In an effort to present multiple opinions, I bring you New Zealand creator of Hicksville, and former Batgirl writer, Dylan Horrocks, who tweeted a great deal of responses to the Colleen Doran piece on comic book piracy from a couple of weeks ago.
I strongly disagree [with] Colleen on this, under my real name of course.
Piracy is used as a bogeyman to pass laws [which] are used to shut down harmless fansites, legit competitors, unwanted critics etc.
There is no actual evidence that online piracy is harming comics creators, only vague pronouncements and assumptions.
Who are these greedy sites getting rich off Colleen's work? How much do they earn? How much is she losing? Who can say…
Creators are being used as pawns to whip up fear and anger so the web can reshaped and brought under control by govt & corp's.
The tragedy is the web offers a chance for artists to become independent of those corp's. Many are thriving. Piracy = red herring.
My point is it's very easy to blame some vaguely defined unidentified pirates for costing us millions of hits and $. But who are these sites? Is this really losing us lots of money? Or is this really just another moral panic?
I'm saying many artists are doing well from web *in spite* of piracy. The argument was we can't compete w piracy.
Print is another thing. Again the evidence is mixed. Some shows print sales benefiting from piracy but ipad etc may change that.
Online music piracy has had a decade yet sales are still healthy & artists are thriving. I just don't see a big threat.
It's complicated alright. Hard to know how many of those bootleg downloaders wd translate into sales even at 99c.
OK, to sum up: I think piracy is a fact of life and waging war on it causes collateral damage. I just don't believe it's a serious threat.
I contacted Horrocks about writing up some of his arguments in a more organized form for iFanboy.com, but he (very graciously) declined, as he's working on his new graphic novel. However, he did share with me a great deal of links to stuff he's worked on before.
This is an example of a cartoon he posted that got picked up and spread all over the web, including the front page of the Pirate Bay for a short time. It came about as a result of this story.
Most of his arguments are in response to the idea that laws restricting copyright are the opposite of what he thinks artists and creators need at this point. Horrocks makes a number of points on the subject, starting with the need to redefine what copyright is, making it looser, in respect to non-commercial copying.
Copyright needs to be redefined to allow artists, authors and audiences to fully exploit the new opportunities that are opening up. Instead of “tightening and extending” copyright, we need to start distinguishing between commercial copying (which should continue to be controlled by the law) and noncommercial copying (which should not be restricted by law).
He goes on at length in regard to his experience as a full time working artist in the digital age.
Finally, a little over a month ago, he was interviewed on the subject by Sequential, a Canadian comics news and culture site. In regards to working for the mainstream comics publishers, he said:
Writing for DC, what I learned is that DC really doesn’t exist anymore to create great comics. It doesn’t even really exist to sell comics. The primary existence of DC now is to serve as an intellectual property platform for Time Warner. That’s why the movies are such a big deal. The movies make money. And the movies make the brands massive. So the comic books aren’t just there to provide product for the movies either, they are the origin of the brands. Batman is a brand. Superman is a brand. Wonder Woman is a brand. Sandman is a brand, and so on. The comic books provide new brands but most importantly they maintain existing brands.
When you’re working with a brand like Batman, you’re working with a brand that is generations old. Batman is what- 70 years? Older? And frankly, it’s a tired old brand. When a brand gets that old, when people involved in the initial creation are long gone… I think there’s two ways that a brand can really be healthy, producing wonderful stories and adding to culture.
One of them is when the people whose daydreams, whose fantasies the character came out of are still the ones shaping the comics. So you look at something like Tintin, where Herge wrote and drew stories about Tintin for 40 or 50 years. And then he died. Those very last Tintin books are still masterpieces. The tone of those comics changed dramatically, but the thing is they’re all very personal. Every single TIntin book has grown out of Herge’s personal obsessions and personal dance he was having with his creation. And you see the same thing with Peanuts, where you have 50 years of Schulz using this little ensemble of characters to build a very personal, internal landscape. So that’s one way, where you get this whole enormous body of work via a very personal thing.
But the other way you can have an iconic creation like Batman really thrive in the culture in a way that I think is culturally healthy rather than just commercially, is to let the whole fucking society play with it. Let everyone play with it.
There you have the Dylan Horrocks view of things. Read, think, and comment, but keep it civil, please.