Letter to Marvel from ComicSearch
letter comes in the wake of several important developments
in comics on the internet and, in particular, Marvel's recent
launch of its online comics service.
until recently, The 'big two' in comics (Marvel and DC)
have turned a blind eye to the rampant pirating [Editor:
Sharing is more appropriate as no profit is gained] of their
comics and their distribution online via usenet and bittorrent.
I'd make the argument that the recent upsurge in the popularity
of comics, and the growth of the industry as a whole is
due to, not in spite of this policy. A policy that Marvel
has thrown out in recent days with its cease and desist
letter to popular comics website Zcultfm.
seems to be operating under the impression that stamping
out piracy is the way forward, that people downloading scans
of comics aren't buying the print versions and the way round
this problem is to clamp down on illegal distribution and
point people at their online service instead.
(and the many other people who use this site) can already
see this isn't going to work. Not only that, but it's a
completely misguided idea to begin with. You only have to
look at the example of the RIAA and its persecution of music
downloaders to see that attacking fans who want to see /
listen to your product is not only misguided, it's downright
things stand at the moment, Marvel and DC are in an enviable
position. Their fans love them. People download comics not
because they don't want to buy them, but because they want
an electronic version they can read, and organise more easily
without damaging their precious print versions. Look at
any one of the users of Zcult or this site and you'll find
they have vast libraries of print comics neatly catalogued
and safely put away, and they keep the scans on their computer
where they are easily accessible.
Marvel's recent online service, while a nice first tentative
step into the online world isn't what people want from electronic
comics. You can't download the comics to your machine (only
read them online) and the selection of comics available
is sparse at best. The other enviable aspect of Marvel /
DC's position is this: Their product has a value above and
beyond its content. People don't download comics instead
of buying them, they download comics as well as buy them.
And then there's the vast sums of money in the industry
that don't even come from the comics
etc. That money isn't going to shrink because a few people
download comics, it's going to vastly increase as more and
more people get into comics after checking them out online.
(in my opinion) has the chance, now, to show the way forward
for intellectual property holders in the digital age. Don't
try and stop the pirates, embrace them as the true fans
they are and let them do the work of spreading the word
about your product. Yes, it's a gamble
but it's one
that, when it pays off will do your reputation and more
importantly your product the world of good.
download comics not because they don't want to buy them, but
because they want an electronic version they can read, and
organise more easily without damaging their precious print
Far from having
the desired effect, Marvel got in touch with ComicSearch with this
message (names removed, replaced with 'Marvel / ComicSearch):
am going to ask nicely first, and request that you please
remove all Marvel comics from the tracker and ask that your
members refrain from putting up new torrents containing
Marvel comics. You are on notice that if you continue, it
will be at your own risk.
of emails to confirm it is indeed Marvel, and not an imposter, are
already posted notice in the forums that Marvel comics are
no longer allowed on the tracker. If you can give me a list
of torrents currently on the tracker that contain Marvel
comics I will remove them post-haste.
trust that you will comply and I will check back in a week
to confirm that they are removed. That should give you ample
opportunity to remove them in a reasonable amount of time.
you for your cooperation.
try and stop the pirates, embrace them as the true fans they
are and let them do the work of spreading the word about your
understand you're merely an employee of a large corporation
and likely have little authority with regard to Marvel's
policies, however having said that I have some time to kill
so I'd like to get this off my chest: I believe Marvel's
recent change in stance with regard to online comics distribution
is shortsighted and ultimately will lead to dissatisfied
fans and a loss of sales.
online service doesn't meet the needs of the people it's
aimed at. The comics are lower quality than available 'pirate'
scans, you don't offer a downloadable option and the selection
of titles available is small.
of trying to stamp out the pirates, you should be making
use of them. Why not set up some sort of licensing scheme?
Many of my users have said since the clampdown that they'd
be more than willing to pay a reasonable price for downloadable,
high quality scans. Marvel should be tapping into that market,
not trying to force their own service on people who, at
the end of the day, just want to read comics.
current strategy may work in the short term, but in the
long term it's doomed to failure. implementing a policy
which does little more than annoy your fans will eventually
place Marvel in the same bracket as the RIAA, and I don't
think that's where Marvel wants to be.
I realise this letter will make little difference, once
a corporation the size of Marvel has set a policy, there's
little its customers can do about it but at least I'll feel
better knowing that at least one person at Marvel has read
for your time.
opinion is appreciated and I will let people know the various
complaints about our service. I will forward on your suggestions
to the person in charge.
I thank you for cooperating to remove the Marvel titles
from your tracker and I encourage debate on this topic on
your forum. Please do not allow members to link torrents
on The Pirate Bay or from direct file sharing sites either,
you should know better than that. If you support the industry,
buy your own comic books. If you want to preview them, there
are dozens of review sites out there that show the first
What follows is
an exchange of emails picking over some details of the DMCA, even
though the admin of ComicSearch is not a US resident. When asked how
US law could affect him outside of the country, there was another
brief exchange followed by the customary anti-piracy threat:
to push the issue and I will contact the other publishers.
custom these days is to respond to threats with a new server location,
as explained by admin 'Deicist': "I'm now looking at moving my hosting
to Sweden." Another cash loss for the U.S., another gain for Sweden.
Note: The above was posted on TorrentFreak,
an excellent site to catch up with all the news about torrent sites.
here for related articles:
The Death Of Oink
Die! Greedy Swine! Die! Die! Part 2
FM Shutdown Spotlights Downloading Issues
now, Marvel and DC, the two largest publishers in the American
comics industry, had turned a blind eye to the thriving
online culture of downloading comics.
The nexus of this culture was the BitTorrent site, Z-Cult
FM, which hosted trackers to downloadable files of thousands
of comics. According to the Heidi MacDonalds article
at PW Comics Week, Z-Cult FM Shutdown Spotlights Downloading
Issues, it's estimated that nearly 90 per cent of all Marvel
and DC comics have been scanned and are available for download,
with virtually every comic from the '80s on available.
On November 21, 2007, "Serj", the administrator of the site,
received letters from both Marvel and DC asking Z-Cult FM
to stop hosting the trackers.
The situation evolved quickly from there. "Serj", who lives
outside the United States and thus would in theory not be
subject to US Copyright laws, nonetheless complied. ("Serj"'s
reaction to the stoppage can be read in a Newsarama interview.)
Initially, all Marvel books were to be removed, but DC comics
would be available 30 days after they hit the stands. However,
after further communication from DC, Z-Cult FM has agreed
to remove all DC trackers as well.
Z-Cult FM always had a policy in place whereby any request
from a publisher to remove their comics would be honored.
In short order, Top Cow also contacted the site to remove
their comics; in addition SLG has asked for their Disney
comics not to be uploaded.
"Deicide," admin at another another comics tracking site
ComicSearch, wrote to Marvel to protest the Z-Cult FM actions;
Marvel responded by asking them to remove their Marvel trackers.
As MacDonald reported, the issue of downloading comics won't
go away soon - comics trackers are readily available at
surviving BitTorrent sites - and seems poised to bedevil
the comics industry as much as it has the music industry.
Observers point out that comics will likely have as little
success stamping out comics piracy as the music industry
has. Todd Allen, author of The Economics of Webcomics, and
a columnist on digital issues for Comic Book Rources comments,
"The biggest difference between music and comics, in terms
of the torrent economic sphere, is that comics are still
collectables, first and foremost."
It's an irony that many have pointed out that even as torrent
sites have thrived, comics sales have gone up - not down.
"If torrents were going to kill off print sales, print sales
wouldn't be up," said Allen. "There is a very real possibility
that torrents, effectively advertising in this case, have
been a factor in sales spikes. People will want a physical
copy of an inherent physical product."
Visit PW Comics Week for the complete
article by Heidi MacDonald.