By Bruce Lidl

A number of comics publishers today joined comiXology’s no-DRM initiative, and will start offering their titles without digital anti-copying technology. Comixology’s announcement at San Diego in July that publishers could now distribute DRM-free focused on a small group of early enthusiasts, including Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Zenescope Entertainment, MonkeyBrain Comics, Thrillbent, and Top Shelf Productions. From conversations at San Diego, it was clear a number of publishers at San Diego would be embracing DRM-free digital comics soon, and  IDW Publishing, Valiant Entertainment, Oni Press, Fantagraphics Books, Aspen Comics, Action Lab Entertainment, Th3rd World Studios, A Wave Blue World, Blind Ferret Entertainment, Caliber Comics, Creative Impulse Entertainment, Devil’s Due Entertainment, GT Labs Comics and Kingstone Media have just made it official.

It is not clear to what extent the publishers will be extending DRM-free backup capabilities to the whole range of their titles, or to back issues that were previously distributed with DRM. In a quick scan of offerings Fantagraphics has already made some titles available, including today’s release of Cosplayers #2 and Jim Woodring’s Jim. IDW has made today’s Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Ongoing #33: Dawn of the Autobots DRM-free but Godzilla: Cataclysm #2 is not. It may be that it will take time to implement the DRM-free option, or it may be that particular deals with license-owners or individual creators do not allow it. Time will tell how far DRM-free gets extended by these publishers.

As a trend, though, the indications are clear that more and more publishers are embracing a flexible approach, giving their customers increased options and autonomy over their comics purchases. The movement is strong among small to medium publishers, but should put some pressure on the Big Two (and Dark Horse) that have so far resisted the call for less restrictions on their crown-jewel intellectual properties.


  1. If it is a licensed comic, it is highly unusual for there not to be a DRM requirement in the contract. I would bet a serious amount of money that IDW had to go to Hasbro and get special permission for DRM free. Godzilla has a different owner, so whether Transformers is DRM-free or not has limited bearing on whether Godzilla is.

    That said, the tide is changing. Hopefully is stays changed. You’ll notice the vast majority of DRM-Free content is creator-owned or publisher-owned.

  2. Damn; if they’d announced this before the Fantagraphics 50% off sale ended I would have bought a LOT of Fantagraphics books.

    Still, great to see more publishers going DRM-free — and Todd’s right, it’s quite significant to see that Hasbro is on-board. I imagine the success of the Humble Transformers Bundle helped convince them.

  3. Hi all … I’ll jump in and save the suspense and questions on which IDW comics are DRM-free. It’s our entire line with the exception of TMNT, Godzilla and Cartoon Network titles. Those are restricted per licensor request. Hope you all enjoy the offering!

  4. Good decision! Pretty pointless with DRM:ed comics causing extra work for publishers and nuisances for the customers when they are available as torrents a few hours after release anyway.

  5. @Jeff: Well, sorry to hear about Nickelodeon, Toei, and CN, but thanks so much for lining everything else up.

    @[email protected]: While I applaud the publishers for going DRM-free, and intend to show my gratitude with my dollars, it bears noting that it’s in their own self-interest, too. DRM is not an effective way of preventing piracy, but it IS an effective way of locking law-abiding customers into a single distributor’s proprietary platform — and, more cynically, leaving publishers at that single distributor’s mercy.

    The Hachette/Amazon dispute is an excellent case in point: Hachette foolishly insisted that Amazon include Kindle DRM on its ebooks, and now all of Hachette’s Kindle customers can only read them in the Kindle app, making it a harder sell for them to start buying Hachette ebooks from a different seller instead.

    And I bring this up every time this subject comes up, because it’s another good example: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Image announced its own DRM-free store so soon after Comixology’s (initial, temporary) refusal to sell Saga #12 in the iOS version of its app. That’s the other problem with locking yourself into one major vendor: that vendor can decide it doesn’t want to sell your books, for reasons you may not like or agree with.

    So when a publisher goes DRM-free, it’s not just to the customers’ benefit, it’s to the publisher’s, too.

    And the seller’s, too — because I don’t buy DRM-infected comics, but I’m a satisfied Comixology customer now that they’ve started making DRM-free books available.

  6. So, is this just on Comixology and the publishers’ websites?

    Is this just periodical comics, or does it also include graphic novels?

    Is Amazon offering DRM-free graphic novels from these publishers? Is Barnes & Noble? W.W. Norton? Atlas Books? Google Play?

    Will Fantagraphics offer DRM-free Disney titles, while Disney Worldwide and Marvel resist?

    Is this worldwide, for any English edition?
    (A lot of English periodical comics are sold in Europe, months before the licensed foreign editions hit the stands. 64% of Germans, 51M, speak English. I suspect it’s higher for young adults.)

    What’s the situation overseas? Is there DRM-free BD available? Manga?

    Are the ebooks watermarked?

    How many “normal” book publishers offer DRM-free titles? Which is the biggest? (Besides Harry Potter… and audio books.)

    And the biggest, most important question:
    Can libraries participate?
    What’s the word from iVerse? OverDrive?

  7. Torsten: GN’s appear to be DRM-free as well as the single issues. I could only find one DRM-free Fantagraphics/Disney comic, which was an FCBD book anyway and presumably something Disney’s not too worried about piracy on. Not sure about any of the rest of that stuff.

  8. I took advantage of the Fantagraphics sale last week after Heidi had intimated that Fanta would be imminently be making the move to DRM-free. Thanks Heidi and FBI! Fanta had originally made plans to be part of the initial wave of DRM-free publishers, but the timing to make the switch had not worked out for them, so it is great to see that they (and several other publishers) have finally made the transition.

    As a note to other publishers, particularly smaller independent publishers (and even two or three specifically larger ones): I actively pass over offerings that do not offer the DRM-free option. I can understand many cases (licensing) why a title can’t be offered DRM-free, but publishers should be encouraged to offer the option whenever possible, and I’m voting with my dollars — I’ve spent more on Comixology since this move was made than before.

  9. Torsten, to answer your questions as far as IDW:

    All our comics and graphic novels are DRM free with the exception of the licenses I listed above.

    It’s the same worldwide, if the license is worldwide (most are).

    There are not presently any watermarks.

    And, important note — IDW books are DRM free in iBooks too. Kindle and Nook will be DRM free shortly, as soon as the change-over is fully implemented. Other distributors will likely follow.

  10. Hey Torsten: You probably already guessed this for me, but since I only do graphic novels, all of mine are now DRM-free via comiXology. I was happy when they offered the option, and glad to be part of the second (of what I hope are many) wave.

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