Has the pirate menace changed the creative business model for good? Most would say so, but some people are still fighting back. Up on The Hill, Colleen Doran launches a spirited counterattack on piracy:
I spent the last two years working on a graphic novel called Gone to Amerikay, written by Derek McCulloch for DC Comics/Vertigo. It will have taken me 3,000 hours to draw it and months of research. Others have contributed long hours, hard work and creativity to this process. But due to shrinking financing caused by falling sales in the division, these people are no longer employed.
The minute this book is available, someone will take one copy and within 24 hours, that book will be available for free to anyone around the world who wants to read it. 3,000 hours of my life down the rabbit hole, with the frightening possibility that without a solid return on this investment, there will be no more major investments in future work.
Creators and publishers can’t compete with free and the frightening reality is that even free isn’t good enough. Pirates aggregate content in ways creators and legit publishers can’t. Why go to dozens of web pages for entertainment when you can go to a pirate and get everything you want? There’s no connection to creators as human beings who work hard and make money from that work, and who need income from past work to finance future work.
Doran is writing, specifically, in favor or a bill that would restrict things like Google AdSense from paying out to pirate sites.
This prompted Andy Diggle and others to muse on Twitter this morning.
Compare and contrast @Steve_Lieber http://is.gd/hlX1R and Colleen Doran http://is.gd/hlKUD Who’s right? I have no idea!
Based on a famous quote from Tim O’Reilly. Because Mimi & Eunice are Free and Copyleft and ShareAlike and want to be copied, “piracy” poses no threat to them at all. But very few people know they exist. Please copy, embed, etc. – the more they’re copied, the less obscure they’ll become.
Doran clarifies some of her comments on her blog:
I tracked the piracy of my work and my sales figures for years. At no time did I see any increase in my sales. If anything, increased piracy was in direct correlation to a decrease in my sales. Only after I set up the online comic and posted regularly for a year did I see my sales and income increase.
Online pundits enthusiastically cheer isolated incidents of sales blips after pirated works manage to move stock which, by any objective standard, would be considered low. The sales blip isn’t about piracy as awesome, it’s about a clever way to frame a modest sales figure into a media event.
In other words, it’s not a sustainable business model. An isolated incident is exploited for pirate propaganda purposes, when the market as a whole shows ever-decreasing sales. Any evidence to the contrary is just propaganda from the evil RIAA!
(Aside: if you ever wanted to see the ultimate copyright/copyleft debate it would be Doran-Paley — both are passionate and VERY well-informed.)
Where does this leave us? No better off than before. As much as we might wish it to be so, free exists and isn’t going away. Future creators won’t even remember the quaint world in which authors did their work and shipped it off to publishers and then sat back and collected royalties. In the meantime, we’re stuck in the present, where today’s creators struggle to profit from their work.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.