Cartoonist Dylan Horrocks on Comics Piracy

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.

Here's the bulk of Horrocks' tweets from last week, in coversation with several people, including Tom Spurgeon and cartoonist Deb Aoki.


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.

and

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.

Visit Dylan's website at Hicksvillecomics.com.  Also, here he is guesting on the Ink Panthers podcast, where none of this comes up.

 

Comments

  1. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    This man, I agree with him. *points solemnly*

  2. ericmci ericmci says:

    Amen!

  3. i do agree with him about the non commercial copying aspects, and there are already pretty decent “fair use” laws in place for that so i don’t know what he’s really complaining about. There is a lot of misunderstanding of what “fair use” and copyright really is. However I find some of his arguments to be the classic “copyright is bad because it keeps me from making money off of my Batman fan fiction stories!!!!” kind of bitterness. 

    Of course superheroes are brands. That was obvious 20 years ago. And why is that bad? If you don’t like working under the constraints of the Time Warner empire, go out and create your own characters and brands.

    Stan Lee said something about this a while back. I forget the exact quote but it was something to the effect of ‘spend your creative energies coming up with new characters instead of trying to redefine old ones.’

    I think that artists regardless of media should be able to control how and when their work is used. Reduced copyright laws will only make that harder and will make it much easier for small guys to be taken advantage of. I don’t know if Colleen Doran lost actual money from piracy…its too hard to define, BUT i think some of her concerns are warranted, and bottom line, people are taking her work, without paying for it, and thats never really ok. 

  4. The recording industry seemed devastated by either the inability to embrace the internet or deal with the piracy that obviated buying their physical artifacts. Let that be a guide on how not to behave commercially — don’t do what they did. Comics are not as large as that industry, but still prey to the vagaries of a digital marketplace.

  5. RoiVampire RoiVampire says:

    I think the kind of people who are going to download Collen Doran’s work are also the kind of people who never would have bought it in the first place. In my experience, talking with friends and other peers, people who download comics weren’t in the purchasing mood to begin with. It’s not like they were on their way to the shop and thought, “Hey now, I have the internet.” Their money was never going to be in the hands of shop owners or Colleen Doran regardless.

    However, out of say 6 people I have spoken to who have read comics that were pirated, 4 of them don’t pirate anymore but instead buy comics on the iPhone app. Most are buying series they starts reading through piracy.

    I think what most bothers me about this whole witch hunt is that I can’t honestly get mad about it. I have burned CD’s for friends. I have taped movies off of HBO and yes I have downloaded music illegaly. But for the most part, I fly the straight and narrow. to paraphrase – There are no good guys or bad guys in this world. It’s just a bunch of guys.

  6. sunhero sunhero says:

    This dispute needs serious independant research done to see if free distribution hurts quality and creativity.
    to date i’v only ever seen  polictical/financially based, biased opinions

  7. Unoob Unoob says:

    To me it seems like this started one place and went somewhere altogether different. As far as piracy goes, if you ever hear someone saying “this is the way to stop piracy”, you should look at them like they are saying “this is the way to stop hurricanes” because you probably have a better chance at stopping the hurricanes. it is impossible to stop. Especially if there is no money being made from it. It takes literally no skill, talent, or secret handshake to pirate anything, and there is no degree of difficulty. Remember the anti copying devices they used to put in VHS tapes? Remember how much of a joke it was? You have even less control over printed matter. Just keep on sending cease and desist orders to any sites that you catch, sure. But focus your efforts and your passion into creating the best product that you can. At the end of the day, that is what is going to make you money. As far as raging against the corporate machine, the big two and their brands are still very much a reason that comics still exist with any level of financial viability. If what they do and how they do it is not for you as a creator, then by all means do your own thing, but be grateful they are there.

  8. RoiVampire RoiVampire says:

    Case in point, I told a few friends about the Dark Horse app and they got really excited that they could finally read Hellboy. Some people are just digital through and through.

  9. As much as I hate using cartoons to make a point… this one makes a good point.

  10. vadamowens vadamowens says:

    There we go.

  11. Quinn says:

    Part of the problem is the messed-up nature of US copyright law, which is roughly defined as “however long it takes to keep Mickey Mouse from becoming public domain.”  Every time the copyright expiration date has been extended (life of the creator plus 25, 75, 95 years, it has been a direct result of Disney lobbyists), and take keep character that were created after Mickey (Batman, Superman, just about every other comic book character in existence) from passing from the hands of the companies, which keeps the companies from needing to innovate.  Why put more than a token effort towards innovation if you can meet your bottom line with seven Batman, six Superman, eight Avengers, seven Thor, five Iron Man, etc. titles?  There’s no incentive to invest in new product (I’m not talking about Captain Britain, I’m talking about Chase, or, better yet, Fell).  ”This is what sells” is a dodge: products sell because they’re marketed and produced well, or, they sell because people have always been buying them.  

    If comics book only sell because of the latter, then they become like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: a hollow, slightly disturbing, faded, haunting shell of their former selves.  Then they fire Alan Moore Santa for being a little creepy.  I say this as someone who buys a lot of super hero comics, because I like the hollow, creepy shell, and hate Santa.  But I’m honest about what I’m doing.

    That said, downloading shit you didn’t pay for: still stealing.  Just because you steal from the rich and decrepit coffers of industry doesn’t make you Robin Hood.  (Unless your first name is Robin and your last name is Hood, in which case your parents need to sit in the corner and think about what they’ve done.)

  12. In the argument about on-line piracy Dylan Horrocks has delivered a body slam.

  13. jmstump jmstump says:

    I’m happy to see the other side of this argument from a creator, but I feel the need to point out something that I haven’t seen mentioned by too many people and that’s engagement.  I feel like there’s an assumption that all pirates are terrible people.  I would argue some of them don’t know any better or have no attachment to the creator of what they’re pirating therefore making it “okay.”

    I bring up Engagement because without it, you’ll never really be able to leverage piracy in your favor.  There is a very cool case on Tech Dirt where Steve Leiber creator of Underground engaged pirates on the board where his work was pirated.  The case has some numbers where Steve saw sales spike significantly after engaging with them.  It’s an instance where you can actually see numbers that would support the fact that piracy and engagement (more so the engagement I would say) helped his sales.  It could be argued that when he engaged the board where his work was posted the pirates were able to put a real person with the work and in some cases may have felt guilty they just read the entire thing for free by this cool guy.

    Interesting stuff all around.  Although I feel like a majority of the piracy argument is mute in the fact that Homeland security and Immigration have started censoring the internet without the COICA bill being passed.  In some cases legitimate sites with material that was okayed by companies and creators.

  14. @Quinn  –why shouldn’t a company like Disney who has built an entire media empire around an original character be allowed to protect it? I find the fact that Mickey Mouse hasn’t been able to become a registered Trademark one of the great creative injustices out there. I don’t particularly care for Disney as a company, but fair is fair…its their character. Copyright law isn’t that messed up as you suggest. There is nothing better to replace it. Creative Commons is a good option for those creatives who want it, but its not a solution for everyone. 

    The calls for iconic characters to be put into the public domain, to me seems like the rallying cry of the lazy artist/businessman who want to make lots of quick money off of iconic characters without putting in any real originality and contributing something new to the culture. 

    Comic creators would be better off trying to become the next Mignola or Kirkman creating new, relevant icons than trying to be the 10000000th guy who does a run of Batman or Spiderman. Unfortunately creator owned is tough to break into and sustain, but thats a different discussion…

  15. Evangelion11 Evangelion11 says:

    The internet is a great tool, it allows for people to get exposure where ten years ago they couldn’t. Digital ISNT a problem, the internet ISNT a problem, downloading ISNT a problem. Piracy IS a problem, but not in the way the publishers say it is. If we want our community grow we need to support it simple as that. It’s your choice whether you download the issues from a free site or if you buy it but the illegal download of ANYTHING contributes to the problems plaguing the respective industries. I feel if you want Comics to grow and reach new audiences we need to work with the publishers and creators to achieve the goal. Yes Downloading can bring in new people, but it if we love this medium we should ALL be trying to bring them into our community, whether that’s using digital initiative, promoting all ages titles or lower costs, it should be the ultimate goal, to grow the industry.

    You should support Things you like.

    (My argument may not be perfect, but I think the sentiment is there)

  16. muddi900 says:

    @Wally:
    Who is Disney? Is the entity curently referred to as “Disney” created Mickey Mouse? Why is it a ‘creative injustice’ that the people who had no hand in the creation of a character be awarded previliges to it?

  17. @muddi900  —Disney is a corporation that follows the original vision of its founder that has been using that character in a very long and established fashion and have shaped it over decades. The Mickey Mouse that exists today has very much been shaped over the decades in addition to Walt. 

    Just as the Batman that exists today has been shaped over the decades. In a way these companies are custodians and guardians of icons.

    What gives YOU the right to say you now have free reign over a character like Mickey Mouse just because you see it as 1. old 2. popular 3. profitable? The only people who’d profit from Mickey as public domain are guys who want to make a quick buck while contributing nothing to it. Its a leech/parasite mentality. 

  18. Crucio Crucio says:

    Mickey Mouse, Superman, Captain America et al these characters would be destroyed if let out into the public domain, they’d be shilling cars, lead toys and have rape comics legally published about them and sold. A company creates something and uses it, they should be able to protect it and maintain it. If they abandon the IP then it should move into the public domain.

    I agree with everything else he says. Don’t fight piracy adapt to it. If a million people are downloading your stuff from torrents find a revenue stream for that. I’m not a big fan of product placement but if Wolverine drinking a Budweiser is in the book and a million people are going to see it, that has to be worth some ad revenue.

    I’ve said this before, you have to diversify your revenue portfolio. Incentives for paying for stuff and using it.
    1. Product placement (I hate it but $$ is more important)
    2. Have scratch codes in ‘real’ books that unlock the same comic in an Online reader and give points.
      - Have those points accumulate to make purchases of other books in the program.
      - With subscriptions give more points and allow for people to use them on products like toys, charge a reasonable shipping and handling fee that S&H is the Profit.
    3. Put ad pages in the E-comics.
    4. Give free digital comics to people who go see the movies and try to tap into that 1-3% of millions of people who would buy but don’t even know the thing exists. 
    5. Add codes to the end of cartoons/movies/tv shows that on their premiers give more points and then stop working the hour after the show is done. 

    All that is off the top of my head, think of piracy as a group of people looking at something and exploit that. Give people who are on the edge of buying or want to but don’t know the options that final push. Start putting not just the characters out their in tv, but the books too and provide an addictive incentive to keep people who are buying from stopping and instead buying more. 

    There is $$ that is being ignored to maintain a status quo that will lead to its own demise. Marvel and DC in particular should be leveraging every aspect of every product and interconnecting them, 5 years I could increase their sales, 10 to 15 I think they could double sales across the board. 

  19. j206 j206 says:

    Does it hurt? Sure. But how much? I’m so sure. I’ve always said that regarless the medium, the types of people who pirate, are the types of people who wouldn’t have paid to begin with.

  20. KickAss KickAss says:

    He argues Colleen’s view is opinionated, yet his view is as well.  He makes not one valid point in this, only shares his opinion with no facts.

    One fact that is true, the music industry is devastated by online piracy to this day, and the music industry is not to blame for “Not embracing it.”  The ones to blame are every person that illegally downloads and the fact that there has not been a complete ban on the piracy.  The comic industry is a smaller version of the music industry, with less fans.  We’ll see how long it lasts when uninformed people like Dylan Horrocks continue to hide behind their “Opinion.”

    He’s one more person that’s wrong on the issue.

  21. dandoody dandoody says:

    The four examples he cites in his cartoon are over-simplify the argument.  The first two, radio and television, where able to deliver/distribute music and video programming, but not store it.

    The latter two, audio and video cassette, were able to store music/video programming, but not distribute it, and least not efficiently or effectively to the point were items “pirated” in this manner were more than a small economic blip.

    Computers and the internet allow people to not only store programming but distribute it, if they like, simply and to a vast, anonymous audience.

    If I’m an artist or musician who doesn’t like this, I’m told, “Too bad, it’s happening, you should just live with it.” That’s not cool.  Copyright and intellectual property laws exist so that creators can choose how they want to manage/sell/distribute their work.  If some like Horrocks want others to copy and distribute on a small scale, then fine he should be allowed to do so.  If some, like Colleen Doran, want to have their work protected, that should be her choice as well.

    I do indeed think Copyright and intellectual property laws need a massive overhaul for the Internet Age, but it needs to be one in which address the concerns of both Horrocks and Doran: set standards for private, noncommercial use, but also set the limits for where such uses becomes abusive and amount to piracy.

  22. Arrrggghhh Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    The false assumption is that if piracy is stopped, the former pirates would spend $$$ for the materials they used to get from piracy.
    When I was young, I would record the radio – then make mixed tapes of those songs I recorded. It was a low quality act of piracy . . . but by doing that, I gained a love for music and in later years – spent a huge % of my salary buying albums.

  23. muddi900 says:

    @Wally:
    So some people make cheap Mickey Mouse mechandise, and make a quick buck and then Mickey Mouse dies like the millions of other ideas and something else takes its place and the world will turn like it used to. Not only that, none of your arguments are actually applicable to Mickey Mouse. The definition of icon in the New Oxford American Dictionary:

    “A person or thing regarded as a symbol of something”

    To quote Charles Bukowski on Mickey Mouse: “three-fingered son-of-a-bitch who has no soul, for Christ’s sake.” Mickey Mouse symbolizes nothing, means nothing. From Steamboat Willie till Prince and The Pauper, there is no consistent element of the character, except that he is a anthropomorphic mouse. Mickey Mouse is not an icon.

    And even if he was , why does it matter that he survive for whole eternity? Ideas live and die and then are reborn. The biblical sea-monster Leviathan, turns into Moby Dick, which turns into Gojira, which turns into Gwoemul. Why are these supposed icons any different?

  24. Grandturk says:

    Reads a lot like the arguement for the legalization of weed.

  25. Great stuff!

    I agree piracy is a problem but Horrock brings up some very good points. In reality, it’s a complicated subject and there isn’t a definite answer whether piracy is a serious threat to comics. Glad to hear the other side and not just ‘PIRACY IS WRONG ALWAYS’ from some people on this site and others.

    Also, that comic he did about the internet hangs in my classroom and I never knew it was done by a comic artist. Weird. 

  26. Quinn says:

    @wally I simply disagree.  The creators of these characters, from Mickey to Superman, are long dead.  The people currently making money off of them aren’t the creatives who came up with them.  Why should they get to trade on the creative genius of dead men?  That’s weak.  That’s lazy.  If these things passed into the public domain, we’d be offended for about five minutes, and then we’d move on, because, in the end, they’re just cartoons.  And yes, they’d be used to sell things, like Superman might be on underwear, or backpacks, or Hawkman might hawk candy bars.  There might be big budget Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman porn movies.  Oh, wait, all of those things already happen.  Nevermind.

    Imagine how interesting the comic book industry would be if it had to stop trading on the creativity of dead men, and people like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns were rewarded instead for bringing their own ideas to the table.  On the other hand, maybe the industry would die because it would stop being an “intellectual property platform.”  I happen to agree that “DC [and Marvel] comics doesn’t exist to sell great comics.”  The fact that they produce great comics is an accident, and testament to the creative men and women who work there.  I just think they could be more creative if 50% of their product output weren’t Superman/Batman/Green Lantern/Avengers/X-Men.  Count up the truly original ideas that have come out of Marvel and DC, and then come tell me that extending copyright is good for creativity. 

  27. Quinn says:

    This is not, btw, a slam on the creators, who I think do wonderful jobs with the materials they are forced to work with.  For me, it’s always about the business side, which holds tightly to the Things That Work, ignoring the fact that good ideas generally work if they are marketed properly, and the fans who cling to their favorite childhood characters like woobies in the nursery.

  28. Crippler Crippler says:

    Purely anecdotal evidence follows:

    “Pirated” comic books that I downloaded and read on my computer got me back into comics after being out for about almost a decade.  Specifically – 52 and the first 25 issues of Brubaker’s Cap run.  I downloaded those two sets of comics after hearing some chatter about how good they were.  I was, to say the least, blown away.  I now own the Cap Omnibus (among many others) and I pull 50+ books a month at my LCS. 

    I am my own best example of why sharing media is a good thing.  I may be in the minority as someone who got it for free and then started paying, but I can’t disagree with my own experience. 

  29. BC1 BC1 says:

    @Crippler – although a bit backwards, your scenario might be considered legal in other media (example: video game emulators – it’s legal to have them if you own physical versions).

    Two issues I have with this argument, toward both sides:
    1) To those who bring up dilution/vulgarization of characters – realistically, how much literary (i.e. written text) material would be produced using Captain America outside of Marvel if they didn’t have the copyright on him any longer? If we set aside copyright as a basis for character liscensing, the only other reason to maintain copyright is to control creative usage. So is Marvel really afraid that there will be so much Steve Rogers/Sharon Carter erotica for sale that people will forget Marvel’s Captain America books and they’ll bleed money? No, and in this regard Mr. Horrocks is right.

    2) To those who don’t have a problem with piracy – would you be o.k. with a person shoplifting from a store the same comic that they are downloading for free? What is the moral/ethical/legal difference?

    Final comment: copyright law is messy, but as/is currently, copyright owners must defend their ownership to the best of their ability if and when it is threatened by theft, illegal commercial usage, etc. What Steve Lieber did is a great model, but at no point did he give up the rights to his work. So the product is still his and he can make money on it.

  30. @Quinn  —we obviously have fundamental philosophical differences. I believe in the value of  the “curated experience” I dont see the harm in having custodians and guardians of an iconic character in a corporate setting. I think it does more good than harm. Batman is a wonderful character, and I would really hate to see it destroyed by hundreds of crappy fan fiction knock offs. I’ve yet to see anything that would convince me that a public domain Batman would enhance my reading experience. I just think i’d have more crap to weed through. 

    If creators want more freedom, create your own original characters. It’s a lot easier to be the 100000th guy to follow a template and continuity and write Spiderman stories, than create a new character/universe from scratch and turn it into something successful. 

    I used to do some work with the estate of a famous 20th Century artist. Yes they made some money licensing his work, but they also protected it from some extremely large retail chains that tried to copy and/or steal the work to put on cheap products because that style of art was fashionable. I think the estate did the creator of the work a great service by hand picking who would be the best fit for the artists original vision than letting a free for all of vultures make a quick buck off of it. Without those laws in place, that artists legacy would have been destroyed in the name of selling cheap plastic junk.

    Comic creators aren’t indentured servants. They choose to work on legacy characters because thats the best way to make a living. We the comic readers don’t buy enough creator owned work to make that a viable option for most. Its not the fault of copyright laws that most comic consumers prefer to buy 8 Avengers books a month instead of creator owned stuff. If you want to know why Marvel and DC pimp the same characters out endlessly, just look in the mirror. We buy the stuff.  I don’t see how forcing established, and iconic characters into the public domain and abolishing copyright laws would make us as consumers take a risk and purchase new characters and stories more than we already do.

    In fact i would argue that there would be no point in creating new characters because you would know your hard work would be easily stolen by someone with more resources than you. 

  31. Cooleo says:

    Piracy does not hurt any one because 95% of pritates would have never read or played or seen the content if they had to buy it but if its free they have no risk.

  32. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    @Cooleo  You’re getting that stat where?  Or you’re just making it up?

    And logically, if that stat were correct, 5% are hurting someone.

  33. OliverTwist OliverTwist says:

    This is a great and interesting article. I am not trying to be man or anything, but since Dylan has taken this point of view, and there are no stats. When Dylan is about to release his graphic novel, why doesn’t he float the material to a select number of those pirated sites, and track the direct outcome of the sale of his books. Although it’s an unknown how much the graphic novel would sell, he could take the average of his titles and divide it to get an average on his sales. Use the avearge sales number as rough idea about the impact of pirated material.

  34. Rob3E Rob3E says:

    Copyright used to “protect” characters: That’s not what copyright does.  Copyright protects profits, and it’s a good thing to have, but it also seems appropriate that it have limitations.  In theory it does have limitations, but in reality, if copyright keeps being extended to keep Mickey Mouse out the public domain, then it effectively loses those limits, and that would be a shame.  The people defending their copyright to 80 year old characters are not the creators.  The people running the corporations are not the people who ran the corporations when the characters were created.  The idea that they are safeguarding these characters from “dilution” for the benefit of all of us is silly.  They do it for the benefit of themselves.  And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing.  I’m not saying that creators shouldn’t be able to profit from their work.  I’m just saying that if you’re fighting to maintain control of a character that was created several generations back, then you’re not trying to protect your own profits.  You’re trying to continue to profit from someone else’s work.  And heaven knows that there’s plenty of dilution when it’s profitable.  How many Batman comics are out now?  What couldn’t I buy with Wolverine on it 15 years ago?  Corporations don’t care about dilution.  What they care about is that any dilution that happens continues to benefit them.  If Captain America fell into the Public Domain, it wouldn’t be Captain America porn or lead-based toys that would hurt Marvel, it would be the company that successfully wrote better Captain America stories than Marvel.  That’s what you’re being protected from: competition.
    What made me think of this was today’s story on the site about Conan, the Marvel Conan, not the Dark Horse Conan.  I was trying to figure out how both publishers could be doing Conan.  Now there may be deals that have been struck, but there’s also the issue that Conan may have fallen into the Public Domain.  Are we swamped with so many Conan derivatives that  we can’t tell what’s worthwhile (and would copyright enforcement change that, or would it simply label some fanfiction as “legitimate”)?  Do we see Conan’s image used in so many marketing campaigns that he’s so “diluted” that we don’t care about the original Howard stories (those of us that cared to begin with)?  We’re surrounded by stories/characters that have entered the Public Domain, but their continued use does not damage the original stories.  In fact, their continued use is a testament to the original works (see any Sherlock Holmes adaptations lately?). The continued presence in our lives is evidence that those characters are more than just parts of a long-forgotten book.  They are part of our cultural heritage, and it’s right that they should live on as part of public domain.  Someday Mickey and Cap will follow them, and hopefully we won’t have to wait until their current copyright owners have made us cease to care about them anymore.
    Copyright is a good thing, but it’s not about protecting consumers or protecting characters, it’s about protecting the profits of the creator.  If the creator is gone and the stories/characters live on, then that means we, as a society, have adopted those tales in some form, and I have no problem with them entering the public domain.  It would be a shame if they never did. 

  35. edwest says:

    Very strange. Do you hand a football to a guy walking down the street and tell him to play in the NFL that night? Amateurs are not professionals by definition. And piracy is stealing by definition. It doesn’t matter if the word stealing is replaced by file sharing. Anybody who thinks piracy is just something we have to live with is just ignoring the problem, and there are legitimate losses. The nonsense that piracy spreads your work around is just that, nonsense. If someone sent me a song he liked, why would I go out and buy a copy? I already have it.

    The media company I work for regularly contacts “file sharing” sites to ask them to take down our books which are there without our permission. People seem to forget that google was sued for copyright infringement.

    Finally, if everyone is running around looking for some sort of creative freedom, why does Marvel and DC still have most of the market share? The public can get their comics in digital format now, including indie titles. I think a lot of creators are fooling themselves by saying the Big Two are doing something wrong while they are doing it right. So, where are your sales?

    And why are people so upset about how long a copyright lasts? Create your own Superman and Mickey Mouse. They make it sound so easy. Once again, why aren’t these indie creators being embraced by the masses? I think the idea of cutting back on copyright is more about a lack of creativity by some. They want to play with someone else’s creation like kids playing in a professional comics studio. I want to pay real money for real professional work. Producing comic books for the mass market means understanding what works in the mass market. Sure, experiment all you want, just don’t be surprised when the masses aren’t interested. You just can’t hand a hammer and chisel to just anybody and say, “I want you to make me a sculpture.” It takes years to learn how to do it right.

  36. Rob3E Rob3E says:

    Strange, I think the idea of constantly extending copyright is about lack of creativity.  The people who created Superman and Mickey Mouse are not still working with those characters.  Those people are gone.  The people who want to extend their ability to profit from those characters must feel that they haven’t come up with enough new ideas to stay profitable.  But really it’s because if someone comes up with a really fantastic Superman story, they don’t want to have to bid for it, and pay the creator of that story for the creative effort they put into it.  They want to say, “This is what we pay for a Superman story, and no one else can publish a Superman story, so take it or leave it.”  And while I love Disney, some of the most memorable, well-loved works they’ve produced have been mined directly from the Public Domain.  They can use it, but heaven forbid they give back to it.

  37. edwest says:

    So Rob, if anybody can take from the public domain, why aren’t they as big as Disney? Walt Disney created a lot of different characters. I love that stuff. And why should they give anything back? Anybody can create the next Superman, but instead, some people insist that they can do a better job than DC. Who is coming up with these fantastic stories? Amateurs? First timers? I doubt it. Anyone can create the next big thing right now but doing comic books is a craft that you can’t learn overnight. And the Public Domain is not the wellspring of creativity. And it’s not a guarantee that whoever uses it will do a good job.

    Marvel and DC are still more profitable than everybody else, and if it was so easy to be profitable than sme other comic book company should be number one or at least number two.

  38. Rob3E Rob3E says:

    I don’t understand your points.   Why isn’t everyone as big as Disney?  Disney has a lot going for it.  I did not mean to imply that the existence of public domain fairy tales is the sole factor in the success of Disney. My point is that the public domain is a good thing.  I would wager that Disney thinks so, too, as it did not have to track down every descendant of the Brothers Grimm in order to make Snow White.

    And did I say that it’s easy to be profitable?  I really don’t understand where that comes from or what it has to do with the issue of copyright.

    I think copyright is a good thing.  I think it gives people an incentive to put forth new ideas and to profit from those ideas.  But a copyright is essentially  a monopoly on a concept, and, while I support the idea that a creator should have the opportunity to profit from their efforts, I do not support the idea that any corporation should have a perpetual monopoly on concepts that have essentially become part of our history.  I am not saying that current copyright lengths are too long.  I’m undecided about that.  But I am saying that I find the idea of a perpetual copyright to be alarming.  And it’s about a lot more than Captain America selling cars.  Although that would put Uncle Sam out of a job.

  39. edwest says:

    I can’t see why perpetual copyright would be alarming. I mean, who’s being deprived?

    Most of my friends are artists and writers and I have never, ever heard one complain that because something was not in the public domain it was hurting his own creativity. I just don’t get that. I know people at Marvel and DC and they are happy to be working on characters that have been around for a long time.