Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Archie Sez: Downloading Is Evil

Archie Sez: Downloading Is Evil

BoingBoing laments the brainwashing of Archie by the RIAA in "Archie"#577's "Record Breaker."

Here is the comic's official story description:

"Written by Craig Boldman, Art by Stan Goldberg "Record Breaker": Instead of pressing CD's, the Archies decide to sell downloadable files of their songs on the Internet… which doesn't translate to much profit once the 3 purchased files are shared over and over again!"

Could the deal between the band "The Veronicas" and the comic book company have anything to do with it?

Well, I like BoingBoing and all, but their high-horse about how unauthorized downloads of various media should be legal is getting a little tired. Sure, getting every track that "Sparks" ever recorded for free and burning it on DVD for your strange 80s-obsessed cousin is really cool -- but it's stealing. Yeah, every other person does it -- but it's stealing.

Illegal downloads f**ked the music industry seriously, and while I'm all for sticking it to the "man," it all does end up negatively impacting the artists and their art -- ESPECIALLY SMALLER "NICHE" MUSICIANS!

Why? Your big "pop music" acts can absorb the hurting from the reduced revenue rather well by making it up on mega-concerts, merchandise, endorsement deals, etc.

But "Folk Music Dan" with the small but loyal following needs every dime he can get from his CDs. If the music is downloaded for free -- yeah, it might increase his exposure, but that's literally money out of his pocket.

And, with the rise of do-it-yourself recording technology and the Internet, there are now like 100,000 "Folk Music Dans" all competing for your money -- money which you are not spending because you are Mininova-ing their albums.

Now let's apply this to comic books.

The comic book industry cannot survive illegal downloading on the scale of what's happening with music.

The only reason such downloading hasn't reached those levels with comics is because the apps involved are not as user-friendly as MP3s. But once those "comic book reader" applications are perfected (and easily transferable to mobile devices), the industry is going to get screwed.

I don't download comics, though I am sorely tempted to. The lousy "Supergirl" comic I kvetch about? I actually buy that damn thing.

I don't download for several reasons. Firstly, downloads on that scale usually end up infecting my computer with the technological equivalent of syphilis. Second, when I get all the comics that have come out on any given week for free, it inevitably reduces their specialness in my mind. It's like when I got weekly DC comps -- meh. Boring.

But the third reason I don't download is because I know intuitively that it will kill this industry. No, scratch that. It won't kill the industry. It will turn it into a place where "mass appeal," mainstream books like Superman & Spiderman are the only viable things to print, and where the "Folk Singer Dans" of the comic world are forced to see their art as just a hobby because there is no way they can make money off of it.

Hey, I'm not all self-righteous about "DOWNLOADERS ARE EVIL" and calling for them to be arrested and whatever. Do whatever you want. But don't publicly whine about how not being allowed to download the latest "White Stripes" album infringes on your rights. Use a little bit of humbleness, f'God's sake.


  1. I whole heartedly agree. There is a special place in hell set aside for those who download comics. Besides, nothing beats holding the comic physically in my hand.

    However, I fear that my generation of comic reader is going the way of the dinosaur. More and more comic fans are turning to the web for their comic fix and the traditional publishers, Marvel, DC, et al., have been painfully slow to adapt. The web is a powerful publishing medium that is perfectly evidenced by your blog.

    I think the only way for the traditional comic publishers is to do what the music industry failed to do. Instead of embracing music downloads, the music industry attacked. Only when Apple released iTunes did the music industry wake up a realize that they could use the interwebs for moneys. For the comic publishers to survive, I believe they must innovate from within rather than waiting for some third party to do it for them.

    It would be a simple matter of them swallowing their pride and getting together, Marvel, DC, et al., to come up with a universal, cross platform delivery service. Essentially, iTunes for comics. It's a proven business model. Why not adapt it! You could sell single issues or even subscriptions.

    I'd buy digital comics from Marvel and DC. My wife is getting quite tired of trying to find places to put my comics and graphic novels in our tiny condo.

    The unfortunate reality is that not only can you download scanned comics, you can also read endless webcomics for free. Some of them are even better written and better drawn than their print counter parts. Publishers need to adapt in order to compete with such free content.

    holy shit, that was long-winded.

  2. "The only reason such downloading hasn't reached those levels with comics is because the apps involved are not as user-friendly as MP3s. But once those "comic book reader" applications are perfected (and easily transferable to mobile devices), the industry is going to get screwed."

    This happened two or three years ago, and I'm pretty sure comic scans are far easier to use and more widespread than you think.

    "But the third reason I don't download is because I know intuitively that it will kill this industry. No, scratch that... there is no way they can make money off of it."

    At this point, it seems that scans help the industry more than hurt it by providing free back catalogues of issues. People can get current with comic books without having to buy 4 trades, a couple minis, and 3 or 4 back issues to catch up to where their favorite character is now. They don't have to be intimidated by the cost or time consumption of trying to jump back into mainstream Marvel or DC continuity, which can be intimidating. If Marvel or DC knew what was good for them, they'd offer important storylines for free on their site a few months after it happened, supported by ad revenue, and eventually offer scans to be sold online and bypass the printing costs. It's just like any industry, where if there's a quality product, people will buy it. People reading scans only are the same exact people who wouldn't buy comics if scans didn't exist.

  3. I didn't realize until recently how tiny the comic book industry actually is: even a huge hit comic is still being sold to a hundred thousand people or two at most (Civil War #6 did what, around 260k copies sold, all told?). In a sense, comic books are all niche and no pop: they're small enough of an industry that if any significant portion of buyers start stealing them is going to crush even the bigs, let alone a great but much smaller series like Fables, let alone the really small independent stuff.

    Heck, I feel sort of bad reading comics in Borders occasionally, where you can basically just sit and read all the major comics and trades for free (store policy: I guess they feel that open shelves is worth brining in the business).

  4. The only reason such downloading hasn't reached those levels with comics is because the apps involved are not as user-friendly as MP3s. But once those "comic book reader" applications are perfected (and easily transferable to mobile devices), the industry is going to get screwed.

    This is happening right now. The applications for reading comics on PCs and Macs are piss poor easy to set up and use. There are multiple apps for the DS, Treos, Palms, and various Video Enabled MP3 devices.

    But the third reason I don't download is because I know intuitively that it will kill this industry. No, scratch that. It won't kill the industry. It will turn it into a place where "mass appeal," mainstream books like Superman & Spiderman are the only viable things to print, and where the "Folk Singer Dans" of the comic world are forced to see their art as just a hobby because there is no way they can make money off of it.

    No one in the comic scene scans anything outside of the big publishers unless it is something highly sought for. You won't see scans of Gipi's Drawn and Quarterly issues or Robot Dreams. The demographic of people who read books like that will not read scans. Why? Because we will never read a situation where the digital experience will match the analog. what you will see is a lot of people downloading scans of "tie-in" books. Books that people keep up with only to follow large crossovers.

    A lot of people who complain about comic scans do not realize that the reason the scanning community started was that there were too many books out there that were impossible to read outside of scans. Epic amazing items that unless I had downloaded them off the internet I would have never read. It lead me to go out there and hunt down the current work of those creators.

    I may burn in hell for downloading scans but before scans, the process of being introduced to books and creators was expensive and frustrating. At this point, I spend 200 dollars a month on singles and trades.

    Scans help bring me back to comics and I'm not the only one.

  5. A standard offering on comics scan-trading sites is the "weekly" -- one or two massive files that contain all the new books for the week.

    I understand the person who is looking for scans of some specific run of an obscure title.

    But by downloading all the week's current offerings at once, you are helping destroy this industry.

    Sure, I would like to buy certain expensive shoes that I can't afford. I'm resentful that I can't buy the shoes -- I think it's unfair. So what am I going to do? Teach that industry to make their shoes more affordable by stealing them from the shop? An impromptu lesson in marketing & economics conducted by me, super-genius, to "teach" the shoe-industry?

    Honest to God, when the production of print comics themselves becomes non-profitable to DC and Marvel anymore, I hardly think they are going to turn to webcomics to make up the difference. No, they are going to turn to more aggressive licensing of their top properties -- licensing for games, toys, etc. And if the San Diego Con is any indication, it's going that way anyway. Comics were like only 1/3 of the total force of SDCC.

    You want to download a set of "Man of Atlantis" or "Suicide Squad"? Fine. But if you're regularly downloading the "weeklies" off of z cult or whatever, you are hurting this industry.

    There is, of course, the whole other issue of "comics not being worth the money" anymore -- weak plots, empty & decompressed stories. Again, I go back to the shoe analogy. It would be a waste of my time to steal crappy shoes.

  6. Is it 'stealing'? No, it isn't - it's infringement of copyright laws dating back to the mid-1800s designed to protect the body of work, and not the money that may or may not be made from it. Pirates aren't jailed or fined for theft, but for the very different charges of replicating and/or distributing without the consent of the copyright holder (who is not necessarily the actual author of the material in question). Prosecution of piracy is based on the potential loss of revenue, not an actual dollar amount or the 'theft' of the originating material.
    Some may claim it's "just like" theft, but they don't seem to press actual 'theft' charges too often, from what I can tell.

  7. "Is it 'stealing'? No, it isn't "

    --cheating, then?

  8. No, they are going to turn to more aggressive licensing of their top properties -- licensing for games, toys, etc. And if the San Diego Con is any indication, it's going that way anyway. Comics were like only 1/3 of the total force of SDCC.

    I think you might be right. It'll be a sad day when print comics go the way of the beta. But it does seem like the writing is on the wall.

    That's a fucking frightening thought. What is going to happen to all those great artists and writers once Marvel and DC drop the print division in favor of more money making ventures like movies and licensing? Would they really do that?

  9. There is a difference between lending your friend the "Civil War" TPB and downloading on a regular basis one slim file that contains the entire weekly output of DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image.


  10. The issue is how many of those fans were going to buy the book in the first place?

    Not every download equals a sale. This is a fallacy in the RIAA's argument. I doubt the people who download the full scan pack read every single of those issues.

    I understand that if no one buys a comic it will no longer sell. I just don't see any actual correlation between comic piracy and the destruction of the industry outside of some unsupported fear.

    I kind of also find it humorous that as piracy has grown so has the industry.

  11. This point has already kind of been made, but I still want to say it. I have never actually downloaded a comic book. But I sorely want to figure out how to, so that I can download old books that I would never be able to afford/find otherwise. Like old Marvel Western and Horror series and the like. But even if/when I get that figured out, I would never dream of downloaded the new books from each week, and not because I think it's stealing or hurts the industry, although I'm sure it is/does. I wouldn't download the new books because IT"S SO MUCH DAMN FUN GETTING MY NEW BOOKS EACH WEEK! I get to hold them in my hot little hands and read them and bag them and board them and organize them, and all that is really a lot of fun for me. I think it's a lot of fun for other comics book fans too. And I just don't think there's that much danger because the real comic book fans, who are the only ones who buy books now anyway, probably feel the same way I do.

    But maybe not. What do I know?

  12. they are going to turn to more aggressive licensing of their top properties Jesus, even moreso? Marvel is making several movies a year at this point, and Dc has never been shy about shilling cheap crap with a big S or a Batman logo.

    Music : Smaller bands (you know, the vast majority of them), the ones playing the pubs, clubs, and bars on the weekend, make almost nothing off CDs. The ones that do it for a living make a living by playing shows, same as the big acts do. Illegal downloads didn't f**k the music industry, it's been that way for a while, and they did it to themselves. The introduction of CDs and the re-buying of entire album collections artifically inflated sales numbers for a decade. Never lowering the price of the CD once it became dirt cheap to mass produce pissed people off. AOL gave millions of discs away for nothing. I've bought $5 cereal and received a free CD/DVD in the box. They got greedy and thought people would be willing to pay $15-20 forever, despite evidence to the contrary. When the customer can take your product and exactly reproduce it at minimal cost (can't do that with a shoe), you better keep prices low.

    What's the key thing to the best music format? No, it's not the best sound, it's portability and cheapness. Tapes gave bad sound, but were cheap and portable. MP3's didn't really catch on large scale until they became portable like the tape.

    I'll come right out and say I download comics, and read them. I started doing because I hadn't read them in a decade (the overpriced sucktastic mid-90s shooed me away). Now I occasionally buy a comic book (trade form), whereas I never did before. Downloading comics brought me back as a possible consumer. And there are any number of comics I would never had looked twice at without being able to read them first. What I don't do is complain about the bad ones...

    As has been mentioned by others, the back issue downloading makes the whole thing for me. I heard about Y- the Last man from a friend. It was 40 issues into a continuous storyline. Am I going to spend hundreds of dollars on the back issues? Hell no. I might buy the whole damn thing one day now, but I would never do that before I had read them in the firstplace, good reviews or no. Do I feel guilty for reading the back issues? No. Is reading a comic on my computer anywhere near as good as a physical copy of one? No. Which is why the industry will survive in print for a while yet.

  13. there are many arguements in this realm. while i agree that downloading is a bad thing and hurts alot of people. shit i've been hit with it with my material and i'm eating ramen and nearly homeless as a result. it pisses me off in that respect. but the other arguement is compelling.

    years ago when music first came out on cds and there was no burners out in the market the companies charged quite alot for music. it became a thing for the more wealthy people. charging upward past $20 in some places. same with video games..lest we forget when street fighter 2 came out on super NES stores charged $90 for it for a while. same for other big games of the time. when those things ended up pirated and it got easier the prices did in fact drop. it was more of a cost control thing to make it appealing to pick up things in an official form. a model thats worked in business for many many years. the problem that came up is the advent of the web we have now. no one has truely adapted to the new methods. you see itunes and what they charge..if you wanted a whole album you'd pay more than you would at best buy. thats just bad form. if they want to combat pirating the online distribution has to be revamped..lower the cost for downloads and fraction it per song. they don't exactly do that now.

    it also doesn't help when the big record industry is devoid of real mainstream art. the bland sameness is killing it more than any pirate can. this applies to big name comics. one look at what DC has been doing and notice the lack of real innovation. if anyone wants to increase sales they need to take some risks. sign bands that don't sound the same..look for real artists. as for comics they need outside wacky artist writers who are outside the norms to breathe new life into their products. people will buy things if its good. sure some will download...but the collector thing that still roams the comic shops still exists. the people..i know some who download...actually buy what they like once they read the scans of books. comicwise its really not looking so bad given the nature of the fanbase. i personally don't buy many comics due to poorness but i support what i can with whatever money i can spare (mainly madman.)

    there's needs to be what the zen master said a universal delivery service. the only problem i see is more entropy of the direct shops market. that base is dying and will continue to die. there are only 2 shops left within miles of me. one switched to more toys and collectibles than comics and do ok..the other is the grimey old school shop which is bleeding cash.

    the problem with comics is the types of shops out there. in the city there's midtown and jim handleys universe...those are nice shops and really are packed when i go there with people. but out of the city its the old school dark dank smelly old shops. while they have some sort of charm they really keep out the new people. really everything needs to evolve or die. pirates are a problem sure...but there's bigger problems facing all industries.

    and a side note...most artists..even the big label artists don't really make much of anything off cd sales. they make money doing shows and merchendising. only really metallica and a few other people have the sweet enough deal where they get money from cds. the money from cds primarily are for recoupment of costs to make the albums. i had a crash course in the record industry when i put out my lame album a decade ago.

    i think its still really shellshock of the new tech out there thats fucking people up. while the internet has been around for a long time its only now being seen as a real viable market. to survive there needs to be evolution. instead of bitching people should help change things.

    i'm not the most technical guy out there and i'm not the greatest businessman but i'd like to at least help in the reforming of the industries.

    hell i probably come off sort of retarded when i post here. but no discounting my spirit damn it. :shakes fist:

  14. wow i should have read all the replies first as i just repeated like everything said....thats what happens when you come late to the party.

    but yeah..where i stand is...i make comics..unfortunately currently print on demand due to not finding a publisher for my work. i have had my work pirated and i directly lose money from that...given its my only income at the moment it hurts badly. part of this is the structure of print on demand services. it's cost prohibitive to produce single issues of thing. so i understand why some distributed the books to friends and whatnot. i'm not happy about it. then i found it on the z cult thanks to a tip...i went into a rage and fired off an email to the people who run it. they listened and took it off. so there seems to be some honor among thieves after all.

    i just have a weird place in the arguement.

  15. I believe downloading helps the industry, which is why I believe that neither Marvel Entertainment or Warner Bros have tried to stop it.

    I started doing the comics torrent thing out of the blue after being disinterested in comics for years.

    Ever since that, I've become a regular at my local comic shop, and today spent 30 bucks on comics.

    If I had never started downloading, I wouldn't have started buying again.

  16. There is a difference between lending your friend the "Civil War" TPB and downloading on a regular basis one slim file that contains the entire weekly output of DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image.


    Is there a difference between downloading the entire weekly output of DC, Marvel, etc. and going to your local library (a) to read every copy of every daily newspaper, or (b) to read every single book put out by any particular author?

  17. The argument that "I can't afford to buy the comics, so I have taken it upon myself to get them for free" is incredibly selfish. I really don't mind what you do in your own free time, if you download the comics or not. But to publically present argument after argument why what you are doing is "justified" lacks humility.

    Go look up the top 50 songs on the charts right now. Most of them are generic and sucky. But they are the only music the big companies will take a chance on anymore -- because they're hurting for revenue and they just want "sure things" with broad mainstream appeal.

    That's right.

    The illegal downloading of music has indirectly led to the rise of Ashlee Simpson.

    My point made, I am off to enjoy a raspberry iced tea in the sun.

  18. Here's the thing, look at the Top 50 of *any* time period. Everyone likes to believe that the mainstream radio and record sales reflected some *really awesome* taste back [whenever things were better, presumably for people our presumable mutual age the early to mid 1990s], not like the sucky charts now!

    But if you look at the Billboard charts for the early 1990s, it was full of the Ashlee Simpsons of the day -- Color Me Badd, Jon Secada, Right Said Fred, Kriss Kross, Ace of Base, All 4 One, Mariah Carey and so on dominated the Billboard charts during that period where everyone remembers Nirvana, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Tori Amos, and Other Respected Alternative/Grunge Artists Ruled the World.

    MP3s and file sharing have nothing to do with Ashlee Simpson being popular. People like Ashlee Simpson have been popular since at least the 1950s. And sales for the Ashlee Simpsons of the world have been in decline right along side the "real" artists. You could make a case for the consolidation and homogenization of radio stations being a net harm to the small-time pop artist, but that was going on long before MP3s.

  19. "Illegal downloads f**ked the music industry seriously"

    No. The music industry "f**ked" the music industry seriously. I'm not going to get into the ethics of downloading comics (though I have been guilty of trying to download out-of-print stuff I can't buy), but I can say with some confidence as someone who has paid close attention to the file-sharing/Napster/post-Napster eras that the it was the haughty indifference, unwillingness to cater to a new market, and responding with litigation instead of innovation that is killing the music industry.

    Having read books and essays on the subject it becomes painfully clear that the music industry could have partnered with and legitimized the illegal downloading market early on, but were so blind to the new emerging status-quo (that they were warned of years before Napster happened) that they screwed themselves out of millions of dollars. Did you know that Napster and every other early file-sharing service sat down with the top record execs wanting to work out a legal pay-deal that would make everyone happy? Instead they took Napster to court and destroyed it, creating a million quasi-legal file-sharing services in its wake.

    The emergence of iTunes years later proved that people would have adopted a cheap pay-model if introduced. But while iTunes has been very successful (proving that people will indeed chose to pay for a track online), it will now always compete with illegal file-sharing and the big record companies have only themselves to blame.

    As for "folk music Dan", most "indie" labels have embraced file-sharing as a part of the modern industry and use it to their advantage. As a semi-professional DJ and podcaster I know first hand that a good majority of smaller labels and individual artists spread free tracks around to mp3 bloggers, podcasts, and other viral marketers to spread awareness. They know that hundreds or thousands of people will then get their tracks for free, but that a percentage will then spend money on a CD, or go to a show, or buy some merch, or become yet another evangelist for the band.

    If anything all those little "Folk Music Dans" are way better off today than they were in the pre-Internet era. Everyone is global and their music is getting heard by far more people than they ever would have. It is the small loyal followings that PAY for CDs and concert tickets and t-shirts, that make "Folk Music Dan" profitable. Those "cult" audiences are gained by having their music shared online (in one form or another).

    Finally, the "death" of the "music industry" (the major-label "star" system) has been coming since the late seventies. The introduction of the CD merely bought them some time since everyone re-bought their collections creating an artificial "high" in the late eighties and early nineties.

    The truth is that far more small bands are making a lot more money than they ever did in the heyday of the major labels. Small labels continue to thrive and adapt to the culture, while the "music industry" continues to think that suing children and grandmothers will somehow reverse Pandora's box.

    If the music industry "dies" music will still be made, musicians will still make money, and tours will still happen, but it will all be on a more reasonable scale without the vast corporate bloat of the current industry that is typified by its amazing excesses.

    File-sharing is a useful fall-guy for the correction in the market, but it was something that was bound to happen. Furthermore, statistics concerning file-sharing (that aren't from the RIAA) have yet to find any solid correlation between file-sharing and major labels losing money. In fact one Harvard study claims:

    "Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero."

    Another (more recent) Harvard study claims that some popular artists lose sales but that obscure artists get a boost from file-sharing.

    To wrap up, I want to get the point across that file-sharing wasn't (and isn't) the ruin of the music industry, and could have been a huge boon if they hadn't ignored (and then fought) it for so long.

    Oh, and I love your blog, sorry to get so lengthy, but this is a subject I'm somewhat passionate about.

  20. The effect of illegal downloads on the music industry is and was vastly overrated. The assumption is that those are purchases being lost, when many of the downloaders were not going to shell out $16 for the CD. If every song was available throgh some online sales method, most of the illegal downloading would go away tomorrow. The record companies dropped the ball on servicing their clientele. I also happen to believe that the largest offenders were people who, like myself, purchased the most music.

  21. I wish I had read the last post before mine before posting.