Monday, 17 December 2018
RIVETING REPOST - CAN SO-CALLED COMICS 'PIRACY' EVER BE A GOOD THING?
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?
Posted by Kid at Monday, December 17, 2018