Who benefits from DRM? (Not the consumer.)

June 22nd, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I’ve been thinking about DRM again lately, especially Diablo III‘s ridiculous always-on DRM and ComiXology shutting down a script to download comics you’ve purchased. It’s fair to say that I’m pretty much anti-DRM, but I still want to talk this out.

The Diablo III thing is painfully obvious to me. If you buy a single player game, you should be able to play it whenever you want. This has been true all the way back to Nintendo days. It’s basic. You shouldn’t need to be online or communicating with someone else just to get your game on. But, when Diablo launched, the servers went down, and folks who dropped sixty on their shiny new game couldn’t do a thing. As it turns out, the always-on DRM was to protect their auction house. It doesn’t matter if you’re not using it or if you’re just playing alone. You have to be connected, no matter what, and if the servers are down, you’re screwed.

The ComiXology thing is different, but still related. If you buy digital comics, you’re probably paying full retail for those comics every week from ComiXology. You can read those comics in their (pretty crappy) Flash-based web reader, on the (average, but sometimes janky) iPad reader, on iPhone, or on your Android device. You don’t get a file, exactly, so much as access to the files. If you want to read your comics in ComicZeal, which has a remarkably clean and smooth reading experience despite a less-than-feature-rich library section, you’re out of luck. If you want to read your comics on a PC without being online, you’re out of luck. If ComiXology goes out of business, which isn’t a crazy idea at all, you’re super out of luck. You’re locked to what ComiXology chooses to allow you to use.

What I realized is that DRM has a lot of benefits for the publisher, but next to none for the consumer. Blizzard can track exactly who plays Diablo III and when, which is valuable for gathering demographic data, off the top of my head. ComiXology can tell publishers exactly what contexts their comics will appear in and on what devices. DRM is about control, basically, rather than being a value-add. It’s a limiting service, rather than one focused on expansion, and the people most affected by it are consumers who actually want to consume this stuff.

DRM is a restriction. DRM doesn’t say what you can do. It says what you cannot. That’s the entire point. It’s about controlling information and access. It’s often used for anti-piracy reasons, but the funny thing is that piracy entirely sidesteps DRM, save for one or two steps that the actual pirate has to go through to make something available for downloading. Not being able to download comics directly from ComiXology doesn’t stop people from putting up ComiXology-derived scans. Not even close.

The script ComiXology shut down was called cmxget. The Reddit thread has been wiped clean of instructions and info on it, and I have yet to find a copy, even though I spent quite some time poking around. I’m really curious to see how it works, because a 2kb bash script isn’t a hefty bit of programming, I don’t think. cmxget allowed you to download comics you already own, and presumably you’d have to run it in a Terminal window, which already means that it’s not a viable piracy method. That’s too much work for too little gain when I can hop over to usenet or Rapidshare and get any comic ever in about five seconds.

DRM is meant to limit what you’re allowed to do, but the very nature of the Flash app means that that limitation is, at best, perfunctory. It’s not going to stop anyone who wants to break it, and it’s not even really gonna stop anyone who once half-thought about breaking it. I got curious and figured this out ages ago. It’s like if… Macrovision on VHS tapes was something you could turn off by pressing Volume + and Volume – on your remote at the same time, or if a DVD included an off button for its copy protection. It’s simple. Simpler than the conversion from CD to MP3, even.

But ComiXology still shut down the script, even though the script can’t be used for downloading free comics. You have to have access to the comics legitimately, which means that you paid for those comics. cmxget is probably pretty tedious, and definitely much less efficient than just hitting up a sharing site. You’re essentially downloading things that you already own via an extremely boring route… but that’s not really true, is it?

Here’s section 6 from the ComiXology Terms of Use (which they reserve the right to modify whenever and however they like without warning you beforehand):

Digital Content:
The Service enables you to download, display and use comic books and other digitized electronic content as made available by comiXology from time to time (individually and collectively, “Digital Content”). Upon your payment of the applicable fees (if any) and subject to any further restrictions in the EULA, if applicable, comiXology grants you the non-exclusive right to view, use and display the Digital Content as part of your use of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content is licensed, not sold, to you by comiXology. ComiXology reserves the right to revoke your license to Digital Content at any time for any reason. Unless specifically indicated otherwise, you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content. In addition, you may not, and you will not encourage, assist or authorize any other person to, bypass, modify, defeat or circumvent security features that protect the Digital Content. You acknowledge and agree that Digital Content may not be available to view, use or display under certain conditions, such as due to restrictions made by licensors of Digital Content or if the publisher of Digital Content no longer retains the rights or other licenses, consents or permissions to that Digital Content. ComiXology reserves the right to modify or discontinue the offering of any Digital Content at any time. If a unit of Digital Content becomes unavailable prior to download but after purchase, your sole and exclusive remedy is the refund of the purchase price paid for such Digital Content.

I’ve bolded the relevant bits, which is a lot of the paragraph, I guess. Forgive me if you’ve heard this before, but I want to reiterate what’s going on here. You’re not buying comics. You’re buying a license to view the comics at ComiXology’s discretion. You may not discuss how to circumvent their copy protection. You may not to let your friends use your account to read a comic. If a publisher associated with ComiXology goes out of business or loses the rights to a comic, you have no remedy. You’re paying for a permission slip, not content, and you are most certainly not paying for comics.

I’ve personally sunk a lot of money into ComiXology. I generally wake up on Wednesday, do morning workout stuff, and then browse for comics while I eat breakfast. I’ll read comics over lunch if I’m really excited about them, and then mop up the rest over the rest of the week. The website says I have 151 separate series in my collection, and that ranges from one-shots to full runs. I dunno how much money that is, but I’ve been buying comics exclusively from these guys (more specifically, through the Isotope affiliate store, since Sime is my dude) for the better part of a year now, and off and on for a couple years, so probably a lot.

What happens when ComiXology goes away? I lose the license and my comics go away, along with my money. ComiXology is emphatic about not giving out refunds. My comics go away because I never actually bought (for example) Azzarello & Chiang’s Wonder Woman. I bought the rights to view it at the discretion of someone else. When they go away, so does their discretion. And that sucks. Companies close all the time. Yahoo! is in the process of running Flickr into the ground. Google Video is gone. All those early ’00s music vendors we thought were great alternatives to Napster? Dead. Blockbuster, Sam Goody, every game store that isn’t GameStop… why should ComiXology be any different? They’re a very big fish in a very small pond. But at one point, Flickr was on top of the world, too.

This isn’t rabid paranoia. It’s simply being careful about where and how you spend your money. Look at what happened to the manga and anime industries. Look at MySpace. Companies close.

The thing that’s particularly odious about ComiXology’s approach to DRM is that ComiXology really is the biggest fish in a small pond. So why not offer DRM-free files? The benefit of being a big fish is that you get to dictate to the market. Always-on DRM for video games is a terrible idea, an idea that definitely hurts consumers, but Blizzard is such a big dog that they got away with it. Why? Because people won’t do without Blizzard. They won’t do without that Diablo III. So Blizzard gets away scot-free. Why would Blizzard introduce always-on DRM? Who knows. (No, we all know: it’s about money. It’s always about money. Everything is about money.)

Why not push that in the other direction? ComiXology’s DRM is about as effective as tissue paper is at stopping bullets. Piracy is happening regardless of the DRM. Savvy programmers figured out how to reliably backup their comics already. The DRM is a smokescreen, a nod in the direction of security. It’s not a locked door. It’s a screen door with the glass up during a storm. Piracy and DRM are clearly two separate issues, so why not flip the script and push something that would please customers?

“Starting today, every file you purchase or have purchased on ComiXology will be available in an optional DRM-free CBR file, which are readable on every major platform.”

Being able to continue to access your files, the comics that you’ve bought, in perpetuity is a big deal for me. Maybe not everyone, but there’s a significant subset of us who feel that way, I’d wager. Making this change, which is minor when you consider the problems with their DRM system, is a goodwill get. It wouldn’t dramatically change the user experience (that’s the point of it being optional), and you could even do it Amazon MP3 style and tag each download with a specific code tied to the downloader’s account for security’s sake. Even with that, fans will go “Wow, these guys really get it!” and feel more comfortable with purchasing, since they know that they’re actually paying for comics and have recourse if ComiXology goes away. It makes ComiXology look smart, and it makes the comics industry look like it’s dodging the same traps and pitfalls that the comics industry fell into.

The music industry avoided DRM-free MP3s for years. It didn’t work. Why not leap ahead of the wave that’s inevitably coming and benefit from that perceived prescience? Obviously it isn’t as simple as flipping a switch and adjusting a TOS, and publishers would need to be convinced… but I think if you’d compare the benefits of DRM, which are entirely on the publisher side, and the benefits of openly shunning DRM, which puts consumers first, you’d find something workable.

This isn’t just about ComiXology, either. They’re just the biggest target. Dark Horse, too, needs to bite the bullet. I liked this post on their forums about DRM and the benefits of ditching it. DRM will not and does not stop piracy. I don’t know any other way to say it. It just inconveniences people who actually pay for things. Pirates sidestep DRM. Downloading comics can’t get easier, and the small number of people who are ripping comics right now will continue to do so.

Why don’t digital comics companies quit it with the fake idea that DRM is good for us, for consumers, and catch up to the music industry? Why don’t the digital comics distributors start selling comics instead of permission slips? Why don’t they at least offer the option of a DRM-free file? Every MP3 I buy from Amazon is stored on the cloud, but I also have the option of downloading it. People are already hyped for digital comics. I can’t see how this would change that any way but for the better.

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Are they scanning Marvel’s comics from inside the House of Ideas?!

February 15th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

When looking at scanned print comics, one thing usually sticks out. Unless the scanner takes great care, each page will differ in size just a little bit. Scanners use Fit Width to make sure all the pages are the same width, but unless your scan is perfect (or you go back through later to crop for consistency, though that has problems of its own), you’re looking at pages that may be sized 1280×1028, 1280×1020, or 1280×1030, as a few random examples. It’s not a huge deal for the reader, and really you’ll only notice if you’re paying close attention, which I imagine is why this is generally true of comics that were physically scanned. There are a few other things that are specific to print scans, too, like the occasional hair that got scanned in, artifacts, evidence of where someone joined a two-page spread, and moire.

The new hotness are digital scans. Common sense suggests that the scanners take the digital comics themselves, strip them out of the reader, and then package them up. They don’t just use the iPad screenshot function, either. The scans are higher quality than that, and aren’t subject to the brightness setting on the iPad. They’re also of a uniform resolution — a recent digital scan of Daredevil is 988×1500 throughout, save for a two-page spread and one other exception. The recap page is 995×1500. Ultimate X-Men #7 is 1280×1943. Avengers 22, which wasn’t even released digitally but was released as a digital scan, is 1280×1944.

It’s possible that these are just print scans, sure, but not likely. I’ve been talking through this conundrum with David Uzumeri for a couple of weeks now. We’re both interested in the technology behind how this works, if only for curiosity’s sake. We got our Nancy Drew on and found something interesting. We’re pretty sure that the digital scans of Marvel’s comics aren’t being scanned by who or how you’d think they are.

Print scans tend to be around 150dpi or higher, for the sake of image quality. The recent digital scans I’ve looked through have been 72dpi. Most of them have been created using Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Windows, though a couple scanners use CS5. There’s an aura of perfection around these scans that makes it unlikely that someone is just posting print comics with a digital tag for the sake of shenanigans.

Where do these they come from? They’re not iPad screenshots. I don’t think it’s someone taking screenshots off ComiXology, either. The images are too clean and too perfect for that, plus ComiXology’s web reader sucks. Good luck getting anything readable out of that thing. Edit: Several people have pointed out that it’s actually really easy to pull images from ComiXology using simple functions that are built into your web browser. I tried it out and yeah, man, I was totally wrong there. My bad.

A clue. Here’s the print cover to Daredevil 9 and the digital scan cover right after it.

They look fine, right? Both are totally reasonable covers, and the lack of UPC feels right for digital comics. The rub, though is that digital comics have a copyright notice on the cover, every single time. “©2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. WWW.MARVEL.COM.” The digital scans don’t have that warning, and show no sign of it having been photoshopped out.

Here’s the raw cover from the solicitations:

Now, unless the scanners are carefully photoshopping in the logo each time (they aren’t, don’t be ridiculous), then something’s up. The plot thickens when you realize that the font and placement of the credits on the cover on the legit digital version differ from the digital scan. It doesn’t differ a lot, usually, but the fonts are visually different and sometimes the credits are off by a few inches. In this case the credits are different.

There’s a chance the scanners could have figured out how to hack ComiXology to dump the pages, but would still require buying a whole lot of comics once they go live and processing them immediately. Considering how small the digital scan groups are, that’s pretty unlikely. All of the DC scans slowly trickle in after 2pm EST, their official release time. Scanners aren’t likely to obey idiotic online street dates, and they can’t scan books without buying them. That limits them to ComiXology’s release time.

All the Marvel books arrive at once, though, and in pristine condition. There’s something undeniably fishy there. My first thought was that people were scanning Marvel comics they got on Tuesday at their comic shops, but if that were true, we’d see DC and Image books following that pattern, too. My second thought, and one that seems more reasonable and likely, is that there’s a leak somewhere in the supply chain.

Taken all together: There are covers that differ from any legit cover. Pages that are pitch-perfect. DPI that matches across the board. Recap pages that occasionally vary in size, just like they do in official Marvel electronic review copies. Every Marvel comic is available early and all at once on the scan site du jour. DC comics appear in a trickle after 2pm EST. By 7pm EST on Wednesday, every big two comic is available for download, but well before that, Marvel’s entire line-up for the week is ready to go.

It’s pretty clear from this evidence that there’s a leak somewhere along the supply chain. Someone’s getting access to a PDF, or something, and dumping it to JPG before releasing it to the net. Converting a PDF to a series of JPGs is simple in Photoshop, and once you set up a good action to save the images, this is something that takes no more than five minutes to do, RAM and size of PDF depending.

The PDF thing is easy to prove, due mainly to the janky fonts on the covers and in the issue. Whatever tool the scanners use to dump the jpegs doesn’t actually have the fonts the comics require, so we get a next-best and unobtrusive replacement. They use InDesign to dump, is my guess, and then Photoshop to re-size. You can actually see this error at work in all of DC’s preview comics, because the price and issue number are incorrect. (quick edit: check the comments for something I screwed up on the PDF front, though it doesn’t really change the thrust of the post…)

Actually, quick sidebar: DC’s preview images are enormous in size, usually weighing in at a megabyte a page or more. DC’s doing no post-processing on their previews, basically, so the pages are too large to actually read in a web browser comfortably, too high-res to be worth saving, and clear enough to see all of the weird PDF signatures that books have before they go to print. Dear DC Comics: you gotta do better with that. It’s embarrassingly amateur. Drop it to like 1280 on the long side and maybe 350 or 500kb max per page. Or, y’know, look at how every comics site reformats your previews and format it like that.

Anyway, if the DC thing doesn’t convince you, Uzumeri found a smoking gun. The photo is from the issue of Uncanny X-Men he bought on Wednesday. The clean image is from the scan.

The scan is missing the musical notes, which are presumably some type of font that the scanners do not have access to, or maybe a layer that was missed out of the source of the scan.

We found another gun in Daredevil 9. The captions on this page are from the following page. Daredevil is underground and tracking the Mole Man. The captions have nothing to do with the Black Cat, though it is funny how they almost work with the scene, at least in terms of how they’re positioned on the page.

Or this other other gun, in Winter Soldier 1. There’s a scene that’s out of place in the digital scan. Pages 11 and 12 of the digital comic come before page 7 in the digital scan. It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but there’s a subtle transition between pages 6 and 7 in the digital comic that show it as a definite mistake. This is curious, because if you’re dumping a PDF, all the pages come pre-numbered. Did someone have a bum PDF or InDesign file?

The clean covers begin to make sense now, too. If I had to guess, I would assume that the copyright, credits, and UPC are separate layers in one file. When they export to print or digital, they can tick a box and show the UPC or copyright, depending on the requirements of the situation. Cover elements like the credits can be maneuvered around pretty easily, but the scans always have them near where they are on the printed comic. Actually, looking at the Daredevil cover… the credits and Marvel logo are terribly placed. They’re high enough that something should go below them. What is THAT about?

So, who is it? Who’s got the PDFs?

Who it isn’t:
Fans: The fans who scan use printed comics, or have figured out how to dump ComiXology’s images (maybe dipping into wherever Flash stores its cache?). This is too perfect for that, and the little problems that crop up are unlikely in that situation.

Retailers: I asked around and spoke to a retailer. Retailers do get electronic preview copies on their retail resource site, but strictly at Marvel’s whim. The last one they got was was Chris Yost and Ryan Stegman’s Scarlet Spider #1 around a month before that came out. Right now, there are no previews on the page. No previews mean no scans. Nah son.

Press: Marvel doles out preview PDFs on Thursdays, but they just have eight pages. When Marvel wants to use you to pimp some new comic of theirs, they’ll shoot you a link to a full PDF. The sheer volume of books available, though, suggests that it ain’t the press. Marvel’s got no reason to flood the press with books when the press is more than happy to review every Marvel comic every week.

ComiXology: This was my first guess, actually. They’d have access to the files, and they messed around and released Justice League several hours early, enabling scanners to get it up before it even came out last year. But the files are different than the actual ComiXology files in very specific ways. ComiXology would probably have the fonts needed to convert Marvel books to whatever digital proprietary format they use, too, so the fonts would look how they should. Not to mention the recap pages, which are specific to the digital edition due to how the indicia is formatted.

It’s not the fans, retailers, press, or ComiXology, I’m pretty certain that at least three of those are 100% correct. Let’s go back to Daredevil 9’s busted page. It is impossible for a scanner to make that mistake. There’s no way for it to happen. There are four different page elements that have been transposed onto another page, leaving the next page silent save for its hand drawn sound effects. If the text is a single layer on its own, though… I could see how that could happen.

Who it is:
Marvel?: That means that either the scanners have access to Marvel’s pre-press files, which is amazing, or someone who works closely with Marvel, whether on the production side or at the printer, is slipping a scanner PDFs. There’s no way that the lettering could be transposed by a third party, and the font issue suggests that it’s someone fairly high up on the supply chain.

One last smoking gun. The Ultimate X-Men 7 digital scan includes a page advertising the digital edition of the comic. There’s a big blank space where the redemption code should go. I don’t have a digital comic version of this to check, but I’m willing to bet cash money that no digital comic version of this issue would include an access code for the digital comic. This is from a print comic.

More proof: the indicia in the digital scans include the print indicia, included the date the comic was manufactured. In the case of Ultimate X-Men 7, it was between 01/20/2012 and 01/31/2012 by Quad/Graphics Jonesboro, in Jonesboro, AK. Every printed comic has this info in it. The digital ones have a seriously abridged version of the print indicia, and no info on the printer.

Messed up fonts, print indicia, missing digital comics redemption codes, the fact that Avengers 22 is available as a digital scan despite not being available on ComiXology (or on Marvel’s stupidly exclusive app), the standard DPI, the rigid resolution, the perfect scans… it’s obvious what this is. Someone’s got Marvel’s print-ready files before they’re finalized, and they’re slapping them up online as digital scans. Clever girl.

Marvel: your ship is leaking, whether it’s internal, an FTP hack, or on the way to the printer.

Edit: Thanks to Uzumeri’s dogged determination, we figured out what the hack is this morning. It isn’t a person, it’s a security leak, and we emailed Marvel about it.

one more edit: Marvel closed the hole we found, though I don’t think it’ll lessen how often or easily Marvel’s books can be pirated, except in a few very specific instances. This was one hole that was very easy to exploit. There are others that are completely unavoidable.

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“When is it not pirating?” and/or “When is piracy understandable?”

February 12th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

-You own several comics, movies, and compact discs. You find yourself quickly running out of space, so you decide to box up all that stuff and switch to digital.

-Do you have to re-buy these works in a digital format or should you be allowed to download them for free?

-You’re not going to share your downloads. They’re strictly for your use, because you are a lazybones and/or out of space.

-You’re allowed to have a copy of your media for personal use. Does downloading an mp3 or cbr count as a copy? If you get a copy created by someone else, since creating your own backups can be time consuming, is that still valid?

-What if what you want a copy of isn’t available commercially? If the scan is the only source of it, barring back-issue bins? What then?

-Is this piracy? I feel like it probably definitely is, but it’s a type of piracy that I’m okay with.

-What are you buying when you buy media? Are you buying the Blu-ray disc with Redline or are you buying the experience of watching Redline?

-I would argue the latter. I don’t care about a disc or floppy. I care about reading a story or watching a movie. The comics or movie industry would argue differently, of course, and the law is on their side.

-My gut feeling is that it’s piracy, but it’s not the type of piracy I’d get mad at someone for. Yes, it’s wrong, but I think it’s the type of piracy that’s… I hesitate to say reasonable, but that’s probably the exact word I mean. For me, the delivery system doesn’t matter much at all, unless I’m buying something specifically for that delivery system, like an Absolute edition or tricked out special edition. Does that make sense? I’m not buying anything physical. (Though that does raise questions about medium vs message, but let’s table that for now.) Does that change the conversation at all?

-Is buying something secondhand more legitimate than downloading something you own? In both cases, the original rights holders don’t get paid for the new twist, but were paid for the original purchase. There’s a difference in legal legitimacy here, obviously, but if your piracy position is all about the creator being paid, then they feel like they’re both in violation (which is why video games companies have been going hard on the used games market and punishing consumers for buying used over the past three or so years).

-Should you be able to pirate something you have already paid for? I’ve definitely bought Nas’s Illmatic several times now across several formats. Tape, CD, MP3, and then vinyl. I wanted to listen to one of my favorite albums on whatever device I had handy at that point in my life (and the ritual of listening to one of the best albums of all time on vinyl was irresistible), and the purchases were several years apart. At the same time, I have several bootleg versions of Illmatic that I didn’t pay for. I’ve deleted a lot of them since, but at the peak, I had two different instrumental versions (one was legit, the other a recreation I believe), a piano instrumentals version, an Al Green mash-up, a version with a few demos from the original sessions or something, a live version, and another version where other rappers recreated the songs. Am I out of line? Where do my rights stop, as “dude who bought the album?”

What’re your feelings on this one specific aspect of the piracy debate? Once you buy it, do you have a license to more of it, or should you have to pay? Legally, I think the answer is clear, but… morally, ethically, how bad do you need to feel about yourself if you bootleg Amazing Spider-Man 121 because you’re too lazy to dig Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys out of storage?

Couple notes for the comments because I hate how people use any post about piracy as a chance to talk about how piracy is totally, 100%, a-okay: piracy is not a revolutionary act in any way, shape or form. You aren’t fighting the power. You’re listening to stuff for free. Seriously, I don’t care. You should pay a fair price for the stuff you enjoy. You shouldn’t pirate books you hate just so you can hate them. Piracy can help, but it can also hurt. It’s obvious that the person who created the work should get to decide how it’s used. People pirate because they want something for free more than they want to kick somebody else some cash. Something something it’s illegal so go kill yourself for pirating you filthy pirate something. Blah blah information wants to be free blah. Use common sense. Use protection. Don’t do drugs. Piracy funds terrorism and therefore pirates should be drawn and quartered. Never trust a big butt and a smile.

Please don’t be annoying in the comments, is all I’m asking.

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His Reasoning Is Askew

January 24th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Joshua Hale Fialkov wrote an anti-piracy piece the other day. It’s interesting, but I disagree with most of it, if not all of it. It’s not that I don’t get his point (it’s basically “Times are hard, no one reads comics, and piracy sucks” from his POV), it’s that his reasoning feels suspect to me, a little Team Comics-y. Stuff like this:

The comic market consists of about 200,000 people, on the high end. Now, certainly, you’ll have your Justice Leagues and Batmans and Flash’s that do amazing sales and are generating profits. But almost every other book that isn’t up there in the top 25 or so titles is almost certainly losing money.

rings false to me. In the direct market, sure, that may be true, but Scholastic has printed ten million copies of Jeff Smith’s Bone, a comic for the children who do not read comics, since 2005. The anthology Flight went for eight volumes over the course of a few years, plus spinoffs. Robert Kirkman has his The Walking Dead, Felipe Smith is over in Japan making manga, and on and on. These may be outliers, but the comics culture, for lack of a pithier way to say “people who buy comics,” is much larger than 200,000 people. That’s probably even true of the Direct Market.

There’s also this:

So, while I’m telling you to stop being an asshole, I need you to do something for me. Be an asshole. You know how when someone you’re talking to makes a horrificly offensive racist comment and you immediately tell them to watch their mouth (or smack them or what have you…)? Well, I want you to do that about Piracy. Call them a fucking cockhead.

This is just silly. One, that’s not how anyone has ever been convinced of anything. Calling somebody a cockhead is probably what led to Lucifer and God falling out. Two, it doesn’t do anything but make both people into jerks and spark completely unproductive arguments. Three, I get his point, that we should take a stand against piracy amongst our peers, but seriously? This isn’t the way to do it. You’d be better off trying to actively guilt trip them, and that is the pass-aggest thing in the entire world.

But what I really wanted to talk about, what really crawled all the way under my skin, was this:

Tell them that they’re singly responsible for ruining the comic book industry (or the film industry or whatever.)

Folks, the ship is sinking and we all need to stand up and fight.

“Singly responsible.”

I like that, because it pushes all of the responsibility for lost money and a broken industry onto the consumer. “What’s wrong with this industry? You are, dear consumer. That will be $2.99 plus tax, enjoy your read.” That’s MPAA/RIAA talk right there, and it’s completely counterproductive and ridiculous. Fialkov seems like a smart dude, from what I’ve read of his interviews, so I’m actually surprised these words came out of his mouth.

But sure, let’s do this.

When I was a kid, I could buy comics for a dollar or two. It was the early ’90s and comics were a thing children did and parents tolerated in case it made money. I never had much of an allowance (Thanks, Mom), but I would get ten or twenty bucks for helping my aunt clean houses around town once I got old enough to push a mop, so I could finance my own entertainment.

I owned a Super Nintendo, but SNES tapes were like 70 bucks a piece, or something equally unreachable as a kid. I think I only ever owned Super Mario World, Star Fox, Mario Kart, and probably Street Fighter. I rented games from our local video store (either Blockbuster or Video Warehouse, though I don’t think it was called that then) for something like 2-5 bucks for 3 days.

Music was pretty expensive, too. 18 bucks at the mall for a CD, 12 at the BX. I didn’t buy my first CD until like 1998, with Heltah Skeltah’s (still great) Magnum Force, so it was the radio (free) or cassette tapes (ten bucks or less) for me.

From what I recall, my mom handled paying for theater movies, and I would rent them along with the video games. I had the option of playing outside, which I took fairly often, because the south has really nice weather, or working with my grandfather on his lawn, which I had no choice in at all and was basically free child labor. Oh, and I could go to the library if I could talk someone into driving me. Toward the late ’90s, we lived near a library, so I could bike there on a Saturday and bike back with half a dozen books to tear through.

That was it. That’s what I had to entertain myself from whenever I became conscious of money on through probably 1999.

Here’s what I’ve done so far today, over the past 12 or so hours:
-Went on went on Crunchyroll.com and tried to find some new anime to watch
-I added gdgd fairies to my list because a friend recommended it, along with a couple other shows that looked mildly interesting/not-moe
-I bought two albums from Amazon: Gangrene’s Vodka & Ayahuasca and The Suzan’s Golden Week For The Poco Poco Beat, both of which bang pretty hard
-I ordered Greneberg on vinyl because I like raw raps, and Mos Def’s The Ecstatic because I’ve been looking for it since I got a turntable
-I added several sample chapters to my Kindle and continued reading David Peace’s Tokyo Year Zero while they
-Spent three hours online doing research for a new work project. I’ve undoubtedly read the equivalent of several video game magazines worth of content across maybe a dozen different websites (a pox on Metacritic).
-Listened to both the albums I bought this morning via Google Music, made notes for songs to delete from Google Music because I’m perilously close to the limit
-Went to add something to my Netflix queue (I Saw The Devil) only to realize that it was already in my queue
-Made plans with a friend to watch a foreign movie on Blu-ray
-Watched a few trailers on Hulu (Get down with Madagascar or get laid down)
-Watched music videos on Youtube (you could do this in the past, but only on TV and you couldn’t pick what was what unless you had The Box)
-Posted some stuff on Tumblr

And some stuff I’m sure I’m forgetting, but let me get to my point. I’m not rich. I’ve got a job, which is a really nice thing to have, and it lets me buy nice things, but that’s about it. But besides the money, which really just lets me consume in a greater volume than I did as a child rather than breadth, the main difference between when comics made everybody a bunch of money and today is this:

We have options now, when it comes to what we choose to entertain us. You can drown in entertainment without putting forth really any effort at all today. It’s not like back then, when comics were a larger part of a smaller pie.

The internet didn’t exist (or “wasn’t a going concern” for the pedants who are sure to tell me about DARPA or ARPA or Al Gore or whatever) when I was a kid. Game consoles weren’t multimedia devices. Mobile phones were a joke. Cordless phones were the new hotness. Long distance calling was a special occasion. Etc etc woe is past me, blah blah blah.

To put forth the idea that piracy on the part of consumers is “singly responsible” for anything, especially when piracy by its very nature is impossible to nail down in terms of concrete numbers and cause & effect is dishonest. Bootlegs have always existed, whether in barbershops or art galleries. They’ve been here, and they aren’t going away. Do they cause harm? Any idiot knows the answer to that question is “yes.”

But for my money, the thing that killed comic books is “everything else.” We’re living in an all-new status quo, and I keep seeing people, especially comics people, acting like piracy is the sole cause of all their ills. When no, that isn’t true, and a half glance at the world will tell you so.

I don’t even have to leave my house to be flooded with things to do. I can have food delivered, songs and movies I buy (or download, whatever) appear on my hard drive or PlayStation like magic, video games can be bought and played without ever touching a physical disc… we’re living in the future, and that’s without even going outside. Outside, I can go to the movies, check out stand-up open mics, hang out with friends, drink Starbucks, eat donuts, play board games, go to bars…

There is so much to do, and when you tell me my choice is between (in this instance) a comic that averages out to being just okay and costs three to four dollars to read for five to ten minutes and doing anything else, I’m going to choose anything else, nine times out of ten, with exceptions made for creators I enjoy or books that might have a good hook that I’m curious about.

And I like comics. At this point, I’ve probably written a million words about them. I like supporting the people who make comics, whether with an email about how much I like their work, a Paypal donation, or just buying their books when they come out. My apartment is a mess because I like these stupid picture books so much.

It’s a new age. You either figure out how to progress along with time or you get washed away. Which is maybe “a fucking cockhead” thing to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true. 1996 rules don’t apply any more. You have to change for that new status quo.

I like this group named Pac Div a whole lot. It’s three cats (BeYoung, Like, and Mibbs) out of LA who can rap their butts off. They’ve got a style and subject matter that I’m into. They’ve gotten nine bucks out of me, because I bought The Div off Amazon. That album came out in 2011. I’ve been listening to the Div since 2009, and have enjoyed three of their full-length mixtapes, which are completely free. I don’t really go to concerts, so the only way I could support them was by buying that record when it came out. Their mixtapes are good enough that I would’ve paid for them out of pocket, so dropping ten dollars on The Div wasn’t even a question. I gladly throw money at them because I like what they do.

Their model, which is shared by a lot of rappers these days, doesn’t work for everyone, but they’re trying something that was unheard of back when the music industry was making money hand over fist. Pac Div knew that they weren’t going to come out of the gates and sell a million like it’s nothing, so they built a fanbase, toured the country (and eventually Europe, like they did in 2011 six months before their album dropped), and then released a tape at retail. Giving stuff away is no way to make a living, but they figured out how to monetize that model, and I assume it’s worked out pretty well for them. Hopefully, anyway–I’d like to see these guys succeed.

I don’t know what model is the future of comics. I do believe that it isn’t three and four dollar puzzle pieces, and it isn’t two dollar digital comics, either. Comics have a hard uphill climb, because the return on investment (to use a particularly odious phrase) just isn’t there for the reader. Four bucks for a comic featuring Wolverine that lasts ten minutes versus four bucks for a coffee with friends vs three bucks for a movie rental on Amazon vs five bucks for digital manga vs five bucks for an MP3 album on sale vs six bucks for a pre-noon movie on a lazy Saturday vs nine bucks for a Kindle book vs whatever else is out there. .99 for Angry Birds and Bejeweled 2. Not to mention drugs and romance, which is a whole other kettle of hopefully good-looking fish.

I paid twenty bucks for a season of Justified. That’s five comics. The difference in value there, assuming we aren’t talking about completely transcendant comics (which are few and far between), is harsh.

A lot of things have hurt comics. Needlessly conservative storytelling, crap coloring (maybe that’s just me and my art snob friends though), bad comics, rising prices, a lack of speculators, the Hollywood money being exponentially better, companies going for the short gain instead of the long-term gain (I’m looking at you, Humanoids, and your reprinting of comics classics in strictly deluxe formats that are too expensive for the casual reader who needs that stuff and you, Marvel, who can’t even keep a trade of a book that’s buzzing super hard in print, and you, comic shops, for banging your doofus drum every time somebody does something in digital comics you don’t like), and yes, piracy, have all hurt comics.

Tell them that they’re singly responsible for ruining the comic book industry (or the film industry or whatever.)

Folks, the ship is sinking and we all need to stand up and fight.

“Singly responsible” is an untruth, and to be honest, I’d be remarkably surprised if it was largely responsible for the current state of comics. Nobody even has actual, non-made up numbers on how piracy has personally affected them. They look at numbers on Demonoid or Rapidshare and go “See? I lost 3 dollars times thirty thousand downloads.” That’s fake reasoning. That’s assuming that everyone who got curious would have paid for your book, or that people aren’t backing up their legal copies, or half a dozen other situations. There are bots that seed torrent files just because they exist, users who download everything because they like having a large ratio, or because of some dumb OCD internet thing.

People were losing money on comics long before piracy was something that comics companies noticed. I get that piracy makes for a nice scapegoat, but the fall of comics, if it is in fact falling rather than changing into something else, is way bigger than piracy, no matter how hard people bang that drum and close their ears to dissent.

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“I’ma shoot a bootlegger!” [On Piracy]

December 9th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Over the past week, I’ve watched a handful of episodes of One Piece on Hulu, picked up half a dozen new and old albums on Amazon across a variety of genres, bought eight issues of Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for reading on my iPod, added samples of a couple ebooks to the same, and purchased Persona 3 Portable for my PSP. The whats don’t really matter here. People buy things all the time, and I’m no different. The how, though, is pretty interesting when you think about it. I did most of this from my couch, and no physical media was involved. It was entirely digital. And without piracy, I don’t think it would have happened at all.

Companies, or corporations, or whatever, are generally conservative. Once they have a revenue stream, they will squeeze it until it’s dry, and then keep squeezing, just in case. When faced with a new way of making money, they will first try to graft old business models onto it and essentially make money the same way they always have. When forced, they will embrace new paradigms, but not without a fight.

On top of that, businesses are by their nature hostile to consumers. They want your money, first and foremost, and anything that allows them to maximize the amount of your money they get is probably going to be fair game. When Jay-Z said, “I’m a hustler, homey/ You a customer, crony” in “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” he summed up exactly how the consumer and manufacturer relationship works. They’re about money, and if you have money, you’re a target.

In the past, if you wanted to watch a tv show, you had to tune in at the right time or hope someone taped it for you (which was probably technically illegal). If you wanted to buy an album or hear a song, you needed the radio or a record shop. Video games? Go to Funcoland. Books? Hit the library. And on and on and on.

The internet, and piracy, changed that forever. For the first time, non-physical media became a possibility. MP3s caused a catastrophic drop in the perceived value of music. Being able to store hundreds, or thousands, of songs on a computer, and later an mp3 player, makes you rethink how you approach music. You don’t have to buy albums that are half filler just to get the two or three songs you like. You can just get those songs. Even if you like all of an album, you don’t need a six foot high stack of jewel cases any more. It fits in your pocket.

The record industry reacted conservatively, or maybe with abject horror. Rather than leaping on the format, which was small enough to be downloaded easily even over 56k (bitrate depending), the RIAA moved to block anything that could play it. Later, they tried to eradicate it by creating un-rippable CDs. Still later, once they realized it wasn’t going to go away, they produced their own portable music format. This was loaded with software that let you play your music at their discretion, and only on machines or via software that they allow. Years later, they gave up on DRM and finally let you have what you paid for, playable on whatever you want, whenever you want.

Years ago, I modded my first Xbox. It took nothing but a bit of video game and a file loaded onto a memory card. After that, I could copy games I bought to my Xbox’s hard drive, or just straight up download games and do the same. It was absurdly convenient, and made things like Halo parties or marathoning games with friends much, much simpler. Same for the PlayStation 2, after the hard drive for that dropped.

There are plenty of other examples. Downloading movies, books, anime, tv shows… comic books. Take your pick. Piracy changed how people, normal people, consume media. The free price point is worth a lot, obviously, but the convenience and ability to do what you want with what you’re consuming counts for even more, I’d say. If I wanted to kick a friend or cousin a song I liked, I could do that. If I wanted to play a bunch of games at somebody’s house without bringing over eighteen cases, I could do that.

It’s years later now, and things aren’t much different in effect. If I want to go over a friend’s house for some games, I throw my PS3 into a backpack and head over. At most, I’ll grab Rock Band 3 and the keyboard. When I go to watch TV, a movie, or the Ohio State game, I get on my computer or PS3. When I want to read a book, I don’t pick up something made of dead trees. I pick up a little electronic device.

The method of execution, though, is definitely different. I can pay for all of this now, and I get content when and how I want it at a price I think is reasonable. I recognize that I am a target, but I don’t feel like I’m being victimized or gouged by someone’s quest for profit. Just flicking through my Amazon playlist on iTunes, which contains everything I’ve bought from there, I can guesstimate that I buy a new album every couple of weeks. The rest of my collection is filled out with free mp3s direct from the artists themselves, mixtapes, or things I’ve found on Bandcamp. I use Netflix for movies, Hulu for TV, and ESPN3 for sports. Amazon’s Kindle service puts books in my hand less than a minute after I buy them, and I read them on the same thing that plays music. I recently got a PSP (again) and decided that I’d not buy any of those dumb little discs for it. Why should I? I can turn on my PSP or PS3, click an icon, navigate to what I want, click “Checkout” and bam, it’s downloading. I don’t need discs any more.

What do I want? Everything. When do I want it? Now. This is the world we live in.

Am I endorsing piracy? Obviously not. If you don’t support the arts, there won’t be any arts. Every idiot who ever had something they liked cancelled on them could tell you that. Culture doesn’t grow on trees. But, at the same time, it is what it is. Piracy isn’t going to go away. People counterfeited Renaissance-era art. We used to get bootleg tapes from the man at the barbershop. If people are going to pirate, they’re gonna pirate, and to be perfectly frank, you can’t stop them. Weed is still illegal, but I guarantee if I wanted a half ounce I could make a call after work and have it before dinner, possibly even in dessert form. Just because it’s wrong doesn’t mean it isn’t easy to find.

I don’t think you should try to justify piracy, or anything you do that’s legally wrong. I think that’s just another way of lying to yourself. That’s just childish. But at the same time, this sort of hardline, “We have to eradicate piracy!” stance that shows up in places like the comments here on Johanna Draper-Carlson’s latest post about piracy? That’s a fantasy. It’s got no basis in reality. It makes about as much sense as all the nonsense I was taught in DARE as part of the War on Drugs and is probably a third as effective. Telling someone “This is bad!” hasn’t stopped anyone from doing anything since the Garden of Eden. Most people will do the right thing out of the goodness of their own heart, but if somebody’s gonna pirate? They’re gonna pirate, doggie, and they’re gonna keep ignoring you. Ask Nancy Reagan about how effective the War on Drugs has been sometime. It’s cool that you disagree or whatever, but those of us here are trying to talk about the real world, where mean things happen and you can’t do anything about it.

It’s unfair, but that’s life. Life sucks. Wish I could say otherwise, but, hey, it is what it is. And it isn’t going away. So, all that’s left to do is look at why people are flocking to pirated goods. The answer isn’t “because it’s free.” That’s a significant part of the equation, to be sure, but it isn’t the whole story. And if you’re trying to fix piracy, for whatever value of “fix” you personally hold, and you aren’t looking at the entire picture, you’re a fool. You can’t judge the width and breadth of something by looking at it with a microscope.

Not all pirates are customers. Every torrent completed on Demonoid isn’t a lost sale. Some people download stuff just to be downloading. They like the e-cred, or they’re completely OCD and it’s easier to count mp3s than bits of straw. It is pretty much impossible to discern between pirates and potential customers, but arguing as if all the people who downloaded your joint off Demonoid would’ve bought it is lunacy. I see a lot of guys walking around with girls in this city, but that doesn’t mean every single girl was a potential girlfriend that I’ve now lost forever thanks to someone getting in the way. A few of them? Sure. Most of them? Yeah, sure, I believe that on days when my ego is completely out of control. But all of them? That’s crazy talk.

The music, video game, publishing, and film industries, once they got done recoiling in abject horror and pretending piracy had no redeeming value at all, finally listened to the people who wanted to be their customers rather than pirates. They gave us what we want in a way that benefits both of us. I get to pay for things I want and in a format I’m cool with and they get what’s basically a constant stream of money shooting out of my wallet.

If you want to fight piracy, you have to be better than piracy. Crap advice? Maybe, but it applies in almost every aspect of life. Want to make more money than the brown-nosing douchebag down the hall? Make yourself more attractive to your employer than he is. Want to date someone, but your predatory homeboy is after the same girl you are? Be better than him. If you want to compete against people with an unfair advantage, you do better or you lose. And even then, sometimes, you still lose.

A huge selling point of digital media is convenience. That makes convenience into an anti-piracy measure. It gives me a choice. I can hop onto rapidshare and download an album, then possibly re-tag, and then add album art, and then add it to iTunes, or I can kick Amazon five to ten bucks and get some high-quality audio, (usually) properly tagged, and with some nice album art built in. Nine times out of ten these days, I choose Amazon.

Achievements and Trophies on 360 and PS3 are other anti-piracy measures. You don’t get to partake in competing with your friends over your gamerscore if you pirate. If you don’t believe that score chasing is a huge part of gaming culture right now, find out how many of your Xbox owning friends played through King Kong because it gave away 1000 gamerpoints around launch time. Make sure to ask them if they enjoyed playing through that game, too. Go ahead. I’ll wait. No, I won’t, because the answer is “almost all of them” and “none of them,” in that order.

Piracy changed the game. It has hurt a lot of people, and that sucks, but at the same time, it’s created a world where being conservative makes you a dinosaur. It’s forced companies to evolve and actually listen to what their customers want. The world changed. Screaming about how illegal or unfair it is isn’t going to fix much. We’re at a point where almost all of the medium we consume is being adjusted to fit into a brand new paradigm. Whether comics or movies or tv or music, physical media is diversifying and digital media is rapidly expanding. Everything changes, usually for unfair reasons. Pay attention to what came before, look at what people want, and adjust accordingly. You can evolve or die.

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You Ain’t A Crook, Son.

March 10th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I quote:

Okay. You ordered a bunch of Marvel Omnibus titles from Amazon as part of The $14.99 Glitch and they’ve been cancelled. You probably knew they would do. But you may have received a previous e-mail saying that you would get at least one at the magic price. Or maybe Amazon never got round to emailing you at all, they just deleted the order from your account. And you’re feeling a bit miffed.

I’m geting reports that people who have complained, even using the Amazon Call Me Back feature on the website, have been getting recompense from the multinational online retailer.
Me, I’m not complaining. I don’t think Amazon owe me anything. I understand however, that you may feel differently.

If you feel differently, you’re the laziest kind of crook there is. Tucker Stone breaks the situation down better than I can right now:

But when they get called on it, what do they say?

“I’m going to file a class action lawsuit” – some random infant, repeated exponentially

That’s the kind of response that would make George Washington weep. A class action lawsuit? Really? That’s the legacy you want written across your face, attached forever to your name?

Crime is a holy profession, and to join its brotherhood is to put oneself alongside this country’s greatest heroes. After oil and weapons production, it’s the most successful industry on the planet, with a storied history that stretches further than any religion. Getting caught out in it–even if all you did was take advantage of a gigantic corporation’s obvious pricing error–is something that should be handled with nothing short of the pride of a Dwayne Michael Carter. Playing the hurt consumer in this situation is the equivalent of standing in the door of the bank after the ATM accidently farts out an extra 20 and refusing to hand it over. It’s spitting on the flag, it’s saying that you’re only willing to play the game if everybody agrees to do it by your rules, and your rules are these: you can’t have done anything wrong, because it’s somebody else’s fault.

Amazon doesn’t owe you a single solitary thing. They’d be well within their rights to cancel every order and not lose a few thousand bucks. There’s even a note in their TOS that sometimes, on occasion, books are mispriced, and sucks to be you if they charge you the full price. Until the book ships, they do not charge your card, meaning that there is no sale. That means they owe you nothing until the book leaves their warehouse.

So to call them up and ask for a refund for time wasted ordering obviously mistakenly marked down books makes you something like a jerk. They don’t owe you anything. If anything, you owe them whatever the actual price of the book you ordered was. It’s a blessing that they honored any of the orders, considering it was such an obvious cheat that we were all taking advantage of. I got a few Ultimate Spidey HCs and I’m pretty happy about that. I didn’t get a Tomb of Dracula, but so what? I don’t expect Wal-mart to let me buy eighteen computers that got marked down to 50 bucks because somebody dropped a decimal point, and they’re under no obligation to let me do that.

Basically, don’t be the old lady at Kroger with a fistful of coupons, trying to game the system and score a dozen eggs for free and getting pissed off and demanding recompense when the manager is like “Sorry, we’re all out.” You played the game with a few aces hidden up your sleeve. If you lost, so what? You lost what, ten minutes of your time? A couple megabytes off your bandwidth for the month?

Get real.

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Scanlations and Piracy: Cry for Justification

March 4th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Hey, let’s talk piracy!

AnimeVice published a pretty poorly written defense of scanlations, tying into a larger discussion of Nick Simmons jacking art from Bleach. It has some fairly huge issues, including some outright factual inaccuracies, but boiled down? It’s crap.

I don’t want to spend this point by point rebutting Remmell’s essay, but I will say that hinging a pro-scans piece on Viz’s “butchery” of Gosho Ayama’s Case Closed is an incredibly bad decision when the changes were requested by Gosho Ayama and the Japanese licensors. It is the real story, since the author wanted the changes. Your mom’s pound cake is your mom’s pound cake, no matter the recipe she chooses to use.

The biggest problem with the essay is the idea of justifying scanlations, and through that, piracy. That’s stupid. Here’s the truth: you can’t justify scanlations. Justifying an act requires proof that the act is necessary. You can justify a war, you can justify violence, you can justify sleeping in and missing some school. The thing is, you can’t justify scanlations. The original creator that you’re such a fan of gets no recompense from you reading scans online. No money, nothing. In exchange for that nothing, you get to read that creator’s book for free. In the end of things, that’s what happens. You aren’t supporting, you aren’t helping, you’re just leeching.

Let’s keep it all the way real. I have a Demonoid account, just like everybody else. Sometimes I hear about a movie and I want to watch it, but Netflix has nothing. Well, look at that: Fatal Fury the Anime is on Youtube. When an album I’m looking forward to leaks a week early, I download it, listen to it, and then decide whether or not I’m buying it off Amazon’s MP3 store. I follow several mp3 blogs to keep up on new singles, freestyles, and mixtapes.

In fact, real life example: I wanted to listen to A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders the other day. It’s one of my favorite albums, I was having a crap day, I figured it’d be a pick-me-up. I found out my mp3s were screwed up. They were skipping, some didn’t play, blah blah blah. This morning I remember that the songs were broken, delete the ones I had, and downloaded the album. I threw them into iTunes, synced my iPod, and got on my bike to go to work.

Now, I’ve owned a copy of Midnight Marauders for years. Several- from cassette to CD to CD after that other CD broke. I could justify it by saying that I’ve paid for the album before, so why should I pay for it again? But- no. It’s on Amazon for ten dollars. I’ve got ten bucks, I love the group, it’s one of my top five favorite albums, and there’s nothing stopping me from downloading the album from a legal venue, except for the fact that I valued my own convenience over the rights of the dudes who made the music.

Make no mistake: this is, legally speaking, piracy. I can’t defend it, I can’t justify it– under the letter of the law, I’m a music pirate. If I got my card pulled over it, what am I gonna say? “I did it because I want to purchase content, not format?”

(The content vs format debate is a valid one, but completely secondary to what happened and why it happened. I downloaded that album because I wanted to not pay for it.)

I did it because I wanted it and it was convenient. This morning, I prized myself over someone else. Nothing more, nothing less. Trying to justify that kind of thing is dumb. If you did it, you did it. At least be real enough to say, “Yeah, I did that. That sucks, huh?”

Scanlations aren’t how you stand up for Authentic Manga or creator’s rights or whatever. Scanlations are how you read books for free. You aren’t fighting the power. You aren’t sending a message to the companies. You’re reading for free. If you care that much, then the only thing you should be doing is purchasing the original tankobon from Japan and reading it yourself. That way, everyone involved gets paid, you get your authentic manga, and we’re all happy.

Pretending that scanlations are something you can justify, or something that is morally correct in any way, shape or form, is a joke. You want it, you read it. That’s what it is, that’s how it works. Be grown up enough to admit it, rather than trying to justify it.

“Be aware and be honest,” is what I’m trying to say here.

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