Robot 6

Notes on digital piracy

At the Content Protection Summit (yes, there is such a thing) in LA a few weeks ago, a Warner Brothers exec, Ben Karakunnel, discussed some insights into digital piracy that the company has gleaned through its reseach. Apparently WB has been tracking both P2P and streaming of their movies, and they have come to some interesting conclusions—which may have implications for comics as well.

One key insight, which vindicates the indignant comments whenever a site like scans_daily,, or is shut down, is that people who use pirate sites also pay for their media.

Even the most diehard pirates spend some money, though less than more casual infringers. “One of the main things we’re doing is looking at why they do things legitimately on certain products and not on others,” said Karakunnel.

Another is that people are finding their free media via specialty sites that link to it rather than search engines. That’s also significant for comics. Publishers have been doing a better job lately of making their own sites rank ahead of pirate sites on search engines, but if everyone is heading over to Surfthechannel to see what’s new, it really doesn’t matter. In fact, the difference here seems to be between looking for something you already know exists and looking for something new to watch—which means those link sites could have considerable promotional value.

Finally, and this translates directly to books and comics, piracy is huge in international markets. This is another common theme in the comments on bootleg manga sites; people use them because they can’t get the manga in their home countries. Square Enix, with its U.S.-only paid manga site, doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo, but Yen Press has made its online magazine Yen Plus available worldwide. Here’s a great post from a writer about prose e-books who lays it on the line:

There are no more regional rights. The new regions are the boundaries of language. You get to sell English-language worldwide. All other languages are now the sub-rights for “regions.”

Anyone who thinks that is wrong should check the linked post as well as this one, in which the author tries to pay money for an e-book but is not allowed to because he lives in Canada. They call it the world wide web for a reason; region-blocking just creates a vacuum that pirates are happy to fill.

Via Comics Worth Reading.



Amen to the region-locking thing! It’s such a stupid thing to do.

I tried to watch Conan’s first show when he came back on the air through TBS’s website but it’s impossible to stream it outside of North America. Instead, you can easily head over to SurfTheChannel and surely enough they had it there.

This does have a impact on comics… namely the sacred cow of day and date. I’m sure people are buying but why on earth would I pay $2 for an old comic – especially considering how I could pick up most of them out of the $1 box at a store? Old comics shouldn’t cost more than a buck. period.

I’d pay $2 for a new comic.

Comic piracy happens for several reasons.

1. Fan just doesn’t have the money for either said title or comics as a whole.
2. Local store sucks and isn’t helpful, doesn’t special order and/or selection blows.
3. There is no local store (or at least one that doesn’t require a lengthy trip)

I know a bunch of comics fans (including some who pirate) and NONE of them are out to destroy the industry. I don’t think any of them are overtly malicious and, without exception, all of them fall into one of the categories above.

Making comics available digitally isn’t going to kill comics and it isn’t going to kill off the comic book stores. People still want their paper (at least for the immediate future in this hobby). At some point the print medium is going to go away. Go ahead and scream to the heavens now but you only have to look at the newspapers and magazines to see it in operation. At some point, print is going to become economically unviable and if the economy doesn’t pick up anytime soon it is only going to accelerate the process.

This is a step in the right direction understanding WHY people pirate but I’m not convinced that they’ll do anything with this understanding. They need to learn to make money and to do that, they’re going to have to expand the market. Digital NEEDS to be cheaper, easily available and easy to purchase.

Let’s face it, $3.99 comics quickly went away once they realized that people stopped buying or severely cut back on the number of books they were buying. So they’ve either got to figure out how to maximize as much as they can out of the $2.99 cover price or figure out some way to boost readership.

“Amen to the region-locking thing! It’s such a stupid thing to do.

I tried to watch Conan’s first show when he came back on the air through TBS’s website but it’s impossible to stream it outside of North America. Instead, you can easily head over to SurfTheChannel and surely enough they had it there.”

It’s almost as if rights management actually leads to more piracy! Who’d a thunk it!? Oh, right, everyone else.

I agree. Allow me a moment to express my opinion as an overseas consumer.

Six months ago, I lived in Japan. There is only one “ame-comi” comic book store on the Hamacho corner of Tokyo that sold English-language monthlies. (Much <3 "Blister"!!) I made friends with the guys there and visited the store every month for new issues. Did they have the titles I wanted? Most of them. Would it be easier to be pirate them? Yes. And I did. But I still bought the monthlies because I could. I liked that freedom. I liked to pick up my favorite titles. Visiting Blister was one of the highlights of my month.

I live in south Brazil now. No LCS here. I can't seem to get a subscription (I tried to get a subscription for Thor: The Mighty Avenger days before the cancellation was announced, but Marvel never charged my card and I never heard back from them – I've been pestering my brother to pick up issues of that series but I don't know if he'll send them to me or forget). I could pirate and yeah, I do, for any of the titles that aren't available from the comics apps. Because the only reliable LCS that exists for me right now is my iPod. I love marvel titles and I spend an average of $30 bucks a week via the Marvel App.

I'm relieved and happy to have found a legitimate means of reading comics. The Marvel App introduced me to titles like Immortal Iron Fist, Captain America, and – most recently – Agents of Atlas, Ultimate Thor, and Liu's brilliant story arc in Black Widow.

Amazon costs me an arm and a leg on shipping. There's probably an easier way, but this is all I know at the moment. Whenever I can save enough money to afford the steep shipping cost, I buy graphic novels. Immortal Iron Fist is a recent treasure. Black Widow and Agents of Atlas are going on that wish list too.

I buy comics. I'm a consumer. I don't want to be a pirate. When I read a pirated copy of a series I grow to like, I try to get my hands on the graphic novel or purchase it digitally (most recent example is the Young Avengers) – which can be difficult to access if not via the internet. I don't want to steal. Not from creators of books I love. And while things have been progressing in digital sales methods so that an American overseas like me can have access to legitimate material, I still feel like a forgotten statistic and an overlooked characteristic of the ongoing debate.

What I'm trying to say is, comic publishers can expand across the globe with a little ingenuity and additional effort. There's a market out here that can reach millions of people instead of mere hundred-thousands because ame-comi fans don't only exist in North America. And we're waiting, hungry for more.

@Ariana: Try

It has free almost worldwide shipping (and I’m pretty sure Brazil is covered) and their selection is pretty good, though not as good as Amazon. It’s saved my life since I moved to Spain, because I can order as many books as I want without worrying about outrageous shipping costs.

Thank you very much, Matt.
It looks like a wonderful service!
I can’t wait to try it out! ^_^

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