Robot 6

Jim Zubkavich: ‘Please pirate my work!’

Most webcomics creators figure that once they have put up their comic in a free format that is accessible to everybody, they have done their bit. Jim Zubkavich is taking it another step: He just posted a PDF/CBZ version of the first chapter of his webcomic Makeshift Miracle, and he is inviting readers to spread it far and wide:

Download the torrent file, pass it around, re-seed as much as possible and convince your online friends to try it out, absolutely free. Once they’ve read chapter 1, they can come back here to continue the story with chapter 2.

While webcomics creators often promote their work on Twitter and in online forums, Zubkavich is taking it to another channel altogether. Torrenters have their own community, and getting noticed there will bring him new readers; he’s already getting some love on Scans Daily, which is probably not his usual audience. Beyond that, reading an entire issue of a comic at once is a different experience from reading an online comic that updates a couple of times a week. A lot of readers want to sit down and read a whole chapter at a time, and Jim is giving them that option. And if they like it, they can share it with their friends.

Piracy is a double-edged sword; it reduces sales of the comics that are passed around via BitTorrent, but it also brings in new readers. Balancing one effect against the other is a lot easier when you are giving the comic away for free to begin with. Obviously, Jim wants to drive traffic to his site, and ultimately he will be publishing a print edition of Makeshift Miracle that won’t be given away for free. And that will be the results phase of the experiment, when we see if his generosity now pays off in strong sales when the book is published.

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Comments

11 Comments

This isn’t piracy. Distribution tools such as bittorrent are ethically neutral.

You could still pirate this – make a new torrent removing the messaging redirecting you to their website, for example.

Seconding Mark: if the PUBLISHER uses BT to distribute it, it’s not piracy. That’s just silly.

By definition, if the rightsholders are distributing something then it is not a violation of copyright.

Also, can you produce the actual quote where Jim Zubkavich said “Please pirate my work!”? Because that’s kinda what quotation marks imply. That it’s a quotation.

Everyone else is beating me to it, but…

It’s not piracy if the copyright holder is offering it for free and giving people permission to share it.

Comic pirates don’t really use bittorrent anymore– oh, you can still find torrents of the more popular comics, if you look, sure, but the bulk of the piracy action has arguably shifted to direct downloads through multiple third party content-neutral download sites. It might be helpful to know that if you want to discuss comic piracy.

And also but: Scans_Daily isn’t a pirate site…? Plus: Scans_Daily featuring webcomics isn’t especially unusual. And Scans_Daily mentions that they found out about the comic from tumblr, not from torrents.

Yeah, it’s not pirating.

But the phrase “Please pirate my work” is an attention-getter, because it sounds so antithetical. “Wot? I must see why a creator would want his work pirated!”

If he had said, “Please distribute my digital comic on torrent sites for me”, we wouldn’t even be reading this.

It’s a guerrilla marketing tactic. “The concept of guerrilla marketing was invented as an unconventional system of promotions that relies on time, energy and imagination rather than a big marketing budget. Typically, guerrilla marketing campaigns are unexpected and unconventional, potentially interactive, and consumers are targeted in unexpected places.”

All that said, the comic looks lovely.

This isn’t an entirely new concept. I remember hearing a lot of talk when Fringe first came out that they intentionally let the first episode get pirated before the premiere to get people watching. There’s also rumors here and there that adobe intentionally lets out pirates of photoshop to get people to accept it as dominant since professionally you need a licensed photoshop to produce work and if you pirated and got use to photoshop growing up your going to stick with it.

Rumors, rumors though.

The interesting question is what if this was done by a major company but with ads. Think it would get downloaded enough to have the ad revenue support it? Or done by an indie creator with big support and already a fanbase, say Neil Gaiman or something. Thoughts?

this isn’t the first time a webcomic has been distributed in this way either. DieselSweeties.com did this many years ago. kinda late to the game here.

@Bill: Er, but he DIDN’T say “Please pirate my work”, as near as I can tell. At any rate, that phrase doesn’t appear on any of the three links given in TFA, and a Google search for /zubkavich “please pirate my work”/ only produces this article and a handful of other pages that link to this article.

Indeed, “Please distribute my digital comic on torrent sites for me” appears to be pretty much exactly what he actually said.

Yes, you’re right, somebody’s chosen a sensationalistic, attention-grabbing headline that isn’t really accurate. But I don’t think it’s Zubkavich.

@Thad: If that’s true, ‘Please pirate my work’ shouldn’t appear in quotes in the headline with the artist’s name and a colon. It’s basically saying “this dude said this.”

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