are that if a print version of something is available, then I can understand creators/retailers/distributors objecting to it.

However, if an obscure series that wasn't commercially successful isn't going to be reprinted, then downloading digital copies of it seems pretty harmless since its not costing anyone any royalties. If, for example, its a series that I bought brand new back in the day, then I've already contributed to the creators income, so it doesn't seem to be something that should trouble my conscience too much.

Off the top of my head, two series I would love to own in TPB form are the 1985 Rawhide Kid limited series and the complete Quasar run (the first 40 issues or so of which are surely the most under-rated thing Marvel has ever published), but they don't strike me as likely to be a huge commercial success- Quasar was never a big seller, to the point that its own letters page once suggested readers buy 2 copies of each issue to help keep the series going! (I know the first 9 issues were reprinted a couple of years back, but there's no sign of a vol.2). So, maybe comic publishers could look into Print On Demand if they wanted to reduce piracy. I don't mean that you could email Marvel and order a collection of, say Dakota North, and have it printed specially for you, more that the publisher would advertise Quasar vols 1-6, then print however many copies are ordered and send them out to the customers. Economies of scale would probably make hardback omnibuses prohibitively expensive and not worth the bother, but if the books were printed on the paper used for the Hellblazer or Doom Patrol trades, they might be able to made available at a reasonable price (or maybe not. I'm no expert in printing costs, just thinking off the top of me head). BBC Books published some Doctor Who novels as Print On Demand editions a few years back at £7.99, not much more than high street bookshops would charge for a novel these days.

And also, Happy Birthday, Kid! Have a great day :)

moonmando said...

You mean it's not arrived yet?
Bloody postal service!! ;)

Kid said...

What I usually do when I really want something that's not commercially available, DD, is settle for digital copies (if available) until I can obtain the actual issue(s) - or a published reprint edition. As for digital discs available from eBay, there's clearly little demand for them (and therefore not much money), otherwise the copyright holders would make them available in such a format to collectors. I should make clear that I was thinking primarily about old (and usually defunct) British comics, which don't usually enjoy the same level of interest (or reprinting) as American mags.

I've only got about 3 digital discs, the contents of which I already have to some degree, but it's handier to access the images from them for my blog (sometimes) than it is to dig out my own copies and scan them.

Thanks for the birthday wishes. Finally - 21.

******

Moony, you should've delivered it in person along with my giant-size card. And where's my cake?

John Pitt said...

Kid, I am not agreeing with you out of politeness. I am agreeing with you because I STRONGLY feel the same way about every single word you have just written on the subject of " piracy ", ( only you are far more eloquent than I and can put my views far better than I could! )I have been of this opinion ever since the days of friends making a tape copy of LP's for each other. Only recently a very good music sharing site has been closed down, when the internet policing could have been put to FAR better use in hunting down peadophile porn and terrorism. The said site was free to use, so they made no financial gain, but gave the chance for music lovers to download rare tracks that they would never be able to get any other way. So where was the harm in that?
Comic DVD's on eBay have been seriously pruned over recent years, but there are places which offer these services and , as you say, they are helping the comics industry rather than taking from it.
I see digital as back up, should you never be able to afford/track down the original, at least you can see it on a screen, which is better than not being able to see it at all.
Anyway, now I know your birthday, I'll try and remember next year. In the meantime, have a great day!

Dunsade Dave said...

21? Did you stop counting at 21 or are you counting backwards? ;)

Actually, that should be one of the bonuses of being a comics fan- getting to age in comic time. If Peter Parker can be in his mid-20s for 50 years, then I can stay 38 for a few more years!

Colin Jones said...

Kid, happy birthday !! - It can't be much fun with all your stuff in the attic, all your furniture stacked up and your house about to be turned upside-down but have a nice day anyway. As for piracy - it often seems to mean rich people whingeing about not getting every last penny of what's "theirs", that's how it appears with music and movies anyway. I completely agree with what you said about 'haves' and 'have-nots'. By the way, if you ever lent me anything it would definitely be well looked after - a friend of mine once said he'd lend CD's to nobody but me as he knew I'd look after them properly :)

Kid said...

Don't worry, JP: Like the Queen, it's only my 'official' bithday - my real one is a closely guarded secret.

I think most reasonable-minded people would agree with me on the subject. While I'm against shady individuals making a commercial industry out of large-scale piracy and producing copies of things which they then pass off as originals (thus robbing contributors of royalties and companies of income), I think we need to keep a sense of perspective about the situation.

For example, I remember a friend missing a movie on television - a movie that anyone could have recorded onto tape or DVD when it was broadcast. I had a pre-recorded VHS copy of the movie I'd bought some years before, but I don't like lending out my originals. I therefore copied the tape for my friend to watch - at no charge and with no intention of passing it off as an original. As the movie was freely available to record on TV, was I committing a criminal act by copying the tape I'd bought? I don't think so - and I believe movie studios can distinguish the difference between what I did and someone making a full-time career out of producing pirate copies in a lock-up somewhere.

******

Spot on, DD - I don't age in 'real' time. Apart from that, I've never really grown up anyway.

******

Ah, but CJ - your pal's standards may not be as high as mine. I'm really pernickety. I can't even live up to my own standards sometimes. Thanks for the birthday wishes. (Now wish me up a present all of you.)

TwoHeadedBoy said...

Happy birthday to you, Mr. Robson!

Piracy, piracy, piracy... As far as comics are concerned, I don't think it really exists. I can just about read three panel strips on my laptop, so reading a whole run of comics would be an absolute nightmare. Fine for picking out odd panels for blogs and whatnot, and it'd certainly save wear-and-tear on the scanner, but it's not something I'd ever consider over "real" comics.

Music and films and games on the other hand, that's a whole different kettle of fish. I'll admit that nowadays, if ever I want to hear an album by someone, I just put the name of the album into Google followed by "Zip" or "Rar" and hey, free music! It's not right, I know, but I have no money - why should being financially destitute also mean I'm culturally destitute?

Same with films, all it takes is the name of the film followed by "Avi" and in most cases, there it is. I'm not making any money from them, just getting personal enjoyment out of them. Games as well, through the use of various emulators I can play games that would otherwise cost me hundreds of pounds (sometimes thousands!) if bought individually - and all that money would be going to an individual eBay seller, not the ones who made the game in the first place.

So yes, I'm an out-and-out pirate in terms of "acquiring" stuff, or are the pirates just the ones who distribute the stuff in the first place? Am I just someone who benefits from piracy?

Kid said...

Some interesting questions, THB. However, I'm talking about a slightly different attitude than yours, but it demonstrates how complicated the situation can sometimes be. For example, if I wanted to listen to a particular album, I could go into my local library and borrow it for free and if I were so inclined, make a copy for myself, which, as far as I know, isn't illegal. ('Though I could be mistaken there.)

Also, one of my friends has something called Spotify on his computer, which doesn't cost him ('cos it has ads) and is likewise legal, allowing him access to seemingly unlimited albums. So one could argue that it's not too dissimilar to what you do - but I have my reservations. Here's why.

You say you're not making any money from what you do, but in doing it, you avoid spending money on what you would otherwise have to as it's widely commercially available. In the case of out of print, scarce comics that aren't readily available (if at all) there is an important distinction.

I WILL buy the authentic items (if I want them) where and when I can, so anything I have from the internet is a temporary fill-in until I can get the real deal. I'd say that most collectors think the same way. In your case, you're regularly using these sources in order to AVOID paying for the real thing, which is a different scenario.

You see, "having no money" too easily morphs into "why should I spend what money I have when I can get something for nothing?" far too easily, which isn't exactly what I'm considering.

Not that I'm judging you, but I just wanted to be clear about what I was actually saying.

What do other Criv-ites think about THB's - er, 'hobby'?

John Pitt said...

Well, there is a line of thought which might say, " Why should only the rich have access to music and comics, etc. ?"
I know THB spends money on comics, so if that leaves him with none for music, but he can get it for free, he is not depriving the artists, as otherwise he would HAVE to do without.
Also, bear in mind we are all of the generation who, in our lives have contributed SIGNIFICANTLY to both industries, being exploited by them in doing so, unlike today's youth who EXPECT everything Scott-free!

DeadSpiderEye said...

It's a tricky topic because views on the subject of copyright tend to be formed in accordance with one's own self interest, consequently they tend to be either unrealistic or jaundiced through bias towards those ends, occasionally some vociferous views are even vehemently intransigent. So efforts at discussion can be fruitless but it shouldn't be surprising that this subject generates such heat because it's the bread on the table that's at stake for a lot of people.

I used to contribute to a forum where this topic was constantly addressed by irate members outing incidents of copyright infringement of either their own or another's work. Some of it was blatant and rightly should've been stamped on but most, about 90%, was trivial: someone's using my work on their web site without permission, I've just seen a tee-shirt, that kind of thing. The thing is, that except for a few, most of these people weren't accentually making much through their, "intellectual property" as they would refer to their work, in a somewhat aggrandised manner. If you're trying to make a name for yourself, perhaps handing out a few freebies, with proper accreditation of course, might not be such a bad idea: a notion I tried to air on a few occasions, with alas, not much appreciation. Likewise, maybe having a few bootlegs circulating for work, for which the demand has levelled off, might pay dividends by keeping it in the public eye.

I can say that when you see others free booting off your work, it is singularly unpleasant experience, the acuteness of which is accentuated by your personal circumstances but unfortunately it's always going to happen. What makes this particularly tragic in a lot of cases, is that it's extremely difficult to even retain rights over your own work and it's by no means a unique experience, for creators to witness their work being used to the detriment of their own livelihood. Maybe that the reason for some of the intransigence, because when it comes to the crunch, you're responsible for protecting your own interests, the creative world, is a ruthless domain, so don't expect any quarter from those used surviving in such an environment.

Kid said...

There's also a line of thought 'though, JP, that might say "If you can't afford it, do without." You see, if spending your money on comics puts you in a position of having none left for other forms of entertainment which you can get elsewhere for free, then you're always going to spend your money on comics (or whatever).

Whereas I don't think it's bad to download an old movie that, if you wait long enough (which isn't all that long with 'Dave'), you'd be able to see on TV (and has already been broadcast many times), I think that's different to illegally downloading a brand new movie (which perhaps hasn't even been released yet) in order to deliberately avoid having to pay to see it. In that instance, you ARE actually depriving people of some of their their livelihood.

It's a bit like having money that you spend on booze, fags and drugs, and then stealing food and clothes on the grounds that you have no money to feed and clothe yourself. Well, you DID actually, but you chose to spend it on other things.

If something is legally available for free somewhere, while at the same time is also available to buy, then I can see why someone might choose the free option. Or if it's not available readily (or at all), but you'd buy it if it was, I don't think it's particularly wrong to obtain a copy until it becomes commercially available - as long as you are not financially profiting from the fruits of someone else's labour at their expense.

Also, I think there's a difference between acquiring something on the internet (or in some kind of facsimile form) that one would never buy, and acquiring something that you WOULD buy (if there was no other way of obtaining the item) simply to AVOID having to pay for it.

There has to be a bit of a balancing act is what I'm essentially saying. If everyone was able to download everything they wanted from the internet for free that they would normally buy, there would be no reason for companies to produce things for sale to begin with. Everyone would eventually lose out in the long run that way.

******

I can see what you're saying exactly, DSE. My scope is quite restricted. I don't think it's bad to copy a tape or disc for a friend so that they can see if they like it (and which they would never buy to find out), because that can sometimes lead to future sales by that person if they become a convert. Nor do I regard it as bad to copy something from the internet that isn't currently available to buy under the usual circumstances, as long as it's only a stop-gap measure until one can track down the real thing when it pops up in the real world. For instance, not long ago I copied the cover of Shiver & Shake Annual 1976 from an internet site (because the Ken Reid art was absolutely stunning), but bought the actual book on eBay at the first opportunity. (Even 'though neither the contributors nor the publisher benefited in any way. In fact, they wouldn't have lost out if I hadn't bought it in that instance.)

Common sense has to be employed on a case to case basis. In some instances it isn't REALLY 'piracy', in others it's nothing but. I'm certainly not proposing anyone being able to copy anything at any time as it suits them. The circumstances have to be first taken into account.

baab said...

In the digital age the current music and film business is nearly over.
They will have to come up with a new business model.

Movies are a funny topic due to the 'pay before you see' nature of going to the cinema.
If a movie is rubbish you cant ask for your money back.

I have watched the latest blockbusters online before I go and pay to see them.
Usually this is because I am assessing them before I go as a family unit and fork out a little fortune.

The music business is now at the stage where bands have to play live in order to make any money as the medium is digital friendly and open to abuse.

I reckon the way forward for music and movies is where a viewer/listener pays a donation as a sign of satisfaction via something like PayPal,and watches them on their home cinema.

On the subject of comics,I did download a lot of cbr files of comics runs I no longer had or which were unavailable or financially beyond me.
I was like a kid in a sweet shop and went a bit crazy.
But I did not enjoy reading on a computer,even on a giant screen the experience left me cold.

I ended up dumping the files and pursued and bought true copies if they were available that I could hold in my hand.

It may be that the original pirates are the ones being pirated.

TwoHeadedBoy said...

Just to be clear, I'm not the sort who downloads every new film and every new album that's out - at the risk of sounding disgustingly pretentious, my "tastes" in music and film are similar to my "tastes" in comics - that is, strange ones, odd ones, ones that may have slipped under the radar. Cult stuff, you might call it?

Before discovering the wonders of downloading, I'd pay individuals over the Internet for DVD copies of rare, out-of-print films that they'd convert from VHS. Money to that individual and nothing to the original film-makers. Same with music, I'd pay individuals for CD-R's of old records.

As it is now, while I'm in a situation where my cat eats better (and more frequently) than I do, it makes more sense to "acquire" such things for free, and now books and comics are the only "luxury" items I allow myself.

Fair point about films being on TV, but the aerial socket in my flat's never worked, so that's that out of the equation (saves me buying a TV license too).

Might I finally add: It's nice to have a place where such an even-handed, calm discussion over these matters can be had without anyone jumping up and calling me a thieving scumbag.

Kid said...

Sometimes a movie has to be seen on the big screen to get the full experience of it 'though, Baab, as it might not have the same impact on a computer or smaller TV screen. (Unless you've seen it on the big screen first, in which case, the memory of the way it 'hit' you in the cinema carries over to your small screen viewing afterwards.) So there's always a chance you've decided not to go and see a movie because you didn't get the full 'sense' of it (effects, surround sound, scale, etc) when you 'previewed' it at home. That's why I prefer my FIRST experience of a movie to be a cinematic one.

******

It's more complicated than many people think, I suppose, THB. After all, it's hard to feel sorry for huge companies (who are probably ripping off their artists anyway) going on about 'piracy' when they're making multi-million pound profits. And if someone genuinely can't afford something, or can't justify spending (and therefore wouldn't - spend, that is) the amount it costs to acquire it, then in a sense, the company was never going to see that dosh anyway, so what does it matter if someone gets it for free (or much cheaper) elsewhere? I see the argument. However, there's always the likelihood that some of those folk would actually pay the full price if the thing wasn't available from any other source and providing them with another option.

In a sense 'though, that's beyond what I was attempting to address in my original post. I just think it's mean-spirited of those who own an old, rare, difficult (if not impossible) to get comic, with little likelihood of it ever being reprinted in its original form, to tell others to "buy their own", when there's little chance of them ever being able to find it (much less afford it). Especially when someone has been desperately trying to find one for years because they want to recapture a cherished moment from childhood. Making a copy available isn't going to deprive the original contributors or publisher of 'their due', so it doesn't qualify as 'piracy' in my view.

For example, I ran the Missing Link/Johnny Future strips a while back on this blog. Why? There's an interest in them and they've never been republished. I believe that most readers would buy a book collection of those stories if one became available, even if they've already copied the pages from my blog. I certainly would - and I have the original issues. Those few that wouldn't, would probably never have bought such a book anyway. And even if there's a few who would've bought it if they hadn't got the pages from my blog (or elsewhere), the advantages of perpetuating interest in the character and creating an appetite for a printed collection (with informative background histories and all sorts of bonuses) outweigh any negative aspects by quite a wide margin.

Or am I fooling myself, and merely trying to justify a wanton act of 'piracy'?

TwoHeadedBoy said...

No, I see your point completely - it's the selfish hoarders of this world that make treasures disappear. There's surely countless cases where someone's had a rare item, kept hold of it their whole life, and when they've eventually expired/ceased to be, their relatives have thrown it away, not realising the value.

The scans I put on my own blog, I suppose, could be considered "piracy" in some quarters, but the lack of information on them ANYWHERE on the Internet, plus the amount of comments (even from the original artists) exclaiming how they haven't seen those things for years, I think justifies it all.

Kid said...

What an interesting discussion - and not an angry word or insult anywhere. (Where did I go wrong?)

baab said...

Tonight I watched The Winter Soldier on my t.v. at home.
I rented the dvd from the library.
I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I did when I saw it at the cinema.

I do have a large t.v. with excellent sound which I only watch movies on,I do not watch tv shows.

I can't explain it.




Kid said...

Funnily enough, in seeming contradiction to what I said earlier, there have been a few occasions when I've enjoyed a movie on VHS or DVD more than I did when I saw it in the cinema. A couple of examples: Never Say Never Again and Quantum of Solace. I think that's because I had high expectations of them that they didn't deliver on their respective nights, whereas I wasn't expecting much when I watched them on telly.

Usually 'though, with big budget, special effects laden blockbuster movies, it's better to see them on the big screen first, I find.

Colin Jones said...

Like baab I only use my TV for watching DVD's and I haven't watched a DVD since last Christmas. If I want to watch a Tv show I use iplayer and watch it on my tablet - that's how I watched the entire 12 episodes of Doctor Who.

Kid said...

I don't think my eyes would be up to that, CJ - certainly not on a Tablet (which I don't have anyway).

Colin Jones said...

I've just noticed that my previous comment used the word 'watch', 'watched' or 'watching' five times in just a couple of sentences - it's funny how you don't notice these things when you're typing them out :)

Kid said...

That's because you're not 'watching' for them, CJ.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dunsade Dave. If a comic is available in print (or if a movie or TV series is being sold on DVD), I understand the owner objecting to bootlegging. But if it's some obscure series for which there is low demand, and it is unlikely to be reprinted or rerun anyway, then it isn't costing anyone any royalties when you download digital copies.

Then there is the copyright warning that the DVD is licensed for private viewing in homes, and that public exhibition is prohibited. Just what is "public"? Obviously, it would be wrong to charge admission to see a movie on DVD in my home, but what if I invite friends over to watch it? (Without charging them anything, of course.)

Similarly, what if I buy a DVD (legally), then donate it to a hospital or a nursing home, and they show it in their rec room to entertain a group of patients? Is that a "public exhibition"? The movie is bought and paid for, and the patients are laid up in the hospital, so they not able to go out and buy their own copies.

I don't condone stealing anything, including intellectual property, but sometimes the aggressive enforcement can get ridiculous. For example, the website Aspergers Social Stories (run by a support group for families coping with autism) posted a brief (less than three minutes) clip from the TV comedy series "Daria." Viacom blocked it on copyright grounds. Since it was a non-profit organization posting the clip for educational and non-commercial purposes, it should have been allowed under the "fair use" provision. And that brief scene would not provide anyone with an alternative to buying the DVD set. In fact, it might even pique a viewer's interest, and encourage them to buy the DVD. The copyright owners may have actually cheated themselves out of some free advertising.

-TC

Kid said...

Extremely interesting comments, TC, and nothing with which I would disagree. I think the word 'piracy' is often misapplied in a lot of situations. Common sense should prevail before people start throwing such accusations around.

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