What does piracy mean to you as a comic fan? Do you pirate comics? Do you think piracy of comics are okay or justifiable? Many people are guilty of piracy for their entertainment. In fact, in 2009 Ipoque completed an internet study evaluating what people spend most of their time doing online. The result? BitTorrent accounted for 27 to 55 percent of internet traffic. That means nearly a quarter of the time spent on the internet is spent downloading (often pirating) copy written content. This includes the downloads of anything from video games to movies to -- you guessed it -- comic books. With the comic book industry on a steady decline, how can anyone justify downloading comic books, and is the comic book industry doing enough to combat piracy or are we seeing a domino effect and is it too late to stop the growing trend?
With the decline of comic book sales constantly looming, the idea that they may one day cease to exist isn't entirely far out there, especially if we look at the way the market has changed over the years. Back in 1997, comics sales were selling at approximately 100.32 million copies per year; ten years later comic sales dropped 15 million copies sold per year to 85.27 million copies. So what caused the decline of comic sales? This is a question publishers are constantly struggling with, and the truth is it could be attributed to a combination of factors. The increase in comic prices are directly related to the drop in sales, which in turn can be connected to the decline in the economy and the fact that people have less money to dedicate to entertainment. So while piracy can't directly be held responsible for the decline of comic sales, they certainly do not help the industry.== TEASER ==
The internet houses a plethora of BitTorrent tracking websites which are responsible for coordinating the communication between parties attempting to download a torrent. In a nut shell, here's how it works. A seeder is an individual who owns the torrent file on his or her computer and makes that torrent file available for download to other parties. The BitTorrent tracker bridges the communication between the party looking to obtain said torrent and the individual who has the torrent.
Take for example Ultimate Spider-Man #160 which was released last Wednesday (June 22nd) in stores. This particular issue of Spider-Man was made available prior to it's official in store release on Tuesday evening, June 21st online. That means that someone had access to it before it hit store shelves and opted to upload the issue the night before it's release. All you need is one person to host the file first. Looking at the file a week later, it now has at least 433 seeders at any given time (the number of seeders fluctuates depending on when the seeders are online/make the file available for download). And while not all BitTorrent trackers track the number of times the file has been downloaded, this particular one does and it shows that the torrent for Ultimate Spider-Man #160 has been downloaded at least 11,600 times through their tracker. This number does not reflect the total number of times that same file has been downloaded through all the BitTorrent trackers combined. This number is based on only one tracking site. One of dozens of tracking sites where that same torrent file is being tracked.
The fact that the issue was made available online prior to the day of it's release is not only disheartening, but it's confusing. Why would someone with access to that file not only make it available online, but make it available online prior to it's release? If the individual works within the industry for either a publishing house or for a retailer he or she should recognize that the comics market is already struggling and that making the issue available for download online doesn't help the industry.
Often the argument from the "pirate" is that piracy is "not illegal," but just because it is not illegal does not mean it is not theft or isn't wrong. The pirate will oftentimes suggest that he or she would rather download the comic book online for free, rather than pay for something he/she does not know if they will enjoy. The kicker is this, the consumer controls the market. There probably would not be a revamp of the DC Universe, for example, if more people were purchasing books that they enjoyed. Already publishers walk a fine line between striving to progress into the digital age whilst supporting and keeping the retailers happy -- and with comic sales on the decline, hitting the lowest in years as January 2011 was "the worst seen January to January sales in the last 15 years [the Diamond exclusive era]" comic publishers have been looking for new and different ways to rejuvenate the market that will pique the interest of both old and new fans alike.
The solution to "rejuvenating the comics market" is more often than not big events. Marvel and DC alike have been putting out event after event -- and the numbers show, event books are always the highest selling titles regardless of what fans say they want. And let's face it, comics are a business and money talks, so unless you are buying comic books should you be entitled to an opinion regarding revamps, restructure and industry changes? However, that does not address the piracy issue, so what exactly is the industry doing to counteract piracy?
One example of how the industry has successfully combated piracy came when the FBI shut down HTML Comics, a website which hosted over 5,700 series of comics.
By April 2010, the website claimed to have an average of 1.6 million visits per day and more than 6,630,021 pages of comic books offered for unrestricted viewing. Ridding the Internet of such a large source of pirated content is a major victory for the comic industry and the publishing industry in general.
The comic book industry itself has also begun to digitize their comic books making both single issues and trades available for download at discounted prices for a variety of different platforms. Currently, Marvel's digital releases of their comics are inconsistent with the releases of their standard issues. When Marvel initially revealed it's plan to move onto the digital front with Marvel Digital Comics, Marvel's Chief Publisher Dan Buckley cited that Marvel would have a discrepancy of up to six months between the release of the standard issue and it's digital counterpart.
Titles must be in print for at least six months before they will go online, Buckley said.
For example, the first issue of Marvel's X-Force: Sex and Violence (2010) #1, originally published July 14, 2010 is finally being added this week to the Marvel digital comics database on June 30th, 2011 -- that's over a year following the issue's initial release. If you, the consumer, are looking to read digital comics, chances are that you are not going to wait six months to a year to download that issue. You may opt for alternative means to obtain that issue digitally.
One problem with Marvel Digital Comics is that it is not available on multiple platforms either; Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited can only be accessed through Marvel's digital reader on their website. So that means your subscription to Marvel's Digital Comics Unlimited on Marvel.com won't help you, and if you are looking to download Marvel comics onto your iPhone or iPad, you'll have to use the Marvel app.
Within the last year or so DC has shifted their focus to digitize their comic books as well. This September, as part of DC Comics' "revamp," the publishing house will be launching same day digital releases of all of their comic books. Consumers will have the opportunity to purchase either a poly-bagged issue of the hard copy which for an additional dollar will give you access to the digital version, the standard version of the comic for the normal price, or the digital version for the same price as the standard version. After the first month of availability the price of the title will drop by one dollar.
The question is, will making comic books available for download through the publisher at a discounted price deter individuals from pirating comic books, or are the people pirating already lost to publishers? Should people who pirate comic books even be considered customers? Are comics losing the fight against piracy? What do you think of piracy and downloads of books, do you think it's destroying the market?