[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
After last year’s comiXology server blackout, I asked the digital comics provider to drop the leasing arrangement it was using. I was not the first or the last to protest the use of DRM, or digital rights management, technology to prevent people from owning a file of the comic they just purchased. It has consistently been a point of contention for a segment of potential customers, and now our wish is granted. comiXology shook up Comic-Con by announcing they are now offering true downloads of DRM-free back-up files for purchased digital comics.
This is a great move that I’m very happy to see. It’s no secret that comiXology has been very successful in selling digital comics. They probably could’ve continued leaving things as they were. Aside from the occasional article, persistently getting asked about the topic at convention panels, and griping from people refusing to buy anything from them, it didn’t seem to be causing a significant dent in their bottom line. Even so, this was a smart move to follow the trends set by Apple’s iTunes and their own parent Amazon, both which have abandoned DRM technology (although not in all instances). People have all kinds of reasons why not to try something new. They put up road blocks to stop themselves from diving in. This was a smart move because it’s an easy road block to eliminate.
Of course, there are a few catches to this. Not every digital comic is DRM-free. In fact, the vast majority are not. One of the problems that prevented comiXology from doing this sooner was getting permission from publishers, which have supposedly been very gun-shy about going down this road. A lot of people in charge still remember the days of download piracy. But just as the music industry eventually came around, so too are comics publishers. Top Shelf Publications, Image Comics and Thrillbent have already been offering their own DRM-free downloads direct from their own websites. Their success no doubt helped convince comiXology and other publishers that the sky doesn’t fall when you remove DRM. Joining them are digital-first publisher MonkeyBrain Comics as well as Dynamite Entertainment and Zenescope Entertainment. Independent creators with comics available through comiXology Submit can also opt to have DRM-free backup files available. There may be some exceptions to this. It’s been discovered that a number of Dynamite’s licensed comics, such as Army of Darkness, Battlestar Galactica, Total Recall and Twilight Zone, currently do not have a backup option.
The upside is that the number of DRM-free digital comics made available will only increase from here on out. Tom Spurgeon mentioned at The Comics Reporter that he spoke to representatives at two major publishers who said they would be participating soon, and I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Now, about breaking that print/digital pricing parity…