Comics piracy remains a contentious issue, even as more legal downloads become available with each passing week. While the community has squabbled over the ethics of downloading for years, little attention gets paid to those who scan and upload the books in the first place. Last Monday, we posted the first in a series of interviews with some of the people putting those books online in an attempt to wrap our heads around why they do what they do. Today, that quest for understanding continues.
We begin with a Mr. “Noah Vale”, who responded to questions with an essay which we will leave largely unedited:
Wow…. Most of the comments on your article nibble around the edges of the scanning world, a bit here and there are completely accurate, other parts not so much. Let me try and take this in the form of a rambling narrative… I’ve been scanning for about 6 years. I first started scanning some old golden age comics I picked up at a flea market. I found a yahoo groups scanning guide which laid out a system and standard for scanning comics, pretty much the same one everyone who scans ends up running across and not much has changed since it was written back in 2004 except for width dimensions and dpi size. Within a couple weeks of scanning, I was approached by one of the scanner groups to join and declined. The requests to join kept coming and about 4 years ago, I committed to scan 0-Day, (first day of issue) books. I scanned weekly for over 70 weeks and I continue to scan today; choosing to work on public domain comics and magazines, but I haven’t scanned a new book in over 3 years. I’ve probably scanned and edited 400 books, and probably edited or scanned for another editor another 300. I scanned and edited weekly books when I got home from work committing about 3 hours a night 2 days a week.. I equally either scanned for edit or edited for another scanner every Wednesday and Thursday for about a year and a half… every week.
There are presently 3 or 4 major scanning groups out there, there’s drama, but not a lot of jealousy of envy between the groups. I’ve been in 2 of them and have worked with another group without joining. The remarkable part is this is it is a worldwide thing, the majority of scanners are not from North America, and the lion’s share of comic scans are shared in the 3rd world and Europe where comic distribution is weak and unreliable. Once a scan is released, there’s no way of telling how many times it’s been grabbed, the outlets for the files are endless. I figure there are over 100 active scanners worldwide and as far as I know, none of them work in the comic industry, either on the production end or the retail end. Most groups work with a team of a scanner who supplies the ‘raws” and an editor who uses Photoshop to tweak and join double page splashes, adjust colors and contrast and package the images up for a reading program. It’s much faster to scan than to edit, but the edit is where the magic is. I can scan 3 or 4 books in a night. I can edit 2 if I don’t scan, so a book from start to finish probably runs about 2 hours and a bit. Some books can have multiple editors and the work is quicker, people grabbing different sets of raws to edit. 1 group in particular has a house style, a very refined and defined edit, their books have a group look.
I have always spent too much money on comics, and I continue to do so now. I have relationships with some comic artists and writers who know I scan golden age now, and support what I do, but haven’t mentioned anything about 0-Day scanning. Most twenty-something creators know that the price of getting your book known and out there is dealing with the piracy. Steve Lieber had one of the more atypical encounters with comic piracy:
Again, the main issue with Piracy is that it takes the decision of how you as a creator would like your product to be distributed. Right now most of the younger creators realize they have to get in front of this digital revolution or be steamrolled by it. comiXology is on the right track, as is DC and Image with their same day sales, but again price point is an issue, the job of the digital edition should be to promote sales of the floppy, or the graphic novel collection. I know of a few scanners who are done with scanning of the new books because of the same-day digital availability of books. When I was scanning, I enjoyed the smaller publications more than the mainstream books, as you edit, you read a lot of crappy comics and DC and Marvel really had more than their fair share of crap. There’s not much here that’s a secret, there are corners of the internet where all this information is shared freely and openly, however, I’m still in this world, so I really don’t want to talk about distribution networks, or digital outlets, though they are plentiful and easily googled.
As to whether scanners are misrepresented in the piracy debate, I can quote Ken Foree from the original DAWN OF THE DEAD : “Wake up, sucker! We’re thieves and we’re bad guys. That’s exactly what we are. We gotta find our own way.”
Thanks for your candor, Mr. Vale!
Speaking of candor, some of the most specific answers we got were from a gent we’ll call “Scanbug,” whose interview is also presented unedited to best capture its essence. Mr. Bug has some very strongly held opinions about his work, and no qualms to speak of:
How long have you been scanning?
Do you remember the first book you ever did?
the legend of dark crystal vol. one by toykopop
What made you decide to start?
i think a downloaded something like 4 gigs of comics in one day and felt a little bit guilty so i went out and bought a 60 dollar scanner from walmart and downloaded a cracked version of photoshop
and away I went
How many books would you say you’ve put online? Do you try to do a certain number each week, or just whatever you happen to buy?
950 releases(half of those comics the rest kids books with a few magazines and other formats
What kind of time goes into an undertaking like this?
It depends on the source material. New is easier than older. Double-page spreads or joins add a considerable amount of extra junk to do.
Do you scan at night, mostly? At your day job? What’s the routine?
I stopped watching TV like five years ago. It’s amazing how much free time you have when you’re not being brainwashed.
Would you by any chance work for a comic shop and/or publisher, or are you buying all these books every week?
I buy my stuff from little used book stores, flea markets, ebay, amazon, etc. as well as the LCS
From the free stats available from megaupload, rapidshare and the like, My direct uploads have been downloaded about 300k. beyond that its impossible to say how many downloads mirrored uploads and torrents create.IDK, maybe a million.
I am fascinated by how the group dynamic works. Is there a set schedule for who scans what? Is there a pecking order? A concerted effort to make sure every book is covered? How many scanners would you say there are in a group at a given time? How does someone get accepted into the group?
As a member of the dregs, the group dynamic is very casual. Just a bunch of junk hunter’s sharing their finds. The very short time i was with the Minute Men, The amount of “office politics” or “highschool drama” caused by certain scanners put me off both of the larger groups.Half a dozen dregs.Half a dozen CPS. About a dozen each for mm and the DCP. To join a group i would say “MURK LOAR”
Since you started scanning, have you ever gotten comics you wouldn’t normally buy just to scan them in?
All of them. The market implosion of the 1990s had killed my love of the medium. Only after starting to read scans online, did i become interested in comics again. The specific comics i scan is decided by whether or not its on THELIST ( a txt file than lists all the comics scanned to date
How do you respond to critics who say scanning hurts the industry and the people who work in it?
the same critics said the same things about every new media and they’re always proved wrong. tv did not kill radio. the car did not make horses exinct. Bands are still making money performing even though mp3 are widely available
what kind of interactions have you had with creators, either at conventions or online? Have you ever discussed scanning with a writer or artist?
I live on a little island days away from major metrolopi, so ive never been to a con in me life.
DC, Image, and a number of other publishers have started offering day-and-date digital comics for sale. How has this affected your activity? Will it change your justification for uploading books? What impact if any do you think it will have on the community?
zero and or none.the oligarchies are either using web based viewers or drm formats not cbr.There’s scanners or there that just take that stuff and convert it to free cbrs
Finally: do you feel like scanners (or file sharing in general) have been misrepresented in online debates about piracy? Do you want to set the record straight about anything?
Copyright is does not protect creators rights or financial well being, it protects monopolized markets for the established media oligarchies. all the way back to the statute of anne being used to stifle the new media of movable type press. Sharing culture is morally right and the internet makes it very easy not only to share culture with today’s world but with future mankind.
Next week, we round out our series with a scanner who brings a female perspective to the conversation.