Home News Awards Harvey Awards night turns into Waid/Aragones copyright/left free for all

Harvey Awards night turns into Waid/Aragones copyright/left free for all


If you were following our live tweets of the Harveys last night, (and those from ComixMix and JahFurry) you saw portions of Mark Waid’s keynote speech transcribed. While claiming it was a “vodka-fueled rant,” Waid delivered a heartfelt, if off-the-cuff, talk on the importance of the idea and the supremacy of comics as a medium of ideas. He started off with remarks on the history of copyright, stating it was a means to allow ideas to go into the public domain where they could remain powerful. “No one would say we’d be better off if Shakespeare plays weren’t allowed to be read and performed in high schools,” he used as an example. While not advocating piracy, his main argument seemed to be that it’s already done, the genie is out of the bottle, and struggling to keep ideas protected isn’t as important as finding a way to profit from those ideas.

It was mostly pep talk, partly an entreaty “not to be afraid of the future when we can still affect it.” On that part, it was hard to find fault.

But at least one other attendee, namely Sergio Aragones, a cartoonist whose name is regularly preceded by the word “legendary,” took issue with Waid’s idea that ideas should be free. After the speech, according to witnesses, Aragones went over to Waid and the two had a heated exchange. While we heard several reports of various folks storming out and slamming doors, we also heard that after all was said and done, Aragones and Waid literally hugged and made up.

We had a chance to talk to Sergio later on — it was an off the cuff conversation in the middle of a rather chaotic night (the Hyatt bar was shut down early and everyone was in a tizzy). Paraphrasing here a bit, but Sergio was advocating more for the idea that the spread of free content has devalued content, making it harder for people to make a living at it. He said a couple of things that I tried to jot down, one that (I’m paraphrasing) “quality has to be considered again” and the one I tweeted “If you give everything away for free, you have ruined everything.”

This wasn’t a real hard and fast pronouncement, but rather a reflection, I think, of the devalued media world of content farms, user-generated content and “doing it for the exposure,” — anti-income-generating measures that leave many of the creative types I know scrambling for 20 different ways to make a living.

Which isn’t to say it’s bad. It just is. Aragones and Waid are both right. It’s part of a conversation I’ve been having with many people this weekend, and most people seem to think that we’re living in a world where IP is the only sure currency — the Waidian view, as it were. The Aragonesian Principle is more that you have to be aggressive about valuing your IP – and getting paid for SOMETHING.

Dirk Deppey and Lea Hernandez, among others, got into a late night discussion of the Aragones quote, which, given the out of left field context it was presented in, was more of a webcomics-centric argument. Deppey wrote:

I’d go so far as to say that, right now, giving it wawy and selling merchandise at the back end…..is the de facto method for self-supporting, self-published cartoonists in ANY medium.

….true as far as it goes. But we live in a world where popular, loved cartoonists can’t make a living just selling comics for people to read. It may be SOP for all creative people, but it’s infinitely more complex than Jack Kirby’s world: Make a good comic, get it seen by a movie company or ad agency or whatever and get them to pay you a lot of money to do something, go back and do another free comics, rinse and repeat.

More later.


  1. It’s gonna be an innnteresting world, w/ the electric publishing. I’m torn.

    On the one hand, we creators who have made something up have to stay vigilant in protecting our rights, copyright, trademark, etc.

    & on the other, you have a creator like Nina Paley (the animated flick “Sita Sings the Blues”, Depression is Fun, Mimi & Eunice), a truly self-made enterprise, who works free of copyright. Ms. Paley and I are FB acquaintances & one day I teased her itno telling me about how her last year was, fiscally. She did well, very comfortably. & she lets you download her movie for free. Yet it still gets screened in cities around the world & she makes money off of the merchandise.

    People who are quick on their feet will wrangle a way, like Nina did, to distribute digitally as well as in print. Perhaps a happy medium between retaining rights to one’s characters but become more comfortable w/ free digital preview issues & stuff like that.

    Comics is still the stuff, however we’re making them. Words and pictures.

  2. There’s no shortage of views on the future of publishing.

    Perhaps my views were shaped by the eras in which I grew up, but I have difficulty with the idea of expecting to make a living from writing or drawing for publication. There are just too many people with the same dreams. Being a successful fiction writer isn’t just a matter of being “good” in a critical sense; it’s being good and also finding an audience. If a writer’s exceptionally good and his books sell well, he lands a contract with a publisher and advances. A journalist can be a reporter, a columnist, or a contributing editor. He can also be a freelancer. Making a living by writing fiction might be closer to wanting to be a professional athlete than it is to “When I grow up, I want to be a _____.”

    There’s recently been talk about the idea that E-book readers selling for under $100 will make them mass-market items. That means a bigger market for E-books, obviously; how paper publications will fare in that market remains to be seen.


  3. I will once again recommend Corey Doctorow’s “Content”, a collection of essays about copyright, Creative Commons, DRM, and other related topics. The entire book is, of course, free. It is available in just about every text format known to computer science (including Braille).


    Ironically, I discovered it when someone left a free copy of the book at the office.

    For creators, it all depends on what works for them. Which, of course, is what creator-owned work is all about… doing what you want to do.

    I would pay good money to attend a debate/discussion between Waid and Aragones over copyright.

  4. used to be gung ho on Waid’s side… once compared Napster to the Boston Tea Party.. but.. I’ve matured to realize what Argones has to say. A lot of these down loaders, of which I am one, need to realize the market cannot exist if one free copy can lead to a free million copies within hours. It’s all fine and dandy until you come out with a comic and no one buys it because a thousand or more people downloaded the scan online.

    Hell, I have to wonder if that’s one of a dozen reason reasons why Scott Pilgrim failed at the box office. Too many of its generation are too busy waiting for the free download and don’t bother with theaters. I’m on the latter end of that Napster generation. I was hitting college just as Napster hit, even lived across from the hall it was invented a year or so prior. I can’t imagine what kids now think with torrents and growing up in high school with torrents and other file sharing so readily established.

    The click heard around the world has totally upset the entire market for the entertainment industry. And these generations have to realize their creations will be fighting for space just like the ones they’ve been downloading. It’s a whole new game and the rules are stacked against anyone trying to create anything in media and make any form of living doing so. Argones is right to cry out about the unfairness these kids, myself included, have thrust upon the world of entertainment and art. I used to laugh at that old ‘Don’t Copy That Floppy’ video or “You wouldn’t steal a car!”. Yet while crap like that is heavy handed, they’re not entirely wrong. And I’m sure Argones makes a better argument than the MPAA and RIAA suing high schooners and their unwitting grandmas for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    And yeah, the free web comics model where you pray someone donates or buys a goofy T shirt is interesting. Yet it’s pretty awful that they’ve been forced into it due to the digital gun of piracy. If they could make money selling actual comics online, why wouldn’t they? The situation stinks, even if people are scraping by with this model.

    Now count me in for wanting an actual debate between the two on this. I’d love to see a clear moderated forum for them to discuss it.

  5. I agree with Xenos and Aragones, the online model of publishing is too relient on the net. Quoting The Incredibles “If everyones super, then no one is”, Aside from our blood,sweat, and tears all we have is our work/ideas. If our ideas are up for grabs to anyone to distribute/use, then why should we create?

    Speaking for my self the digital model is more a desperation move, changing the messenger does not change the demand of product. A Wal-Mart mom who doesn’t read comics is not going to buy a one because it’s online, we have no mass market products sell online. The industry is still selling chocolate-to-chocolate lovers and because the consumer-base of comics is so small the taste of comics is just as selective and uninclusive.

    The current air of all entertainment media is familiarity(established franchises and sequels), with that said who’s going to thrive in this online model? sure as hell not the indies and manga(as long as the scanlators are around), only the most established of Marvel/DC properties will do good(maybe a few vertigo titles) but they are going to sell to the same people who bought them before. different model, same customers so whats the point?

  6. Without having heard the original arguments: I agree with both sentiments, too. Copyright has been extended several times in this country under the guise of protecting living authors, when in fact it’s about corporations maintaining control over old material. Public domain IS an important concept and shouldn’t be trampled for the wrong reasons.

    On the other hand, as creative people we do have to protect the rights of our material. That’s a bigger discussion. I don’t think the solution is lawsuits, and it’s certainly not trying to guilt downloaders (as the MPAA did with its ads showing key grips saying they wanted to feed their families).

  7. No wonder the world economy has been on the brink this past decade… Free content, outsourced labor… Peopledont have Real jobs or careers anymore.

  8. Scott Pilgrim failed at the box office because no one wants to see a movie about douche-bag slackers in the middle of a major recession. AND because it’s fans are a generation of pirates.

    I’m with Waid on this. Content should be free. Make your art and love it and then show it to the world and hope they love it. Then sell some friggin’ toys and cash the check.

  9. @ Jay but if your work is in public domain, you get no insentive for your hard work. if you have no insentive for your efforts then why should you create?

  10. Aragones’s insistence on getting paid for something makes sense… if you’re in the position where people are already willing to pay you for it, sight unseen. Not everyone is yet.

    If you aren’t, then at least owning your intellectual property makes sense.

  11. Serhend, the incentive is that people will like your stuff and pay you for your various merchandising / print comics / theater showings.

    This, true, would not apply to public domain, where anyone would be allowed to profit off of your work, but there are actually options between locked down DMCA hardcore copyright and public domain.

    Allow me to introduce you to the many fine options at Creative Commons. Check the bottom of your favorite blogs, many have Creative Commons Copyright notice.

    A creator can choose a wide variety of possibilities when licensing their content, allowing them to maintain their rights while still allowing for many free uses and creative reuse and remixing.

    You can require that people attribute your work to you, that people use your work only for non-commericial purposes, that those people using your work have to then license the resulting products under the same licensing terms as yourself (share alike), or that people may quote you, but cannot alter your work (non-derivative).

    In practical terms, it means you can share your work in some ways for free while retaining the option to be the only one to profit off of it, if you so choose.

    Personally, my blog is licensed under Attribution – Noncommercial – Share-Alike terms, because that’s what works for me.

  12. To the board:

    I would like to raise a simple point and let you fight it out:

    The internet as we know it is temporal.

    Right now, we are at the beginning of something else. I think it’s like…an application-based internet. The app-er-net?

    Some comic books like my own and those of your favorite big dudes Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse are available in situations like Comixology and the app-based storefront.

    Similar to iTunes, they have (somewhat) managed the once-thought-impossible task of wrangling the “free content” genie back into the bottle and restoring control to the hands of the content-creators or copyright holders.

    While bootlegging is still possible and is still occurring, a legal option with specifically-designed coding allows content-owners to not only curb piracy, but actually do what was thought impossible: charge money for digital content.

    Think that over, dudes?

    Also, to Jay, specifically: nothing is free. If creators don’t get paid, they cannot earn a living. Those of us who then do not have the time (or physical energy) to do this as a hobby will be forced away. The only thing that you’ll find “free” then is a world “free” from comics.

  13. I think the issue is a lot more complex than picking one of two sides. And that was the crux of what Mark was trying to say last night.

    Stop being afraid. Realize we exist in this world now and we can’t stop it. Let’s all talk and see how we can turn this to our advantage and thrive.

    Personally, I think this very attitude is the only sane choice for comic professionals wanting to look forward.

  14. If the reason things are created is for the money then dont friggin create. In fact get stuffed. I dont want your movies comics or any of that shit if that’s why you’re doing it!

  15. Making money isn’t the only reason people make comics. But you can’t expect them to live on fancy wishes and fuzzy emotions. Everybody needs to pay for their groceries, and if no ones willing to pay people to make comics, then there might not be a reason to make comics.

  16. Or at least, there might not be a reason to devote your entire life to making comics. Not everyone wants to work a 40 hour week at a dayjob and then make 30 pages of comics a month for you- there’s a reason many webcomics update slowly or sporadically. And even then, they’re not making the comics for you- they’re making them for themselves. They owe you nothing.

  17. Well. of course I would do it for the money. If making comics is your chosen career, of course money is *A* primary concern.

    Comics are a mass medium. Scott Pilgrim made the Top 100 at BN.com. The movie is seling the books, just like Dark Knight did a few years ago.

    As for a dicussion on copyright in the digital realm, go read Corey Doctorow’s Content. Free downloads in a variety of formats (including Braille!)

    Libraries have figured this out. Ebook publishers have figured it out. Some cartoonists have figured it out. There a lot of different business models, but if you control your copyright, you also control how you sell your creations.

    I wonder… have any creators cancelled their copyright in their wills? Basically telling their estates not to challenge anyone…

  18. I’m reading a lot of fear and hand-wringing here, except for Scott Kurtz, it seems most of you think comics will somehow go away because of piracy.

    Let’s look at music — has music disappeared? No, there’s more recordings being made now (because of home digital equipment) than before Napster first appeared. Sure illegal downloading gave the record industry a beating and shuttered many labels. But the industry still exists. There’s just less gravy. Less gravy for bands, less gravy for record execs, A&R guys, and the demise of record stores.

    And even with less gravy for recording artists, have REM, U2, Jay-Z, or any other big names been forced to sell their home or get a second job because making music no longer pays the bills? Of course not.

    The digital age is relatively new and a big unknown, and most people are afraid of the unknown. But the new, the unknown can also be full of opportunities. Digital comics is a tremendous opportunity to reach not just those who would by a comic in the U.S. and Canada, but anywhere in the world, instantly. That means I can conceivably sell a copy of my book to a guy in the Philippines or Ukraine or Bolivia, instantly. That’s right — instantly. No inventory, no shipping, justs an electronic file that flows effortlessly. to the other side of the world.

    As far as piracy, not everyone is a thief. And even if thieves are stealing my works, there are millions of others who’ve never been exposed to my work who can now access it and might willingly pay for it.

    The notion of a debate seems comical. There is no choice, there will be no vote, the clock can not be turned back. Digital comics are the future and in some respects they are very much the present. Scott’s success is living proof of that. All the major publishers and some of the smaller ones have launched apps. Thousands of artist, including myself are launching online comic sites. I see opportunity, I see freedom from dead trees and gatekeepers. And if I have to sell T-shirts to get by, so be it — I was a schmatta merchant long before I sold my first comic book.

    Look around you — all business models are threatened, all systems are in upheaval, not just comics. When was the last time you went to a travel agency? Mailed a letter? Ordered business cards from a local printer? Bought a book in a neighborhood book store? Riffled through the CDs at a record store? Bought a newspaper? Placed or read an ad in a newspaper. Rented a video at a video shop? And you think somehow comics can constantly remain the same as they were going back to World War II? The paper comic book is a quaint artifact of the 20th Century. It’s not ubiquitous, doesn’t hold up over time, and it’s getting too damned expensive. It uses up an ever diminishing supply of trees, and must be shipped around the continent, which burns up fossil fuels. We need to start acting as if we live in the 21st Century.

    Scott Kurtz is a pioneer, a trailblazer. He and his Web Comics brothers did the heavy lifting for those of us who’ve learned from their efforts and will benefit from their trials.

    I’ve purchased an iPad, and it is an amazing experience to read a comic on it. The iPad isn’t just some new form of computer, but a window into the not-too-distant future. Go to the Apple store and try one. Picture yourself or other comic readers using it. In the coming months, other manufacturers will launch their versions of tablet computers. The prices will drop rapidly. In short order we will not remember how we got along without them. Do yourself a favor: stop wringing your paws, pick up your pencils or Wacom pens and take advantage of an amazing opportunity to reach a global audience. Good luck. And congratulations to Scott Kurtz on his Harvey award.

  19. I’ve been giving away my comix [for free] since 2006 when I launched ACT-I-VATE.com.

    I didn’t make a steady living with the stuff I gave away for free but it absolutely helped brand and market my sensibilities and got me paying gigs.

  20. A spirited debate between people who respect each other, like Waid and Aragones, is always good for the health of an industry.

    I don’t see a problem with Waid’s viewpoint, but I’m an open source guy all the way. We programmers have been doing it for years. It’s all about building skills and a resume, yo.

  21. Cliff, I don’t really think digital is bad idea- there are ways to make money from it [and Kindle giving a bigger venue to sell digital books offers webcomics artists an alternative to the occasionally unsteady realm of ads], it can act as a good promotional venue [so long as you don’t waste too much time/money trying to get “exposure”], and can be a way to build a brand/business.

    I’m just mostly tired of the non-fans who expect everything to be free, and get mad when you dare suggest that comic artists might want to make money off their work. Those people are the problem, and need to be better educated on the nature and importance of intellectual property and copyright. Those “fans” and the for-profit piracy sites have to become a thing of the past for digital comics to truly thrive.

  22. FYI- Being against the abuse of copyright and intellectual property doesn’t mean being against digital comics. And giving away your comic for free on the internet doesn’t mean that you’re someone who approves of intellectual property rights being abused.

    I’m reminded of a recent kerfuffle wherein a blogger argued that her supposedly “ethical” piracy was okay, was called out on the negative aspects of it by a webcomics cartoonist, and more or less told the webcomics cartoonist that she didn’t matter because she made webcomics.

    I think it speaks out to the lack of respect to creative people that piracy has created. It’s important to embrace digital, but it’s also important to keep your copyrights intact, and that’s something fans need to learn, respect and acknowledge if they want publishers and artists to move forward with digital.

    Making your comic digital doesn’t mean you have to give up your rights or that others should ignore your rights in the process.

  23. Apologies for reposting something I wrote elsewhere about this, but it was a rare NOT-vodka-fueled bit of clarity, and I feel strongly about it, so I want to reuse it:

    The problem is the people at the extremes who see their side as right and the other side as wrong. There needs to be a balance, and those people insist on upsetting it. The MPAA/RIAA/Disney camp want perpetual copyright and payment every time you experience a work. The Pirate Bay camp want everything free always, starting yesterday. A pox on both their houses.

    Copyright terms are way too long. Producing a popular work should not entitle your children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren to live off it instead of getting a job or creating something themselves. The company you worked-for-hire for either. By any reasonable standard, works created in the mid-1920s (US rules), or created by someone who died in the 1940s (EU rules) should be public property by now, but they aren’t. And there should be no artificial restrictions on when and where and how often and on what device a person should be able to view a movie he paid for.

    Meanwhile, consumers need to respect that fact that others’ creativity has value. The work that a writer or artist or actor or musician puts into producing entertainment not only needs to be paid for as a practical matter to keep them creating, they deserve to be paid for it. You can’t say you “like” a creator but refuse to pay them for what they’ve given you, or give it away to people when they ask you not to. “Sharing” is when you offer something of your own to others, not when you offer someone else’s work. “I can’t afford everything I want” is not an excuse to pay for nothing.

    Until people on both sides of the issue get over their antisocial selfishness, and acknowledge that the other party has rights that are being spat on, and arguments that are valid and sound, this issue will never be resolved. Half a century ago there was at least a détente; most copyright violation required effort but the public domain was still growing. The introduction of copying technology has broken that peace, the extension of copyright terms and introduction of anticopying tech returned fire, and now there’s all out war, in an arms race of mutually assured destruction. But nobody ever really wins a war; you just have survivors. We need peace. We need compromise. We need cooperation. We need to stop the cancerous growths of both copyright enforcement and copyright violation.

  24. One can buy an Android tablet now. Lots of small Asian companies are manufacturing and selling them, at respectable prices.

    When tablets drop below $200, then there will be a shift… just like with Walkmans and pagers and CDs and VCRs and cellphones

  25. Creators need to make peace with the fact the the work itself, while it may be their passion, is essentially advertising now. And that doesn’t devalue it creatively. It’s just how it is.

    But if people love your characters and stories, you can sell them TANGIBLE goods (original art, toys, shot glasses, whatever) that can’t be digitally pirated.

    Just don’t hand over your creative rights, or make damn sure you get a nice cut of the merchandise profits.

  26. I was thinking about this more this morning, probably for more than I should, and I had two thoughts I wanted to share….

    1) I think for IPs that are still around after the creator’s death – it would be nice to see those be public domain. Think of how wonderful it would be for an aspiring creator to produce some Batman or Superman stories without having to cowtow to some corporate muckity mucks. Yes, there would be a lot of glut, but the diamonds would just shine that much brighter.

    2) Piracy solves a problem that’s often overlooked. Downloading new books in lieu of buying them is poor sportsmanship, no doubt, but what about back issues? As an example, take the great white wale of back issues – Miracleman. I’m sure lots of people would happily pay to buy Miracleman comics and it would be nice to see Mick Anglo get some jack. However, the comics everyone wants to read are unlikely to be reprinted anytime soon. Sure, you can pay big dollars for back issues, but who gets that money? Someone who’s essentially a pawn broker? Whether you buy the back issues from eBay or at a con or if you pirate them, Mick Anglo, Gaiman, et all still get the same amount of money. I’m not saying pirating is ethical in that situation, but it presents an interesting grey area.

  27. One thing that separates the copying of comics from online duplication of other material is the labor that goes into the artwork. Even if I’m attracted to writing in comics over the artwork, I can appreciate the hours spent making the artwork look attractive, even beautiful at times, and the artists deserve compensation for that labor. Writing, on the other hand — if the writer resorts to formulaic plots, tired dialogue, and an overall storyline that appears to have been produced by typing as quickly as he could with no revisions — it’s a shame when artwork accompanies material like that. Copying the entire issue is still illegal, but the story isn’t worth paying money for. How often is artwork comparable to tired formula fiction, based almost entirely on swipes or drawing as fast as he physically can, produced and deemed publishable?

    Marvel and DC might be better off, in the long run, by offering various miniseries and one-shots at nominal prices than they would be reprinting them in collections. I’d certainly pay 50 cents to a dollar to get single or bundled Issues of WHAT IF?, MARVEL FEATURE, MARVEL FANFARE, etc.


  28. Jay says “Creators need to make peace with the fact the the work itself, while it may be their passion, is essentially advertising now…But if people love your characters and stories, you can sell them TANGIBLE goods (original art, toys, shot glasses, whatever)”

    Wow, Thank god we don’t quite yet live in this fantasy world of Jay’s. So all the creative energy I put into my writing (or someone puts into their artwork, or music, or movie, etc.) is just free advertising for the licensed plush doll, toothpaste, giant novelty pen, and lunchbox merchandise based on the original work of art?

    That’s the future as you see it when you say “It’s just how it is”? Because if that’s the case, get ready for an awful lot of sh*tty, sh*tty comics and movies and music designed for the lowest common denominator: selling equally sh*tty merchandise.


  29. @Jason A Quest: brilliant essay, and I agree with you 100%. Especially this bit of common sense that’s obviously lost on a lot of folks: “The problem is the people at the extremes who see their side as right and the other side as wrong.”

  30. I have to agree with Dara. This mindset about someones art being “advertising” for toys and t-shirts is ludicrous. There is no gray area, just a bunch of people trying to rationalize their blatantly cynical and wrongheaded point of view on pirating. “Just kill your children, they’re going to die eventually anyways” right? Wrong.

    And how many action figures based on the art for the comic adaptation of Sense and Sensability do you think will sell? Yeah…those will go like hotcakes. Wake the hell up people.

  31. There’s no money in the creation of art.

    The incentive to create art come from inside, not outside. Turlough O’ Carrolan didn’t write music to sell a lot of records. He did it because he couldn’t not write music.

    The money’s not in the content, but in the presentation. They don’t call it “show art”. Farmers get a pittance for corn and peanuts, but package it right and you got a real Cracker Jack goldmine on your hands.

    “Content” isn’t worth any more than the stones in a “Pet Rock” box.

    Without a patron, you’d have never heard of Mozart, and Van Gogh’s canvasas would have be painted over if some rich guy didn’t say, “Hey, I like that.”

    The “artist’s rights” argument in the copyright debate is bulls**t. Copyright wasn’t created to protect artists, but to protect publishers.

    If you’re a creator, you’ll create whether or not there’s “any money in it”. If money is what you’re after, you’re not an artist, you’re an entrepreneur. Nothing wrong with that, but if you ain’t making money at your craft (which isn’t “art” but “sales”, it’s time to find another line of work.

  32. I think Heidi hit just the right balance: They’re both right. You’ve got to get paid for quality content, but in the world today, giving content away–up to a point–is the best way to make sure that you have an audience of any kind willing to pay you. And its almost required if you’re starting out.

  33. Art is devalued enough.

    Only in the creative world would you hear some nonsense about “doing it for the love.”

    you wouldn’t dare say that to a plummer.

    No, to hell with “love.” I already draw comics “for the love.” I don’t show those to anybody. That’s the difference. Do you think that this industry was built just to express LOVE?

    The arrogance from some dudes is astounding.

  34. I think there are elements to what Jay is saying about how the art is just advertising now that need to be further unpacked, particularly his point about the importance of the tangibility of objects.

    Physical comic books still exist and will likely remain the largest source of revenue for comic writers and artists, even as other sources around licensing become ever more important. But *digital comics*, whether scanned by fans or distributed by legitimate companies, will likely remain little more than advertising for other items. I think the odds are very low that large numbers of people will pay for online comics. They will however, continue to buy physical comics, go see comics-based movies, buy t-shirts, etc.

  35. @faboofour Amen, brother.

    @Dara It’s not a fantasy land, it’s just business. The fact is, there’s a whole generation of fans who see nothing wrong with stealing. Look at the Anime News Network thread about piracy site OneManga shutting down. These kids feel entitled to free comics, they resent being told to pay and resent being told creators are being hurt and driven from the work they love.

    As long as the primary content is so easy to pirate, this will not change.

    I love the Nightmare Before Christmas. I have a tremendous respect for the hard work, love and artistry that went into that film. Disney has made a lot of money selling Jack Skellington plushies. It has not altered my enjoyment of the film.

  36. As Marv Wolfman said to me, “Kids don’t care about ownership, they just want access.”

    You can’t download a t-shirt or a toy. Tangible assets are becoming the only currency, despite the importance of IP.

  37. From an earlier post:

    “…Similar to iTunes, they have (somewhat) managed the once-thought-impossible task of wrangling the “free content” genie back into the bottle and restoring control to the hands of the content-creators or copyright holders.”


    Yup — back in the bottle it goes. The web as we know it will die a slow death. You want to make money: think about shorting Google.

  38. Because if that’s the case, get ready for an awful lot of sh*tty, sh*tty comics and movies and music designed for the lowest common denominator: selling equally sh*tty merchandise.

    This is different from how it normally is in what way?

  39. @darrylayo: I don’t pay a plumber to be “creative.” I pay him to fix my plumbing, preferably doing it quickly using the latest industry standards. I certainly do not want him to use my bathroom for “artistic expression.” Plumbing is not an art. I prefer my art where I can aesthetically appreciate it, not behind my shower wall.

    Don’t confuse “art” with “craft”. Craft can be quantitatively valued. Art can’t ever be.

    Craft is paid for before delivery. Art is paid for after it’s experienced. Heck, art can’t even be called “art” until it’s experienced and evaluated. When I pay for a book or a record or a video before I experience it, it’s not “art,” it’s a commodity. It only becomes art when I choose to experience it a second (or more) time. If I call the product of a craftsman “art,” I may reward that person by buying another of his or her products sight-unseen, but until I actually experience that work I can’t call it “art” (see: anything Michael Oldfield did after “Tubular Bells”).

    (Example: John Cage, Ornatte Coleman and I all believe(d) Yoko Ono a great musical artist. Many people differ.)

    Just because someone thinks they’re creating art doesn’t mean they actually are. Unless you subscribe to the “everything anyone does is art” philosophy, in which case, I’ll expect my check from you in the mail.

  40. Jay is full of it. If the work goes public domain, that means anyone can make an action figure of the character and anyone can put the character on toothpaste tubes and the artist still gets nothing.

  41. “Giving it away” isn’t the same as ‘surrendering your copyright’. Sergio is correct; Quality matters. Quality will always matter. IP still needs to be defended. It’s just the vehicle of distribution and the manner in which it can be monetized is not the same as it was.

    And if a work can be viewed for free at the source, then there is no money to be made in pirating it after all. I doubt they’ll pirate ad banners and low res jpegs and gifs won’t print decently. Just a few thoughts :)


  42. As an e-book reader I’m surrounded by thousands of free texts many of which are pirated from brand new editions. This is certainly good news for me as consumer but it doesn’t bode well for publishers and I can only see scary times ahead for authors. It’s the same issue as pirate software. The more people take it for free the less incentive software engineers have to come up with something new.
    Giving cartoons away for nothing is nuts. It’s only theoretically worthwhile if the freebie leads to a firm sale as part of a cunning marketing strategy. (and I’ve yet to see an example of this strategy working)

    To the guys who say they don’t want artists to create with money in mind I can only say two words. ‘Kids’ and ‘shoes’. We need money to look after our kids. We didn’t become working cartoonists simply because we love it, we did it because we love it and we realised that people are prepared to pay. I’ve been lucky enough to have made a meagre living from cartooning for the last 20 years. I can’t see any point whatsoever in a ‘giving it away for nothing’ model as it would send me back into working in offices or factories to make money to support my shoe crazy family.

  43. What CitizenCliff said, exactly. I don’t see any reason for hand wringing. There is not ONE way, there are a lot of ways. People have a tendency to want to find the perfect train to success and then all jump on the same bandwagon, but it’s never that easy.
    Find your own way, your own audience and your own voice.

  44. “The more people take it for free the less incentive software engineers have to come up with something new.”

    I am a software engineer. I have a need to design software regardless if I get paid or not. It’s like, the challenge to do something new is there; I can’t not try.

    I don’t think this has anything to do with the discussion at hand, though.

  45. The simple fact is that a lot of art can not be translated into a tangible product that will SELL. Not every damn last bit of art is going to make someone want a t-shirt or a toy based on that art. That is the fallacy of that argument.

    I guess in those situations the artist is just shit out of luck, right?

    The arguments here seem to be “blah blah blah blah, give your art away and never make money and if you DO happen to make money, consider yourself damn lucky because your an artist and you shouldn’t expect any money to begin with”


  46. Listen, FabooFour.

    I didn’t say plumming is personal expression. The analogy is that it is WORK.

    You enjoy the work of the plummer. You are thrilled to have working pipes and running water. You pay the plummer.

    Same principle. You want some art? Cough up some dough. The plummer and the professional artist have the exact same needs; they both need to earn a living at their trade. It’s entited people such as yourself who seek to rationalize a difference which puts the artist’s needs for survival at the bottom of all possible priorities.

    There is money in digital distribution. I know this to be true. But I’ll be damned to have some dudes on the internet tell all of the artists that money shouldn’t be a consideration or that artists’ SURVIVAL (and by extention, the survival of their respective artforms) is some somehow negotiable or negligible.

  47. I think many folks here who are concerned about “how to pay the bills” (including darrylayo and his ‘plummers’ [sic]) should probably spend some time looking into the alternative business models that are already being tried out there.

    I heartily recommend you peruse many of the copyright discussions and posts over at http://www.techdirt.com; the primary author, Mike Masnick, does a LOT of talking about musicians who are making a living even though their music is “free”.

    Techdirt coined a phrase for the “new way”: CwF + RtB, which stands for “Connect with Fans + Reasons to Buy”.

    CONNECT with your audience means to *really* connect with them; don’t just put up a website and allow them to comment–INTERACT with them, use social media to find out what they want, why they’re fans, etc.

    You also need to give people *reasons* to buy whatever it is you’re selling. In other words, you CAN compete with free, as long as you add value with what you’re selling. In other words, it’s all about embracing the reality that digital goods cost *nothing*, and people inherently know this. Many younger fans don’t consider sharing digital goods with other people to be ‘stealing’, because they know intrinsically that it’s *not* stealing, it’s not ‘theft’–nobody lost anything in the infringement besides a *potential* sale; and let’s face it, that’s not a given, either.

    Give fans REASONS to buy, and all content producers should start looking to sell non-infinite goods. That doesn’t just mean t-shirts and toys; *experiences* are also non-infinite goods, such as events with creators, perhaps a special ‘making of’ event with select fans that they could buy tickets to, etc. etc.

    Look, the possibilities are endless for business models; unfortunately, it’s up to content creators to find those new business models while we’re currently in this tumultuous phase. Someone else said above that the problem is that there won’t be a “tried and true” path anymore for a while. Content creators aren’t just going to be able to do x, y, and z anymore to earn a living–they’re going to have to tailor their model to their fans.

    That’s the new reality, and while it may be difficult, it’s also MUCH more available to a LOT more creators. The artificial gatekeepers and middlemen are going to be less and less important as time goes on, which only means more possibilities for more creators.

    It’s more work, for sure, but I would much rather see thousands and thousands of “middle class” content creators than just a handful of “rock star” creators who make an insane amount of money.

  48. I will agree that the price vs. value discussion IS alarming, and it *should* invoke unease, as it involves undoing a lot of ingrained, unconscious beliefs that we share (and have shared) for a long, long time.

    As they note in that discussion, people do have this belief that free = less value than something that is paid for, and people (foolishly) often value something that is overpriced more than something that is priced appropriately. While that’s true for now, I don’t think it will remain that way forever.

    Regardless, it’s a fascinating discussion, and to me, just seeing all these people discussing copyrights and the public domain is heartening.

    Eventually, our country–and creators–will figure out how to embrace this new reality, just like how industries throughout history have dealt with disruptive technologies.

  49. >>>As they note in that discussion, people do have this belief that free = less value than something that is paid for, and people (foolishly) often value something that is overpriced more than something that is priced appropriately. While that’s true for now, I don’t think it will remain that way forever.

    But…my gut tells me that this is more of an ingrained human quirk than a cultural invention. I would love to see if any studies have been run to study the “free has less value” modal. In any case, we’re certainly talking about something that predates the internet. I think the rapid dissemination of information on the internet has affected how people communicate and learn…I’m not sure it has affected our sense of property as profoundly.

    Its more a case of a book or record or comic BECOMING something that is not assigned ownership value. See the Marv Wolfman quote above. I guarantee that the teenage girl who does not give a shit if her digital music collection gets wiped out by a magnet would fight like a cornered lioness should someone attempt to take away her favorite pair of shoes.

  50. “In other words, it’s all about embracing the reality that digital goods cost *nothing*, and people inherently know this.”

    This is a dangerous notion, because it’s wrong. The time it took to make something, the time it took to LEARN to make something, the bandwidth, the equipment you made it on, the dinner you ate so you didn’t fall down dead making it, the roof over your head, it all costs. There’s nothing wrong with free content – I wouldn’t have a career without “free”, but there has to be an acknowledgement at some point that creative endeavour isn’t a valueless commodity.

    There has to be a tacit understanding between creator and consumer or what we will witness is a kind of intellectual version of the vanishing Brazilian rainforest. There are millions of square miles of it – until there aren’t any more.

  51. I think some of these analogies to other industries are muddied because we’re used to equating comics with superheroes, humor strips, and other license-able properties. The thing to remember is that not every comics creator is working at making new franchises.

    Of course a musician can make money on t-shirt sales and live gigs while giving away free MP3s. That musician is trying to build a certain brand identity that she hopes people want to be a part of. But is V.S. Naipul building a brand identity or simply writing novels? Would you buy a “Howl” coffee mug? Heck, even my just-created analogy doesn’t hold. Within music there are musicians who aren’t building a fan following and personal brand but are just trying to get by on royalties from session work, etc. And there are poets and novelists (Robert Pinsky, Stephen King) who are.

    The main ways artists have always made a living (patronage/commissions, IP licensing, and copy sales of the work itself) are all still equally viable and legitimate ways to earn money. Neither can replace any other. Which gets an artist’s focus depends a lot on the individual work.

  52. Hey Torsten — thanks for the Doctorow link! I read the first few pages, got hooked, and then went over to Amazon and bought a physical copy with money. Not sure what that says about anything, but I can’t wait to read it. :)

  53. The reasoning of those who emphasize “value” makes sense from the perspective that a reader who values what the creators do will want the creators to do more work and will pay at least some money to facilitate that. There can be honest disagreement over what a fair price for the individual work is, because a reader fails to appreciate the publisher’s overhead costs, the costs of distribution, etc. He would rather compensate the creators directly.

    The “value” sentiment also separates the collectors from the intellectual readers. People who download “n” comics and read them probably consider the comics interchangeable products, don’t distinguish between the individual creators, and aren’t fans of the creators. At best, they’re enthusiastic about reading new stories about certain characters.

    If the majority of the superhero comics market consists of readers who devalue work by creators, think that anything written about ____ is good, and don’t care about the format, then piracy would have a greater impact on sales and profits than it would if the majority of the readers valued individual creativity.


  54. Jesse, you just proved many of the points Doctorow writes about!

    Of course, he got paid for most of those essays when they were printed in magazines. But by giving away stuff, he also advertises his content and himself.

  55. “If the reason things are created is for the money then dont friggin create. In fact get stuffed. I dont want your movies comics or any of that shit if that’s why you’re doing it!”

    I’m gonna tell that to my grocer the next time I go in and then I’ll just steal their food. *Crossing fingers*

  56. “If the reason things are created is for the money then dont friggin create. In fact get stuffed. I dont want your movies comics or any of that shit if that’s why you’re doing it!”

    While this might be a fine attitude for creators in their younger days, when living on the cheap is more feasible, but as the years go on and folks get married, have kids and want things like health insurance, money enters into things. It has to.

  57. In post #15 I wrote: “If the reason things are created is for the money then dont friggin create.” I stand by that statement as Art is often no more than the expression of an Artists ego with a similarly obscene price attached to match that ego. I prefer art (little “a”) which gets added for free in the process of plying a “craft”. As in… The speaker artfully added to his speech while plying his trade of public speaking. Digitised “stuff” is merely 0’s and 1’s. Whether it’s the Bible (I hear they’re giving that away too now!) or a digital “copy?” of the Mona Lisa. The history of civilisation can be traced through the “sharing” of information (the Internet) and what is needed now is for some nerd to invent a fair and foolproof method of extracting payment for “effort” while maintaining the easy delivery and duplication methods digital affords (sic). Apple have achieved this in large measure with iTunes. Meanwhile because it requires an equal amount of effort (zero) on my part to download a crap comic or a masterpiece, I avail myself. Simply passing laws will not change anything. Ask yourself, why do doors have locks?

  58. As they note in that discussion, people do have this belief that free = less value than something that is paid for, and people (foolishly) often value something that is overpriced more than something that is priced appropriately. While that’s true for now, I don’t think it will remain that way forever.

    Well, as long as we’re going to look for actual facts on the matter, researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology performed a test where people were given two identical bottles of wine, but were told that one cost $5 and the other cost $45. They found that people said the more expensive wine tasted better – even though it was exactly the same as the cheaper bottle.

    Baba Shiv, one of the study’s authors and associate professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, previously found that people who paid full price for Red Bull energy drinks were able to solve more brain teasers than those who paid less for the same product.

    In other words, how much you pay for something can affect how you perceive it.

    On the other hand, it’s very hard to compete with free– and the problem with comics is not piracy, it’s obscurity.

  59. So the other night I wanted to check out some Sgt. Rock by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. “Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock” is no longer in print, but it was available on Amazon; hardcover new started at $49 and used for $25. So no matter which version I buy, the artists get nothing. But if the issues were available on the DC iPad app (which they weren’t) the artists would receive a royalty if I purchased it via iTunes.

    So tell me, who’s being hurt by the digital revolution? Not Joe Kubert and the Robert Kanigher estate once their work is available in a digital form. In the near future, every comic that was ever created could be a available on iTunes or some other platform. That means that conceivably a book created 20 years ago could become popular again and the artists would receive royalties (if their contracts provided for it).

    And there’s my point: we don’t know what the future holds, so many of us feel it must be horrible. But in reality we’ve never had a greater opportunity for self-expression. We’ve never had a better chance for our work to never go out of print, and to be available to everyone everywhere, not ghettoized in some obscure little comic shop for a brief moment in time.

  60. I read all the posts about Sergio versus Waid debate, and I think there is an argument for/against digital copyrighted content, which I have not heard yet… resale. Now before I begin to explain, I do believe artists/creators should be able to maintain copyrights to their works, and with it control over exactly how they desire the content to be sold, resold, and/or distributed… so any examples I give here are referring to legal copyright sales/transfers, etc. rather than piracy. I realize resale is not specifically what the debate is about, but it does have great ramifications down the line.
    Getting back to my point of resale…anyone, who buys a physical copy of say a movie, music CD, video game, book, art print, or comic book, can sell the tangible physical object at possibly a loss because of wear-n-tear/low-demand or profit due to rarity/high-demand. Most people, who buy any piece of video or audio material, do not usually take into account that possible return in value when originally buying an item, but many comic collectors do.

    However, when buying digital copyrighted content, there really has not been any procedure put in place to allow a consumer to legally sell, or even give away, his or her usage rights to the copyrighted material. For instance, when I buy and download a video game through Xbox Live Arcade, once I beat it and get bored with it I can not offer a sale of my “copy” possibly at a loss from my original payment amount or even give my “copy” away to another Xbox player. In most of the Xbox Live content downloads I do not even think I could include any downloaded games as added value on the Xbox hard drive if I wanted to sell my used Xbox 360. That is because the content I downloaded on the hard drive is associated with my gamer-tag/user-name and not usually the Xbox itself, which means any person receiving my Xbox would not be able to use the games I bought unless I gave up my own gamer-tag identity as well. If the receiver wanted to play one of my downloaded games under their own gamer-tag, then they would have to buy the rights to it themselves with the only extra benefit of not having to spend the time downloading the big game files because the files are already on my hard drive.
    Of course this also restricts the use of possibly a son inheriting a father’s Xbox upon his death, which has downloaded games the two played together when the son was younger. This restriction might especially suck if the Xbox Live download system no longer supports Xbox 360 titles or its rights usage after so many years. The son might never be able to play the downloaded content as a remembrance of the good times they spent together. The only thing allowed seems to be a gamer’s ability to delete the content with the permission to download and delete it unlimited times in the future as long as the Xbox Live network is still running. I am not a big iTunes or other similar service user, nor have I ever subscribed to digital comics, but I imagine it might work the same on those systems.

    This presents a couple of issues. Obviously, a digital copy will not degrade and can be infinitely reproduced as long as the source system/network is functioning properly. In my opinion this negates possible arguments about rarity causing sale values to increase, so no copyright owner can gain super profits due to price increases as if there are only two “copies” left in the world like might be the case for a comic book. Price increases might only be practical if there is simply a demand in the market where consumers are willing to pay more… even though the copyright owner knows they have an infinite supply and reproduction costs them nothing. This is not all that ethical, but as long as people are willing to pay, it becomes the reality.
    For rights-holding end-users this presents a somewhat unfair situation, not just because certain people might have paid more for the same content than others… but also because they are not allowed to resell their usage rights in direct competition to the source-providing copyright owner. Therefore, in this case a comic book creator, like Sergio, would have a clear and significant advantage. If Sergio went the digital-only route for all his future publications, then all those non-existent physical comics being resold on eBay would not cut into his market value. He would not miss out on additional income generation like he does now whenever his current paper comics get sold on eBay because there simply would not be competition. All consumers would legally have to purchase from his content network. This is presuming of course an ideal world where digital piracy was kept under control and he would have complete control of his sales (more about that possibility further down in my post).

    What happens upon his death though? As some people in the blog-debate mentioned… would his rights fade into the public domain. If this is the case, then who would be providing the ongoing source copies for future generations? Would Sergio’s children take up that task or even have the rights to do so… or would all his content legally be released to the public domain. If digital content became the standard, then some might argue whoever could universally provide a source network for consumers to purchase/acquire copies in the future, should have the copyright. In a situation like this, I would imagine Sergio would have to will his content to possibly some corporation/company with a legal clause stating his direct descendants would be given a cut of the sales. I say a “cut” because keeping a network running, even when sales are down, takes money. Therefore in some ways being a copyright holder and provider does take a certain amount of expense and risk. Alternatively, Sergio could will his content to some sort of non-profit museum, where on-line visitors could view his content for free or a possible small donation to maintain the costs of the museum’s digital network.

    In either the digital copy or physical print realm… it still somewhat boils down to a physical item… whether that be a disc, hard drive, network, soft cover comic, or hard cover book. In terms of long time spans, who ever has ownership of a legally permitted physical “copy”, can resell at least one copy as long as they take measures to keep their “copy” in good condition. The primary difference in the physical and digital realms is the fear of duplication and the sales or lack of sales (as in free copy give-aways) diminishing the income of a creator/copyright-holder.
    This brings me back to video gaming as an example. Like on some web sites with simplistic puzzle games, technology and internet speed have developed to the point where someone can buy a physical gaming system along with a “gamer-tag” associated with it, then log in to a network to play a selection of video games directly from the network without ever downloading content to their home-based hardware. Basically, it is like downloading video game content as you play, which is almost exactly like watching a streaming video on your computer from Netflix. This streaming digital format greatly restricts the spread of “copies” because it uses a similar “gamer-tag” usage-rights association to a piece of content rather than ever transferring a digital copy to something the end-user physically owns. Furthermore, hardware designed specifically to work with such a streaming system can greatly prevent piracy. There are ways to defeat this system, but it takes some effort and the vast majority of consumers would most likely opt to go the legal route to avoid the hassles.

    Again, the primary issue with digital content systems like this, which are inherently more pirate resistant, is the consumer with his/her right-usage does not have a way to resell what they bought. However, the way I view it is a digital consumer chooses to purchase a digital copy rather than a physical copy, like a disc or book, and thus gives up his/her right to resell the content. Ideally in this scenario the copy-right owner would and should recognize the difference by keeping the price of digital content much cheaper. This is only fair because…
    1) The copyright owner does not have to spend money on the production, distribution, and marketing of physical devices/products.
    2) The copyright owner knows they can instantly, freely, and endlessly produce digital copies for sale, which in its own way devalues the digital market because no “limited editions” can be sold.
    3) The copyright owner knows the sale of a digital rights-usage restricts consumers from future resale of what the consumer bought, and thus greatly reduces future sales competition against the copyright owner.

    Despite the restrictions to the end-user, this sales model of a higher-cost for a physical copy I believe is incredibly beneficial…
    1) It encourages consumers to purchase a digital copy, which reduces the resource costs of a physical item’s production, distribution, and marketing. Therefore there is less pollution by trucks, less enegery and mertials used in th processing of the end paper, plastic, or whatever product, and no waste generation from marketing-enhanced packaging.
    2) The end user might also be able to experience his/her copy in different interesting and convenient ways. With digital comics for example, as a reader gets older and their eye-sight diminishes they can most likely instantly zoom in to read otherwise small text. Even before aging they can zoom in to appreciate/study the artistic pen/paint-brush strokes of the artist, which is quite the case in so much of Sergio’s detailed scenes.
    3) Also, a reader’s comic book collection with thousands of titles associated with it can be accessed through a single possibly portable space-saving device, which will ultimately never degrade in quality because even if damaged, stolen, or lost a reader can acquire a replacement device and still access all their purchased rights-usage content. Again, in this scenario all the content would be accessed through a user-name on a remote server, so a lost/stolen device would hardly provide any value and could even have its serial number banned and possibly even traced by the police.

    When I sat with Sergio at his table in the Baltimore Comic Con a couple of years ago I spoke to him about digital content, and I could immediately tell he was opposed to it. He obviously fears the possibility of illegal duplication and resulting loss of income, but he also greatly prefers a tangible object to cherish. He is clearly more old-school, and his choice to allow his work in only physical formats is his right as a copy-right owner. During this current infancy period of change into digital formats we will have people on both sides, but I think eventually once the kinks are worked out (mostly piracy issues) I do believe digital and physical formats can exist harmoniously together.

    Aside from the physical/digital resale values I bring up, the other arguments regarding a creator’s work not having value and immediately becoming public domain simply because of the artist’s love of creation are ridiculous to me. In most cases common sense should dictate when someone creates anything they should expect it to have value even if, AND ESPECIALLY BECAUSE, they created it out of love of the art. People, who argue the opposite, are clearly lamers (a term originating from hacking/piracy itself), who have no skills to create their own content and do not even appreciate the process of producing content.

  61. @ Kate, so I create comics for the sake of advertisement? plus thats under the assumption that my comic is sucessful.

    This notion that comics are done for love is rather silly. Before anything else, comics are a product. I can only speak for myself, but I go in to whatever comic i make saying “how can this comic sell? Who is this story for? What can I do to promote this comic to audience X?”. My “love” for medium is in my desire to make a good and sucessful product, not to make comics for the sake of the medium(thats sound too idealistic and delusional for me). The cartoonist of yester- year created first for the bread and butter and in their determination to pay the bills and feed the family they achieved more than intended. so enough of this “do it because you like it” argument, I want comics for me to be a profession not a hobby.

  62. I’ve not read all the comments here, but I don’t understand the “ideas” side of the argument. As a publisher, I Really understand that it’s hard to compete with all the free stuff out there. But could someone put the other side in a simple, one-sentence concept for me please? Thanks.

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