Copyright Vs. Giving It Away

The Beat was there, live-tweeting, with a follow up post, as Mark Waid took an impromptu stand on how the comics industry needs to look towards the future, and stop clinging to old models at the Harvey Awards in his keynote speech.  You should read Heidi's post, but in essence, Waid proclaimed that comics are a medium of ideas, and we've gotten away from what copyright was meant for.  The artist has some time to profit from his work, but then that work must go forth into the world, citing that great works of art like Shakespeare have enriched us all for being public domain.  He stated that "the genie is out of the bottle" and the struggle to keep ideas protected is missing the point.

Sergio Aragones, taking a counter position, approached Waid after the speech, and the two had a bit of a heated discussion, Aragones taking the position that if you give everything away, an artist has an incredibly hard time making a living from his work. 

This is the core of the debate going on in comics creators minds and actions all over the industry.  Are you better off giving out free content in the hope that riches will follow, either in the form of later paying work, or merchandising?

I think the answer is "sometimes".  It works for some.  Others do a lot of work and get no reward, save the work itself.  But as Waid points out, piracy is here, and comics can be had for free, everywhere, by anyone, if they put just a touch of effort into it.  Does it behoove the comics industry to spend energy, RIAA like, in fighting that, or come up with a way to work in the new technological atmosphere? 

Like all of paid media, these are the questions that plague people trying to peer into and plan for the future.  What's the right decision? Only hindsight will tell, so it seems best to look at the precedent of music and movies, and keep an open mind, which is what I think Waid was getting at overall.  Don't fight the future, but be prepared for it, and hope for the best.


  1. I agree. You need to look at the music industry and try to avoid those pitfalls, yet I see comic creator after comic creator (as well as users here) insist that you can not draw any insightful parallels between the two.

    There are some interesting anomalies in the music industry. Take for example Kid Rock’s last album in 2007. It was a huge success (relative to the market) and it may partly be due to the fact that he does not even let iTunes sell his music in digital format, which seems really shortsighted and desperate but seemed to pay off.

    There is also the tendency for a lot of rap artists to release free download mixtapes to build huge buzz in an attempt to parlay free product into enough loyalty for buyers to actually buy the proper album releases.

    This isn’t just being done by up-in-comers, but by established giants in the industry like Lil Wayne.

    The internet is the wild west. Law enforcement will eventually arrive.

  2. Here’s how I feel about piracy when it comes to comics:

    Most comic book readers, like myself don’t take our comics from the internet and I don’t think anything is going to change that. Speaking for myself, and I’m sure I’m speaking for other readers as well, we like to own our books. We like to be able to physically hold them and pull them out whenever we need them.

    There are longterm readers who would probably be happy to take their comics from the internet, but I feel like the majority fall in the same camp I’m in.

     So what that most likely leaves are people who aren’t as familiar with comics checking them out by pirating them. And what does that hurt? They aren’t paying for them anyways, and if you hook them in they may actually want to own physical copies eventually. This is a medium very different from music. Digital music means you can still listen to it in a variety of places and your music listening experience doesn’t necessarily change all that much if you don’t want it to. Comics are different though, some people don’t want to read off an iPad or a computer, so they may eventually switch back physical copies and bring in money for the creators.

    Comic books don’t really bring in new readers very easily, due to a lot of things, but that $4 price point probably has a lot to do with it. If relaxing on going after piracy brings in new readers, I can’t see that as a bad thing.

  3. Hmm, All I can say is that it is going to be an interesting world in a couple of years.

  4. Silliness in terms of your insistence that music and comics are in no way alike. I can reverse your whole distinction about digital music vs. digital comics and it will smack of the same meaninglessness.

    (Digital comics means you can still read them in a variety of places and your reading experience doesn’t necessarily change all that much if you don’t want it to. Music is different though, some people don’t want to listen to music off of digital music players or laptops. They want to listen on vinyl . . .)


  5. I think there are still enough differences that what I was saying still holds weight. Not to mention Vinyl is without a doubt a very niche market.

    The majority of music listeners don’t listen on vinyl.

    And I don’t think you understand the mentality of most readers. As many people as there are who like reading books off their ipad or some other digital reader, there are just as many if not more who that format feels alien to. I’ll choose reading a physical copy of something versus reading it on some kind of digital reader any day, and I highly doubt I’m alone in that.

  6. @superjosh, the first comics I read in my adult life were downloaded copies of Sin City. I then went out and bought every Sin City trade. What started as enjoyment for a movie led to a curiosity about the source of the movie, which has now led to a full hearted (legal) pursuit of all things comics. Not that all comic readers that start on torrents will eventually transfer to purchasing them, but I think there is definitely some truth to those words

    On the other hand, I made the switch because I value the art and believe that companies should be able to pay artists well. If everyone could visit a website and download a comic legally, it might legitimize not paying for them.

  7. one of my buddies has been working on his independent graphic novel for a few years. He started posting pages weekly on his blog and built quite a huge following. So far half his book is up online and its doing great. His goal was to self publish and he started a kickstarter campaign to fund it. In under a month he generated enough pre-sales pledges to cover all of his printing costs and its almost profitable for him. Thats huge for an unknown indie creator. 


    And its all because he had so much faith in what he was doing that he gave it away for free to build a following. Comics seems to be one of the only art mediums where you can give the content away for free and people still will support you and pay for it (if the quality is there).


    Also just because you give away content online doesn’t mean you no longer own the copyright to that content. My buddy that i mentioned above owns the copyright to all of his characters and story, but chose to not charge for his online published content. I think its important to understand that idea. 


    I think its important that an artist be able to control how his/her work is used and be able to profit from it. I also think a family should be able to control the estate of that artist for a reasonable time to protect the work from being abused. Without protection what’s to stop a Wallmart or any other large corporation from sweeping in and stealing the next Mickey Mouse or Batman from a young artist?


    Lets not forget that a lot of the most popular comic characters we all love were virtually stolen from their creators for pennies and have generated billions in revenue for large corporations. 

  8. I actually agree with your description of the collector comic reader holding onto the physical issues.

    But there were/are the same type of personalities in music as well. I’m definitely a music collector. I have a huge collection of CDs/vinyl. I was all about having the physical copy. Nevertheless, my buying habits started to shift at the utter awesomeness of digital music. The idea that I can carry around my whole music collection in a device the size of a pack of cards is mindblowing even now.

    I buy close to half my music digitally depending on cost and availability.

    Comics are a niche market too. And if you are correct, the majority of the consumers have to be so hardcore that they will never let physical copies go.

    Possible, I guess, but not probable.

  9. @JaqueNargg It might legitimize it, that’s true, but I don’t feel like you’re going to lose too many current readers that way. You’ll just have a bunch of people who aren’t reading now, not paying to read later.

    I’m curious if a formal study has been done on this type of thing. Such as how many current readers would switch from physical copies to digital if it were easy and convenient enough to do so and also how many readers, if they could pirate easily and without fear, would do so instead of continuing to pay for physical copies. If one hasn’t been done, it needs to be.

  10. You will see that a good amount of users here would make the switch.

    People fear repercussions for illegally downloading comics??

    What is the comic industry doing that the music industry is not? I’ve never heard of anyone concerned about illegally downloading music.

  11. @ScorpionMasada haha…have you met most comic readers? I think hardcore could easily apply to them.

    But all joking aside, to take your own example, I’m also a huge music collector, and I still buy all my music and I always get the physical copy. The option for digital is there for me, I own an ipod, but I’d be lying if I said I used it now for anything other than podcasts.

    Comics are a niche market, but not in the same way vinyl is. Vinyl is a niche in comparison to the music industry as a whole. For comic book readers themselves, the physical copy is still the main way they get their books.

     Again, I’d really like to see a formal study, because all we can really do is make educated guesses right now.

  12. As someone who does not often download, I don’t know if there exactly is a fear of repurcussions or not. It was just an educated guess. I figured there would be. People are still occasionally sued for downloading or proving music free online…and wasn’t there a guy a few months ago who had a site that was letting people read for free who got shut down and sued?

    I don’t know. I’m not an expert. Don’t claim to be either.

  13. I have never attempted to "steal" comics, but I’m aware that it is exceptionally easy.  I’m also aware (based on the efforts of the RIAA) that it is exceptionally hard to make "stealing" content difficult (punishments are quite severe, but the probability of being punished is astronomically low).

    I suggest the comics industry spend any money it plans on spending to fight piracy on making their digital comics prettier, easier to obtain, and more readily available.  They also need to spend some money marketing the product. 

    The industry NEEDS to evolve very, very quickly with day and date releases and a robust format or it will suffer the same fate as music. 

  14. It’s a big, intersting question.

    I think Josh is right on the money by saying that  there’s positives and negatives to both sides.

    The elephant in the room, though, is the fact that the notion of copyright itself has been extended, expanded, and perverted to fit corporate interests.

    Copyright was devised a few hundred years ago so that creative people themselves (not the corporations they worked for) could profit from their work before it went into the public domain. Originally copyrights only held for a few years. But if you look at the history of copyright, every time properties like Mickey Mouse are due to enter the public domain, the laws are extended. The actual (mostly dead) creators and the public lose out, and the corporations in league with the governments they fund are the ones who profit.

    Now it’s probably not so nefarious in most cases. But the fact is that, yeah, by this point you shouldn’t have to work for DC in order to work on Superman or Batman: those characters and many others should be in the public domain by now. It’s kind of ridiculous that they’re not. So when people like Kirkman and Waid talk about this stuff, they should realize that they could be doing THEIR OWN stories about Marvel and DC characters, without having to work FOR those companies. Creators have been pigeonholed into these limited choices of who to work for, but their options for self-expression would be a lot bigger if they actually fought the ridiculously stifling copyright laws themselves.

  15. It’s an interesting situation, and I do think there are parallels with the music industry.  I agree that comic book readers generally prefer a physical copy.  Today.  But just like music, I expect that will change.  I also agree that copyright has gotten out of hand.  The original law was for a finite copyright period, long enough for artists to make money off of their ideas, but not indefinite.  In the U.S. at least, we keep extending that date so corporations/estates can continue to profit off of creations long after the creator has passed away.  But even under the original intent of the law, the creator had a good, long time to profit from their creations.  It sounds like Waid is suggesting an even shorter time frame then was originally intended by copyright laws.

    What I see as the problem isn’t copyright, but digital availability.  There are parallels with the music industry, and just because many people won’t move to digital, it doesn’t mean that digital isn’t going to become a big growth industry.  For my part, in the early days, before iTunes, I loved Napster for giving me access to music that simply wasn’t available any longer.  Songs from my childhood that couldn’t be found on any CD anywhere were somehow available, and it was great.  If I wanted something current, something "findable" I bought the CD, but the reality is that those CDs were quickly digitized and tossed into the closet.  Once Amazon started selling mp3 and iTunes lifted its DRM, I stopped buying CDs and started buying digital.

     Now I find a similar but different situation with comics.  Different because I had given up on comics.  Too much money spent, too much clutter in my house.  I have boxes of back issues I can’t even access without rearranging the spare room.  I don’t need any more.  Suddenly tablet computers are showing up, and the idea of a digital comic seems very possible.  But when I look on-line, we’re still in the early "Napster Days" of comics.  I can find almost every comic I can think of if I steal them, but if I want to buy them, in many cases it can’t be done.  And in other cases, it can be done but with more DRM-laden restrictions on how/when/where I can access any files I might buy.  If I can duck that $4 cover price and have a more portable, more easily accessible product, I would love to become a more regular comic reader again.  I’m still enough of a collector, and enough of a cheapskate, that I want an actual file that I can save and come back to at a later date, but that’s just not being offered.  If the industry can figure out how to sell me that, I’d love to buy it, but if they think that there’s no money to be made there, that comic book readers will always want a physical copy, then they haven’t checked out the torrent sites lately.

    It seems to me that more and more music is sold digitally every year.  People still buy the physical media, but probably less often.  According to Amazon, the same is now happening with eBooks, with digital copies selling almost as well as print in some cases.  The only thing I can see that has prevented comics from following suit is the lack of an acceptable way to read digital comics.  If the tablet PC catches on (and if iPad sales are any indication, it seems like it will), then I fully expect comics to follow the trend.  And if the comic industry follows the music industry’s example, they will fail to cash in that trend for a long time.  eBooks can also be downloaded illegally, but I seldom hear about that problem.  I suspect that’s because legal ebooks started appearing right around the same time as eBook readers became popular.  I hope the comic industry looks that way for guidance, rather than to the music industry.

  16. @froggulper–the worst thing in the world would be if Batman and Superman and Mickey Mouse entered the public domain. Can you imagine the disaster that would cause? You’d get an immediate over saturation in every media and product that can be sold at a big box store like wallmart. 

    What would be the point of creating anything if someone else with more capital than you could steal your ideas and profit from it and leave you in the dust?

    You can create any Batman/Superman story you want right now. its called fan fiction and with the internet its easy enough to get something out there….but you want any ol hack writer/artist or more likely big company to be able to profit from it? What good would that do? Thats such a lazy approach to being a comic creator don’t you think?

    Creators should Create…and that means coming up with their own ideas and characters. A large part of what is making comics enjoyable is the curated experience of what is being published. Like the stories or not, at least its being controlled. What you suggest is kinda creative chaos. 

    The problem with Mickey Mouse is that its no longer a matter of copyright..its a matter of Trademarking. Mickey Mouse IS the Disney Brand. If that character entered the public domain, you’d basically destroy the brand one of the largest media empires in the world and eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs for no good reason other than making it easier for Wallmart to sell crappy chinese lunchboxes and pjamas with that character on it. How is that good?



  17. JacqueNargg said: "Not that all comic readers that start on torrents will eventually transfer to purchasing them, but I think there is definitely some truth to those words."

    Absolutely. With individual issues being, for the most part, four bucks apiece, the price of entry for comic books is pretty high if you’re going to do much reading at all. For example, if you want to follow Marvel’s Shadowlands event, 31 books in that event x $4 is $124 over, for the most part, four months, just to follow a single event in a single universe from a single publisher. I can definitely see the appeal of continuing to stick with a core title, using the pirate sites 

    But none of this debate matters at all until publishers decide to take the plunge and go day-and-date with their legitimate digital releases. Until that happens, and a reader’s only option is a $4 single issue vs "free", "free" is going to remain an amazingly compelling option. 

  18. I’m afraid many people are missing the nuance of what Waid is talking about. The discussion about copyright is related but distinct to the piracy/peer network issue.

    For a good primer on copyright law and why 20th century concepts of copyright don’t make much sense anymore, check out Larry Lessig’s TED talk

    Waid isn’t saying creators should always give stuff away first. But, the legal system for intellectual property should allow for more creativity. 

    IMO, Superman should be public domain by now. DC would and/or could still be the #1 generator of Superman content – their resources to employ the best artists and writers. But if Mark Waid wants to write his own 3-part Superman story, pay an artist to draw it, and publish on ComiXology or, we’d all be for the better. DC would be free at that point to buy it and slap their logo on it, ignore it, whatever. 

    If you look at sites like DeviantArt, the enthusiasts/amateurs truly fit that designation. Their work just isn’t up to a good standard. But, if copyright was more flexible – there’d be more opportunities for better creations. And, I believe these opportunities would lead to more revenue for creators, as counter-intuitive as it seems.


  19. My view is that people who are going to download comics illegally are already doing it, and they’re doing it faster and quite honestly in a better format than anything that’s legally available (from a desktop user’s POV, anyway; most of the comics for sale seem to be geared toward devices that a lot of people don’t own and either can’t afford or don’t want to). 

    I think if the option to pay for downloadable comics were available SOME people who are currently pirating would make the switch.  And the ones who wouldn’t aren’t going to pay for stuff anyway.  

  20. @citizenmilton–if superman were public domain there would be no way to control who the #1 generator of superman content would be. I could promise you it wouldn’t be DC comics. It would be a company in China producing non stop junk around the clock. And just imagine all of the "adult themed" content you’d get from a public domain superman? out of control is what i think would happen. 

  21. that’s the point. why impose control? allow for the #1 creator of Superman to be a darwinian struggle for the best, most-talented, best-written, best-drawn Superman comic? Maybe it’s written by Geoff Johns drawn by Jim Lee published by DC…. or maybe it’s Joseph P. Schmoe of Yazoo Mississippi. 

    The "adult themed" stuff would be relegated to where it already is. In the digital ghettoes. (Credit cards accepted, though).

  22. The big problem is comparing how the music industry handled digital distribution 10 years ago and how the comics industry should be handling it now is: RECORDED MUSIC WAS POPULAR. Comics are not popular. 10 years almost everybody bought recoded music while almost nobody buys comic books. You could buy recorded music in at least two stores in the town where you lived. Comics? My nearest comic shop is an hour and a half away.

    And Ohcaroline is absolutely right .


  23. @citizenmilton— i was speaking to the larger idea of merchandising which is where the disaster of public domain would really become apparent. Control helps to insue the character still exists. When you get a license from DC to produce a Superman product you get a huge style guide (which i’ve seen and read through) which helps you create something that retains the core elements of the character so that the Brand can remain intact.

    Without that type of control (which i view as necessary) you have no more brand, and it would become possible that Superman as a character would get bastardized into oblivion to the point where the character no longer exists anymore beyond something vapid. I think you’d also get a few hundred knockoffs all calling themselves Superman as well that have nothing to do with the character we know and love. How is that good?

    If anybody could create a Superman comic you’d have no continuity. An endlesss series of one shots with hundreds of different characterizations, backstories etc. Is confusion like that good for comics?

    The Darwian battle you suggest is a bit idealistic. Look at the market place, the best quality (of anything) doesn’t always make the most money. You’d get people really good at selling creating junk and putting it out into the world. I don’t want to wade through 10,000 crappy bootlegs to find the one good thing…do you? Licensing is actually good in that it gives both sides the financial incentive to make something good. 

    I guess my whole point is that allowing anybody access to these classic characters to do whatever they want with them would just be an epic death sentence for that character. 

  24. You make a good point, Camden.  One that, I think, makes going digital an even smarter move for the comic industry.  In addition to storage space and money commitment, there’s a huge time/convenience factor to buying comics in the store.  Growing up it was a decent car ride to the nearest shop.  Now it’s across the road from my work.  I still rarely go in there. There’s no way for me to quickly stop in to my local comic book store.  Every trip involves lots of browsing and agonizing purchasing decisions with an occasional aside in which I get drawn into a comic book discussion.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I wouldn’t have wandered on to this site if I didn’t like a good comic-book discussion.  But comics is just one of my interests, and it’s sandwiched in with several other commitments.  Digital comics could eliminate so much of the hassle for people who don’t live near a shop, or just don’t have time to swing by.  One thing the internet has done to great effect is bring together niche hobbyists in larger numbers than can be done in real life.  They should be capitalizing on that.  Not to mention that a comic book shop can be kind of overwhelming for the uninitiated.  It might be a little intimidating.  Perhaps getting in to comics would be easier if people could sample issues more easily on-line.

    The argument seems to be "people prefer print."  The existence of torrents seems to counter that point.  And ultimately, it’s not an either/or situation.  If people really prefer print, digital comics will fail, and we can hear lots of "I told you so"’s, but in my house bookshelf space is down to zero, with little room for expansion.  Hard drive space, on the other hand…

    And copyright definitely is a different issue.  It gets wrapped up into the digital issue largely because of piracy, I think.  I have a hard time believing that a character falling out of copyright will ruin that character.  You already have to pick and choose to find the best stuff.  As it is, not every Superman story is great, but we survive.  We find the good stuff and focus on that.  The purpose of copyright law was to give a creator a chance to make money on his/her creation.  It’s not there to provide a consistent consumer experience (besides, has there been anything remotely resembling a consistent handling of Superman?), or to provide the foundation for a corporation.  If Disney can’t survive the loss of Mickey Mouse (and they wouldn’t lose Mickey, they would just have to share him) and DC can’t survive the loss of Superman, then clearly they’ve been resting on the efforts creators who are no longer with us, and maybe they /shouldn’t/ survive as corporations.  But the reality is that I think both companies have done quite a bit apart from their earliest creations.  And a copyright law that better reflects the original intent of copyright would only make those companies try harder to be more creative.  No mouse lives for a hundred years, so your business model shouldn’t rely on that impossibility.

  25. I think another IP industry to look at is video games. Specifically id software. They have made every one of their engines open-source uptill Doom 3 engine. Which might be a sign of change for the worse, bt the fact is, in all those years, they have only gotten bigger, Quakecon, a convention based solely on them, has gotten bigger, and they managed to be independant longer than any of their contemporaries. Until, Mark Rein made some deal with the devil and added Unreal engine in EVERY game. *grumble*

    Hell look at the software industry. It is quite sommon to open-source or freeware old version of applications in the software industry. All your non-microsoft browsers owe their existence to Netscape. Has borland gone out of businesss because they offer the old version of their C++ IDE for free?

    While the Superman example was given, who says there haven’t been any good Superman stories outside of DC? There are 500 Captain Ersatz version of superman being published nowaday, one example being Mark Waid’s own Irredeemable. Are you saying that all of them suck? Would the life and times of Saviour 28 be less compelling if it was called Life and Times of Captain America?

    At this point, copyright only serves comapnies like Disney, who no doubt will go to court again in 20 years to yet again increase the copyright limit. Fun fact: Half of Disney’s own features wouldn’t have been possible if current copyright laws have bee in affect.



    Please go watch Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. He made an action-adventure film whle staying true to the character’s core. Then go home and watch BBC’s recent miniseries adaptation, which stick to the original stories but modernize them. Sherlock Holmes is over a 100 years old and is in the public domain of most of the world, and yet I don’t see much bastardization.The character is still celebrated and still has fans, including I.

    See its all about stories; not brands or mechandizing or continuity?

  26. I agree with these questions.

  27. for all of your complaining about bookshelf space, there’s this thing called a trash can, use it for your comics, they’ll fit in there just fine.  unless you re-read your comics again and again and again, really? just toss them or better yet, donate them to libraries or something. You’ll be getting the same story again in a few years so relax. 

    and for those of you wondering if any studies have been done on this, for comic books, no, not really, well at least two years ago there weren’t I did a pretty extensive search for just the phrase "digital comic" for a paper for a graduate class in Digital Media (New Media) and all but nothing showed up, now that was 2 years ago which is an enternity in the digital realm, but I’m guessing not so much so in the academic.  I will be re-visiting that paper again probably, and might take a class in copyright law in a few semesters so maybe there’ll be more by then.  

    The idea of giving it away is what’s kinda confusing here.  You make something that you expect to be paid for and then just give it away for free because . . .  you just like to be poor? why should an artist "share" their creation this way when we don’t expect any other industry to do the same?  

    But really, compensation and the artist has always had an interesting relationship after all, you can go to any art gallery and look at all the art you want without purchasing anything. The way artists are paid is just weird, most people, you go to a job, you put in time and get compenstated for that time either via salary or wage, your skills are used by a company to grow that company not you, but that company. art’s not like that, if you are lucky as an artist to get a "contract" with a major company then maybe that works kinda that way, but it’s just all screwed up as how you get paid as an artist which is why copyright law is screwed up

  28. Almost all comic book readers I know are also collectors.  I understand that I have too much crap, and could free up some room by getting rid of some stuff, but that’s not likely to happen.  In fact, the comic industry thrives on the idea that comic book readers are collectors with all their variant covers, cross overs, collected editions of books you already bought, and little statues to go along with it.  Your attitude, LostArtist, of just pitching your old comics may be a healthy one, but I don’t think you’ll find it to be the prevalent attitude with the majority of comic book customers.

    Also I can’t quite reconcile the idea of buying print <i>because you can throw it away.</i>  If you have so little attachment to the physical item, that seems like a good argument for digital rather than against.

    You are right, however, that getting artists paid is important.  If we’re really talking about basically giving away comics, then there has to be discussion of the revenue stream. 

  29. Thats an interesting point about Sherlock Holmes, and i do think there is great value in those examples even if they’d be more of an exception to the rule. Give me 20 more examples and maybe i’ll come around. =)  I dunno if Sherlock has even a fraction of the popularity or recognition that Superman or Mickey Mouse has. Those are two of the most iconic characters in the world. If you don’t think people would pounce on the opportunity to use those characters on products for free, i’d love to sell you a bridge somewhere.

    You think there are a lot of Deadpool books now, imagine if there was no filter…. =p

    You may not be aware of it, but you’re essentially arguing that people have the inherent right to be able to make money off of other people’s hard work and ideas (fan fiction?)…As someone who creates things for a living, i’ll never agree with that.

    I think branding, licensing and so on is incredibly important to every company on the planet but thats because thats the field that i work in. I see it everyday and i see the value of protecting original ideas from vultures aka anybody who wants to make a quick buck..aka most people. 

    I still maintain you’d see a flood of cheap garbage if Mickey and Supes were free for all, and you’d have a very watered down butchered character, so we can agree to disagree on that.  

    Copyright does not only serve big companies. It serves everyone who’s ever created anything from scratch. it forces people to stay honest and helps people to be rewarded for creativity and hard work. 

    What’s the incentive to invest yourself in creating new things if you knew it would just be stolen from you?

    From my perspective and professional experience, when large amounts of money is involved, good people can become incredibly dishonest, very fast. 


    BTW…i’m waiting for Waid to put his money where his mouth is and make the announcement that all his characters are now creative commons. 

  30. Copyright can and does protect the rights of the creator.  I don’t think anyone is arguing differently.  I don’t quite know what Waid’s point/idea is, but I am more of the opinion that copyright exists for a finite period of time, as it was originally intended, rather than how it is practiced now: its expiration date is constantly moved, seemingly for the benefit of Disney.  Certainly not for the benefit of the creator of Mickey Mouse.

    You want examples of an expired copyright that hasn’t gone wrong?  What about examples where it has?  Is there too much Shakespeare or Dickens derivatives for your liking? I admit that we really don’t need one more TV show/cartoon episode based off of a Christmas Story, but that’s really personal opinion, and it does not mean that I believe we need to track down the descendants of long-dead writers and give them copyright privileges over the works of their long-dead ancestors.

    I’m not opposed to copyright. I think it’s a good thing. But it was never meant to be a permanent situation.  Copyright was always meant to expire.  We just stopped doing that, not to benefit the creators, who are dead, but to benefit corporations.  I understand that there’s money to be made in creativity, and that has to continue, but after a time, these things become part of our cultural heritage and they should go into the public domain.  Or else we should still be paying royalties to Shakespeare’s great-great-great-great-great grandchildren.

  31. Awesome discussion.

    There’s some good reads in here.

    I’m absolutely conflicted on the copyright issue but Rob3E is making some very persuasive arguments.

  32. Save the trees, download comics.

  33. I’m glad torrents are finnaly getting discussed. They are a very real part of the current comic book zeitgeist.

  34. I have no problems at all with copyright law protecting corporations’ branding. Superman, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Spider-Man, they aren’t just characters, they’re corporate identifiers. For these, and similar, characters to go public domain essentially ruins their companies’ ability to market and maintain corporate identity in the marketplace, the same as if the Apple logo wasn’t a protected symbol and could be slapped on any technology product a company wanted. That being said, I do think there needs to be allowances made for creators who create original characters/ideas while working on corporate properties or for companies. But not for however long their genetic line continues, which seems to be the idea behind lawsuits like the Superman one. Pay the creators, not their descendants.

  35. As has been mentioned a few times on here, the copyright issue, i.e. the ability to use a character in a story, is not the major concern for most creators.  If it were, the Siegels and DC wouldn’t be fighting over the piddly IP from Action Comics and the name "Superboy."  No, it comes down to the license and merchandising, and that’s why artists will protect the copyright, because it means getting to protect the license and all the money that comes with it.  Shakespeare is a fine example for literary usage, but I bet things would be different if he were writing today and had a shot at a Lady Macbeth skin cleanser line, Julius Caesar cutlery set and a 10-picture deal with Lionsgate.  He would damn sure protect his characters and IP (though he might have a hard time since many of his characters were historical figures or taken from pre-existing stories).  Likewise, Dickens was very sensitive about copyright in his time, even going on a world tour to argue for international recognition of copyright laws.  It was quite common for his works to come out in England, only for a few copies to come to the States and get mass published without his consent or legal attachment; he therefore made pennies per copy. 

    The other thing to consider too is estates.  It’s one thing to argue that a Disney or a Marvel shouldn’t benefit from someone else’s work, but what about a Robert Kirkman or a Mike Mignola?  I don’t know if they have families, but if they did, don’t these creators and others like them have a right to create a nest egg to protect their families’ livelihoods as long as possible?  Losing copyrights and licenses would be rather painful in this instance.  For a real life example, look up why J.M. Barrie’s estate sued Alan Moore when he published "Lost Girls".  And it wasn’t entirely because of what Peter and Wendy were doing out in the woods. 

  36. @BC1–i’m glad there is another person who understands the importance of liscensing and merchandising to a character. Its widely published how George Lucas made all his real Star Wars money from action figures and lunch boxes…because he was able to secure all the licensing rights up front…he basically invented the modern day IP license. 

    @Rob3 and others…i totally agree with you that the current statute of limitation on copyright is good. There is no reason why great great grandkids need to become Paris Hilton’s cause some distant relative created Superman. But that also comes to estates. Estates do A LOT to protect IP from being destroyed and help to preserve the artisrts original vision. I do some work with the estate of a relatively obscure (outside of that world) artist/designer and they have a constant battle to fend off big box stores from missusing or straight up stealing their stuff. You’d be surprised. 

    I do think that Superheroes are different from Shakespearian characters only in that they are easier to slap on a t-shirt or other product. But i do agree with you on a lot of your points. its definitely a topic that causes contradiction. Again i come from the place of someone who creates for a living so i’m biased…my ideas are my livelihood.  

    @mistershaw-its not just the apple logo…it could be the software as well. Apple recently was in a lawsuit to keep a company from selling unauthorized mac clones. Apple won because it was their software developed with their money and no one has the right to decide for them how it should be sold even if there might be a demand for third party.  

    great conversations though!!! 

  37. @wallythegreenmonster:

    Your arguments are quite misinformed. Sherlock Holmes was a blatant rip-off of Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin. It was fan fiction of the highest order. So is Watchmen. And League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Where do you think Rick Remender came up with those End League characters? Did JK Rowling create wizards and witches? Hell most of Batman and Superman’s traits come from older characters. Are they somehow lesser writers because they based it on preexisting ideas they loved? I am not one of those "There is no originality" jackasses, but its never really about ideas. Also, check the word ‘parody’. 1000s of characters in both DC and Marvel’s portfolios are blatant rip-offs of 

    And nobody in this thread is asking for abolishing Copyright. As Mark Waid said, once an artists has earned their fair share, ideas should be allowed to roam free. Also, as you said, just because its free doesn’t mean its not copyrighted. Your Star Wars example,though, serves your cause less; When Star wars, which itself was fan fiction, was about the story and the characters, we had ‘I am your father, Luke’. When it became about toy sales, we had the teddy-bear lou-ao in the jungle with the happy ghosts smiling about. Merchandising, instead of saving the idea, bastardize it. In his  Merchandising did not save Joel Shumacher’s Batman films from being crap. Neither did they save Spider-man 3 or Superman IV. A better example than George Lucas would be Bill Watterson. The only wanted to create a story of a boy and his friend and he did. He still protects his copyright ferociously, but only because he loves his work and not want to milk the cow to death, like Lucas has. I do not give a damn about T-shirts and lunch boxes. Would it be so bad if their were less(or more) of them with Superman logos on it? 

    Also, the Apple logo is a trademark, not an intellectual property. If I use the apple logo sell my wares, it would not be infringing on copyright, but violating their trademarks. And apple won that lawsuit because it was a violation of their End-user License agreements, not copyright infringement. And it was a civil suit. Breaking a EULA is not a crime, and the legality of EULA’s themselves is suspect and I hope one day they die in a fire. Fun FACT: They can’t really sue an end-uder fro breaking a EULA. But it has nothing to do with the discussion. to the point; copyright is not to protect your trade rights, trademark is. And since these corporations are using the former for the latter, only proves the point.

    Also, since you asked:



    Jane Eyre

    Oliver Twist

    Zombies(wonder if Robert Kirkman would be where he is if someone had copyrighted Zombies?) 

    Huckleberry Finn


    Snow White

    Rose Red

    Cinderella(who is way more popular than superman)

    Sleeping Beauty


    Alice(of in wonderland) 

    Dorothy(from the wizard of oz)

    Mowgli of the Jungle book(again insanely popular around the world)

    The Red Riding Hood

    Robin Hood

    The legend of King Arthur.

    These are public domain characters that are as popular as Superman or Mickey Mouse. Puplarity of these characters though, comes and goes. For example, In early 20th century, Alif Laila or 1001 nights stories were very popular. HP Lovecraft cited them as a major inspiration. Now not so much.

  38. Public domain characters suffer from losing their rights. Also we are entering a time, in the last 200 or so years where it is totally feasible for the authorities to know who created who and not forgotten fairy tales written by suspect author/s. There is a logical debate about who really wrote Shakespear’s plays, the Brother’s Grimm are who exactly??  

    As Mark Waid said, once an artists has earned their fair share, ideas should be allowed to roam free. 

    Who is Mark Waid to say what an artist’s fair share is??? 

  39. @mudd–well you make some compelling arguments but i think you’re making some huge logic jumps that are a bit flawed. 

    of all the characters you’ve listed (which i think only a few are as popular as supes and mickey btw) they all share a common denomenator. They all passed into public domain many many many years after their creators and their immediate families passed on. And many years after the height of their popularity. (Dracula was relatively a 2nd tier almost obscure character until the last half of the 20th century) I think thats an important distinction to make.  

    Superman and Mickey Mouse, due in large part to the merchandising efforts of their parent companies are still very relevant characters today despite the fact that they were created when our grandparents were babies. To make them public domain now, would be an entirely different situation from any other character you’ve listed.

    If we gave that list of characters to Wallmart right now and said "you can use any of these characters for free on any product you want" it would be safe to say their priority list would read:

    1. Mickey Mouse

    2. Superman

    3. Dracula/Frankenstein

    4. Snow White/Sleeping Beauty/Pinnochio (Disney Versions only) 

    4. Everyone else.  

    Also you mentioned not caring about T shirts and lunchboxes…well thats cool, but big business cares and thats part of my argument. I have two little nephews in grade school who are OBSESSED with Spiderman. They have never read a comic in their lives, but know the character because of t-shirts, lunchboxes, cartoons, toys etc etc Merchandising is incredibly important to business. The financial value of comic book characters in merchandising is exponentially greater than their worth as just a character printed on a comic page. To say otherwise is delusional.  

    In your arguments about characters you’re confusing yourself interchanging specific characters with archetypes. Sure Superman is really a Hercules/Atlas Archetype…but superman’s outfit, logo etc make him a specific character. Harry Potter as a character is  unique…a witch/wizard is just a type of character. Sure people base well known characters on Archetypes….they have to because there are only so many, but i’m not arguing those should be protected. You can’t…its too broad. I’m arguing for the specific and that they deserve protection for a long time.

    Waid’s argument…and i’ve heard it before from a lot of places seems to be arguing for some sort of 20 year cap on a creators rights and then passing it off to the public. The argument is flawed in that you’d have a lot of potential licencees waiting out that time frame instead of paying for it now. Movie studios specifically. Imagine if Hellboy had a 20 year cap on Mignola’s copyright? How would that be fair…it would actually benefit big business more than creators on every level. 

    Copyright is something you get the moment you create something. You can file papers with the Federal Copyright office to strengthen your claim, but its not something a creator opts into. its a legal right you get the moment you create something which is quite a brilliant concept if you ask me. Whether or not you chose to enforce it is personal choice. 

    And lastly…you’re completely wrong about the Apple vs Psystar lawsuit. It was about software and using Apple’s intellectual property on a third party product without permission with the intent of turning a profit. It was categorized in federal court as a copyright infringement suit, with Psystar’s main defense being fair use and first sale doctrine (all copyright issues). The Judge also ruled that Psystar violated the Digital Millennium Copyright act by "hacking the software" so they could install it on clones. Apple did make separate suits about Trademark violations and dilution’s as well for using the Apple name, OSX and logo on Psystar promotional materials. Copyright Infringement is a FEDERAL CRIME, not a civil one….disputes are only heard in Federal Court. 

    Intellectual property is A LOT of things. Its characters, stories, songs, software, recipes, technology, products. Its not just comic book characters. 

  40. a point I failed to make earlier is that "rip offs" aren’t violating copyright, there have been serveral rip offs of almost all comic book characters. and mickey mouse and looney toons etc. . .marketing and trademark is one of the things that keep "rip offs" from being taken more seriously, and the cap for a copyright should be kinda as it is now, when no one cares enough to enforce copyright anymore is when that character becomes public domain, you could probably go out and get a failed novel from 20 years ago and use those characters and no one would care or sue you. and really the bottom line is if you’re a creator, create something! But while writers like Waid who have been working with other people’s creations and re-inventing them or just using them as they were for nostalgia’s and entertainment’s sake speak about "fair share" and about giving it away for free, it seems kinda strange to me. I know Waid has his own creations that he cares about, but would he have let the Wanted movie be made without his rights being paid?? 

  41. No, but Mark Millar might not have.

  42. oops

  43. @Muddi: I think you missed the point I was making with the example of the Apple logo. Intellectual property isn’t necessarily a trademark, or vice versa, but when intellectual property is used as an instantly recognizable symbol for a company, whether it’s Mickey for Disney, or Spider-Man for Marvel, then it becomes a trademark issue on top of being an intellectual property issue. And as far as that goes, the Apple symbol IS intellectual property because someone, probably some intern at a graphic design firm, came up with the concept of the apple with the bite taken out.

  44. the more i think about Waid’s comments the more i wonder if he’s coming from the place of a frustrated writer who for every published mainstream story on his resume he’s had 10 pitches that falied. I’m sure he, like most all comic writers had some of those failed pitches that they loved and will always stay bitter about never being able to get those stories published. 

  45. @Wally:

    If the sole purpose of superheroes is to derive a consumerist cycle, then its wouldn’t be a bad thing if they became unpopular again. Mark Waid’s comments, and this discussion, are about ideas. A pointless icon on a tshirt serves no one, at least people like you and I, interested in reading good stories and ideas. But, you are correct, copyright does serve artists and creators a lot, and again nobody is saying to abolish it. Copyright’s purpose is to protect the right of those who create. It was never supposed to feed whole clans for centuries. Right now, people who create nothing dictate terms and hold the the people that do at ransom using the same laws. People are calling for ammendment, so that it reverts to its original purpose.

    And wasn’t speaking about archetypes. At least, I was talking about what if somebody had copyrighted these archetypes?

    Also, I only read about the Psytar lawsuit in passing before and now that I checked out the details I am amazed how ignorant American courts are to the matter of technology. It takes no real hacking to install OSX on any computer ever made. In fact, you dont even need to tinker with OSX at all. I am not on Psystar’s side, they were clearly in the wrong, but the DMCA is a very good example of holding creativity at ransom, at least in my field.

  46. I also feel I must clarify, so don’t mind the double pots; I didn’t mean to say that seeking financial gain from art is wrong, but my point was that culture created solely for the sake of financial gain is not culture at all.

  47. "I also feel I must clarify, so don’t mind the double pots; I didn’t mean to say that seeking financial gain from art is wrong, but my point was that culture created solely for the sake of financial gain is not culture at all."muddi900

    this idea is almost championed in america. we work to get paid, what we lack is a sufficent art industry so that artists don’t have to be their own businessmen and screw around with laws to get paid or at least get adequate pay. art is one of the few areas/industries where even those in the field  say you do it cause you love it instead of getting paid for it. now they say that for various reasons, mainly cause if you don’t love it, it’s very hard to get it done and it’s almost always better to do something that you love than just to do it cause you have the skills for it and it pays the bills, but just because you love doing something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get paid.  anyway, I think I’m confused enought now.  :-p