By capelesscrusader 12 Comments
Piracy and Comic Books:
Bringing Independent Creators to Their Knees
On Monday, artist Bryan Hitch went on a brief Twitter tirade (twirade?) regarding the amount of piracy that he has seen of his latest collaborative effort, America's Got Powers. Hitch's complaints come as the US Congress and various corporations continue to feel the backlash for their sponsorship of a series of acroynm bills such as SOPA, PIPA, and the latest: CISPA.
In January, ComicsAlliance published an excellent article detailing the problems facing implementation of some of this legislation, but debating the legislation only goes so far. What we should be discussing is the growing trend of taking artists' work without paying for it.
As J. Michael Straczynski discussed in a recent column, artists and creative types have been some of the hardest hit by the Great Recession and the continued Euro Crisis. Their products are often the first to receive the ax when individuals and families begin looking for ways to cut down their expenditure
In some cases, responses to criticism of comic book piracy are met with sneers of "they're owned by Disney/Time Warner, they can afford it." However, in the case of creator-owned work, this argument rings hollow. Yes, the publisher (in the case of AGP, IMAGE comics) does see a share of the revenue from the sale of a given title. When it comes to publishers like Image that focus on creator-owned work, though, the creators are due a much larger share of the pie than they would be when doing work-for-hire at one of the "Big 2." When fans pirate this work, they are therefore harming to a much greater extent the people who create the books they love and enjoy.
Some will argue that, for fans who live in small communities that lack comic shops, piracy is the only way that they can get their books. With the advent of sites like comiXology, this argument is rendered patently false. While the major publishers have yet to make their complete libraries available online, the process of converting those libaries into a digital one is ongoing and actually generates employment, as some young graphic designer gets to slave away converting ancient pulp pages into something that's readable on your iPad.
Some might say that to pay full cover price for a non-physical product isn't fair. This argument couldn't be more untrue. The same amount of work went into creating that digital product as the paper one, the only difference being that someone had to spend time converting the intended-for-print work into a format suitable for digital distribution.
For writers like yours truly, who lament the lack of social conscience in mainstream work, independent, creator-owned titles are the best avenue to find that missing element. They allow creators the freedom to express themselves away from the constraints of a branded character, and they give those creators their just due in a fiscal sense.
So what's the point?
The point is this: stop pirating comics. You strip the medium of its best work by making that work fiscally unsustainable for creators. If you want to see a comics market that includes more than tight-spandex-wearing superhumans pummeling each other or the alien-of-the-month then support your creators. Buy their work; don't steal it.