In the wake of LiveJournal’s closing of Scans Daily for posting copyrighted material without the permission of the rights holder, two new incarnations have sprung up in hydra-like fashion.
The shutdown was the talk of the comics Internet over the weekend, overshadowing most of the announcements coming out of WonderCon and MegaCon.
Countless creators, bloggers and Scans Daily contributors have weighed in by now, so I hope within the next day or two discussion moves beyond the specific event — the shutdown — to focus, rationally, on some of the larger issues: copyright, digital piracy, Internet marketing, fandom (and, yes, fan entitlement), etc.
But before the page turns, a few thoughts:
• Scans Daily probably — probably — did more good than harm. Until someone takes the unlikely step of commissioning a study of the effects of digital piracy on comic-book sales, we won’t be able to say with any certainty whether communities like Scans Daily increased or decreased sales. There are studies focused on music and, more recently, books that seem to suggest larger-scale piracy (i.e. peer-to-peer networks) actually helps those mediums. Does the same hold true for comics? I have no idea.
However, I get the feeling — and it’s only a feeling — that there was some benefit in Scans Daily posting excerpts* from comics, in that I imagine more than a few people “discovered” a comic they previously had overlooked, or returned to a title they’d given up on long ago. I’m not sure how many of the endless proclamations of “I’d never started reading comics if not for Scans Daily!” I buy, though. It’s an easy claim to make, and impossible to disprove.
Having written all of that, it’s not up to me to say posting those scans is okay. It’s not up to the members of Scans Daily, either. That decision belongs to the copyright holder — the publisher or the creator. Some, like Zombies Calling creator Faith Erin Hicks, were pleased to see their work on Scans Daily. Others … well, weren’t.
Would publishers and creators benefit from offering more samples of their comics online? Most likely. Is it the duty, or “right,” of fans — or, heck, detractors — to do that for them? No.
• The torches-and-pitchforks crusade against Peter David is ridiculous and indefensible. The writer became entangled in all of this because he: a.) objected to a sizable chunk of the most recent issue of X-Factor appearing on Scans Daily; b.) informed Marvel’s lawyers of the copyright violation; and c.) admitted to it publicly.
According to David’s timeline, the Scans Daily account was suspended before Marvel’s attorneys contacted LiveJournal. I see no reason to disbelieve him. But even if David had dropped the dime, he’s not the villain here.
Sure, it’s easier to have someone, other than yourself, on which to focus your anger or frustration. It’s also immature; emotionally stunted, even. Dislike David’s writing, loathe his blog posts, or roll your eyes at his plan to triple sales of X-Factor. But wishing him harm, even figuratively, is misguided and low. Telling someone to “die in a fire” is disturbing and a little sickening, even by Internet standards.
Part of the appeal of Scans Daily undoubtedly was its inherent “naughtiness.” Not the sometimes-explicit images or the frequent homoerotic subtexts, but the knowledge that posting the scans at least skirted the edge of what’s legal. When an online community knowingly exists in that gray area, and then gets “punished” for doing so, who is to blame? Not Peter David.
• The high-fiving and corpse-poking in some corners of the comics Internet is just as annoying as the shirt-rending and finger-pointing of the Scans Daily refugees.
(* Not huge chunks of an issue, or pivotal scenes/spoilers the same week said issue hits the stands.)
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