Monday, 17 December 2018

RIVETING REPOST - 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 discussion on a certain comics forum a while back.  (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 continued for some time to maliciously mis-represent 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 identified) 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 someone 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 disc form.  If I don't buy it, it's because I'm really not that fussed about it, though 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 reprint editions 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?

16 comments:

Terranova47 said...

I admit to owning what would be 'pirated' scans of some old comics both UK and US. Made by different people there are inevitably defective in some way with missing pages or documents that will not open. Given the low price they are still a bargain.

In some cases they were purchased because I did own the originals which due to their age and the condition of the paper I prefer not to handle if avoidable. Others were of old comics that have not been reprinted to my knowledge.

As you point out, while it is a breach of copyright, no one is hurt financially and the interest in old material only increases the market for the copyright holders to profit by reprinting material.

I once purchased an old press release photo and was contacted by the outbid person who wanted to use the image in a low print run book. I contacted the company that now owned the copyright to the old news agency photo. Their price for using the picture was so high there was no way it could have been used, this was pure greed as I can pretty much guarantee that they didn't even hold the original negative in their files from 50 years ago. They kept sending me emails asking for the fee and I kept telling them the potential publisher wasn't interested.

To some extent that greed holds true for present copyright holders of old comic material. They had no hand in the creative process and do little if anything with the material they control.

So three cheers for piracy that hurts no one.

Phil S said...

I am waiting for DC to release a Star Hawkins collection. Until they do, I’m reading these stories online for free. If it’s available for sale, I do believe you should buy it. If it’s never been reprinted or is so expensive as to be prohibitive, then go ahead. But that’s just me.

Kid said...

That's pretty much how I feel in regard to old material, T47. When it comes to new stuff, where copying and making it available to others takes money out of the pockets of creators, then I take the opposite view. I possess no discs or files of any new comics and am not even interested in reading digital comics, much preferring the 'real thing'. When it comes to the old stuff, it's usually only when publishers find that 'pirate' copies exist of material to which they own the copyright, that they decide to take the risk of publishing the stuff themselves.

******

I think if the copyright holders are making the material available online for free then you've got a clear conscience, PS. Even if you're reading what would be considered 'pirate' copies, the fact that you'd buy the stuff if it were on sale absolves you of any guilt in the matter. As T47 says, who does it hurt?

Graham said...

Hope this doesn't triplicate, but I have a new phone and couldn't log into my Google account for some reason. I tried it a few times before going to the laptop.

I agree with the difference between old material and new material. About ten years ago, there were some sites where you could get copies of the older comics that I wouldn’t have been able to read otherwise. I didn’t do that with new material though because most of it was still readily available if I wanted. When I have the opportunity (and ability....got to feed the family and pay the build, of course) to buy it, I do.

If you read my blog, you’ll see that I’ve been featuring mix CDs of my favorite blues songs. I’ve been making those for my friends for years to encourage them to explore the music further and lead them to buy more music from the artists I put on those CDs. I know some won’t pursue it any further, but they still get to hear something they might have otherwise missed. I always enjoyed when someone shared music with me....a friend from Houston who passed away about ten years ago opened my ears to lots of great music that I dig deeper into and I guess I’m just paying it forward.

Kid said...

I've done the same thing, G. Made copies of my own choice of songs by Jim Reeves to give to friends who'd never have bought a Jim Reeves record in their lives. Some are pleasantly surprised and even go on to purchase a CD or two, others say he's better than they thought, but probably never listen to him again. Who's losing in that scenario if it leads to more CDs being bought? Certainly not the record companies. However, I wouldn't buy a new album just to copy for someone else. (Yes, believe it or not, even though he's been dead for 54 years, there's still the occasional new album.)

Graham said...

I worry about the future of the music business because so much of it is digital now.....same with comics, I guess. I've talked to some musicians who refuse to make their music digital because they say it takes a lot of downloads for them to even see any money....mere pennies. I for one enjoy having physical product, but the newer generations are not so inclined for the most part. Do comic creators have the same issues with digital that you're aware of?

Kid said...

I'd imagine that some creators have concerns, G, but I don't really know much about digital comics because I have no interest in them. Like yourself, I prefer to have an actual record, CD, book or comic, because otherwise it seems you're just borrowing them as opposed to owning them. I think the solution to comics creators' concerns about digital may be for them to publish their work the old-fashioned way.

Philip Crawley said...

Agree with all of the points in your post and the comments in regard to old and or overpriced material. I am really fond of the collected volumes of whatever title - I still recall picking up the single volume of all of the Neal Adams Green Lantern / Green Arrow; how neat was that to have them all in one handy package, even though I have many of the original comics. Also loved that the Deathlok volume printed every appearance in chronological order. See reprints and repackaging can prompt fans to buy the material more than once! Just wish the folks at Marvel would get off their collective backsides and finally publish the Silver Surfer Epic Collection of John Buscema's run on those original issues! Been waiting for that for what seems like years, even though I have about five of the originals plus the Masterworks.

Kid said...

Tell you one thing I'd love, PC - a collected edition of The Missing Link/Johnny Future strips from Fantastic. Already got a full set, but I'd buy them again in book form in a second. The Silver Surfer Epic Collection is inevitable, but it must be infuriating for you having to wait for it. I've got all 18 original issues, plus the first printings of the Masterworks editions (later printings used superior sources), as well as the Omnibus volume, but even I'd like to see the Epic Collection of these great tales. Do you have the original hardback Masterworks, or the later softcover editions?

Philip Crawley said...

I had the chance to pick up a hardback Masterwork of SS vol 1 but didn't, probably price related, it usually is with me, and regret it now 'cause today's prices are insane! Both of the SS Masterworks I have are paperback editions, vol 1 the Panini edition on glossy paper with different colouring, which I'm not a fan of, and vol 2 is a Marvel release which I do like the repro on. Even the paperback editions of these are steeply priced now, as I found out when I tried to find the Marvel edition of SS vol 1.
Funny you should mention Johnny Future, I work as a graphic designer / cartoonist and have access to a printer that will saddle stitch, but only up to a certain page count so a couple of years ago I created my own 3 volume collected edition of those strips using the scans you posted here on your site. It has a print run of one edition. I have the Indesign and PDF files that I printed them from but it was only done for myself. Somehow I can't see there being enough demand for these to see an official print sadly.

Kid said...

The later paperback Masterworks editions of SS have superior repro to the first hardbacks, so at least you're halfway there, PC. I've noticed that, with one exception, most Panini volumes use the earlier, inferior sources. That exception was Captain Britain, which used the same sources as the Omnibus volume. (Or maybe it was vice versa.) Rebellion (publishers of 2000 A.D.) now own Johnny Future, and they've been releasing a number of old comic strips that you'd think few would be interested in. Strips like The Leopard From Lime Street, Marney The Fox, Faceache, Creepy Creations, etc. There'll even be a Sweeny Toddler volume out in the New Year, so you never know, there may be a JF edition yet. People should email them and suggest it - I already have.

Lionel Hancock said...

I would have thought copyright of comics would only apply to the character not the strip..Sure if you were to draw your own lets say Desperate Dan comic I could see you appearing in court but instead if you uploaded pages of Desperate Dan from the Dandy which have already been sold 50 years ago and are for collector to collector no one should give a toss...

Lionel Hancock said...

The only people who seem to get their knickers in a twist over copyright are the movie industry and music distributors . Todays movies and music are rubbish so bah to them .I will stick to comics

Kid said...

Copyright law is a complicated affair and seems to get revised every so often, LH, so I'm not quite sure of the precise details of how it operates. For instance, if you hire a photographer to take a family photo, the copyright apparently belongs to him. I'd have thought that, as you're employing the photographer to take a photo of your family, as the 'initiator', the image should belong to YOU - surely the photographer is operating under a 'work for hire' agreement? Apparently not though.

When it comes to comics, obviously DCT don't want some rival publisher printing their own copy of this week's Beano and selling it themselves, thus depriving DCT of revenue, so that's easy to understand. Old movies? Film companies have made their money several times over and the films have been seen on TV for decades, so what's the big deal (you may think) in copying a friend's DVD for yourself when you could easily record it off the telly anyway? H'mm, I can see both sides of the argument there, and I'd tentatively suggest that if you were only doing it for your own entertainment then a blind eye may be turned. However, if you're churning out copies en masse in order to turn a buck, then that clearly would be wrong.

Anyone else any thoughts on the matter?

Tonebone said...

I think the copyright issues with pirating comics revolve less around actual copyright issues and more with publishing issues. If you scan and distribute a comic, you are technically publishing it without permission. Kind of a pedantic difference, but legal squabbles are usually settled on pedantic issues.

Personally, I have some digital stuff... a LOT of which I found myself purchasing the reprint volumes of, once they were available.

Kid said...

I only have a handful of comics discs, most of the contents of which I don't mind having if they're cheap, but that I wouldn't otherwise buy. In that situation, no sales are lost to 'official' releases of the material when or if it's ever made available. If it's something I really want, but isn't yet officially available, then the disc is a stopgap until it is. I much prefer 'official' releases, and will buy them when published, even if, like you, I already have 'pirate' versions. It has to be something I really want though, and I'm talking about 'old' stuff, not brand-new material.

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