Writer of 'Daredevil' Comics: Equating Piracy With Lost Sales Is 'Baloney'

from the if-so,-then-every-stolen-car-is-a-lost-sale dept

It’s been pointed out here on multiple occasions that one pirated item does not equal one lost sale. It’s a fallacy various rights holders have used for years in order to exaggerate losses (helpful when asking the government to write legislation favoring clunky business models) and to justify stupid, restrictive DRM (helpful for punishing paying customers).

Mark Waid, the writer of Daredevil and Green Hornet comics, as well as a distributor of digital comics via his own site Thrillbent, made this point during a recent panel at Comic Con International. (via Nate Hoffelder)

“I think it is not only unaffected by piracy, it benefits from pirating. You cannot stop pirating of comics. It’s like trying to push the tide back with a broom. You can either be angry about it, and resistant, and fight and clamp down harder, or you can find ways to make that tool work for you. With Thrillbent, we offered all our files free to download on a weekly basis, so you can read them free on the site and you can also download them for free, and that way, sure enough, we got to control the quality of the image, we got to make sure it was not out of focus or crappy or corrupted files or whatever, we got to make sure there was a placard at the end that says, hey, if you like this come to Thrillbent for more stuff, and that worked wonders for us. And I know that pumped up our traffic. That is not the answer for every publisher, but I will go to my grave not buying the baloney that every pirated comic was a lost sale.”

Rather than seeing the drawbacks inherent in digital distribution, Waid (along with others at the conference) see opportunities that weren’t previously available with physical distribution. Digital distribution has pushed comics to new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries (or “Mississippi,” as Waid pointed out). The end result is growth across the board, both physical and digital.

[A]s Joe Field [owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA] pointed out early in the discussion, both digital and print sales are growing. “In my 27 years in this business, this is probably the closest we have gotten to having all cylinders clicking at the same time,” he said. “There are a lot of reasons for that, and I’ll grant that digital plays a part in that because digital has created a universality in the availability of comics. Had there been some way to instantly open 10,000 good brick and mortar stores, well located, in places all around the globe, maybe digital wouldn’t be growing the way it is.”

Essential to the growth of digital platforms is the removal of barriers like DRM, something that restricts content to certain devices or certain countries. More comics are attempting to run DRM free, including Image Comics and a handful of others. Thrillbent runs DRM-free and allows for downloads of purchased items while others have moved their comics exclusively to cloud services, which can be their own forms of DRM, as Waid points out.

“Personally, I actually like owning the files,” he said. “I’m comfortable enough with cloud-based stuff, but given a preference, I’d rather own the files just because I don’t want to be in a situation where I don’t have internet connectivity and I suddenly remember that album I wanted to listen to or the comic book I wanted to read and I don’t have access to the cloud at that moment. But that’s just me. Part of doing this through the [Thrillbent] storefront, it’s, let’s give it a whirl and see, and we’ll feed that data back to everybody.”

As Waid states, his distribution scheme won’t work for every player in the content industry. But his underlying point is essential: treating piracy as lost sales tends to result in actions that are ultimately customer-unfriendly. It shifts the focus from providing the best possible experience for paying customers to anti-piracy efforts, something that rarely pays off in the long run. Most of this seems to be based on the rationale that doing “something” to fight piracy is better than making no effort at all, even if those who have dumped a ton of money into these efforts rarely produce any data showing a positive return on investment. Waid’s response — trusting your paying customers and treating piracy more as a vehicle for exposure than anything else — just makes more sense.

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Comments on “Writer of 'Daredevil' Comics: Equating Piracy With Lost Sales Is 'Baloney'”

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Ninja (profile) says:

would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries (or “Mississippi,” as Waid pointed out)

These parenthesis were gold!

You can always go for a cheap all-you-can-eat model using your own customer base to help decrease the overall infra-structure cost by letting them have anything in their own computers. Most people will want to keep the files for their favorite stuff. That along with the option of the physical product (I think even Mississippi has a postal service!), merchandise, flattr and so on. Nowadays it’s about reaching as many as possible and eventually the money will flow in if you do it right.

There’s evidence of it out there. We are now waiting for the MAFIAA to reach the rest of the world and stop thinking this is 1960.

nw says:

Re: Speaking of the mafia...

In one way I feel sorry for the defendants, because it seems like no good deed goes unpunished. However, they did promote Microsoft products, which is an offense against humanity that should be treated as a crime:

Windows is the world’s worst operating system — it is irreparably defective by design, and is also a trojan horse with secret backdoors used by rogue intelligence agencies. Distributing this malware to the public represents an act of fraud which has cost the world trillions of dollars in lost productivity.


Jay (profile) says:

Digital libraries

After so much studying of this issue, I believe its time to recognize that the framing of it is totally wrong. We should be comparing piracy to creating a new library that is accessible to anyone.

We use piracy for exposure to new material that makes them culturally relevant. We use copyright to take down this knowledge and learning.

To create an apt analogy, consider that piracy spreads material to places that are unknown to the creators. A library works in the same manner. You might not know of who borrows bios in libraries, but they might become a fan and share that book with others.

The one commodity that this replaces is time. Do you want to invest in an artist who isn’t good? How about sharing music that others might like? Such sharing is just extending a rental indefinitely. No money exchanging hands… But knowledge being shared.

Maybe it’s tome to recognize that people want to create their own digital libraries with things they want instead of having someone take away those tools and resources.

Anonymous Coward says:

he needs to be careful. he’ll be getting sued for spreading around the truth. that definitely wont go down well with the industries! like so many other things that have come to light recently, the industries already know this is fact but after doing a ‘Clapper’ and lying to Congress, how else can they admit to it unless someone else ‘blows the whistle’ on them??

out_of_the_blue says:

Right... But one pirated item definitely equals one THEFT!

You really have a fixation on a false equation. I doubt you can actually attribute anyone saying one piracy is always one lost sale. Wal-Mart, for instance, doesn’t count every shop-lifted item as a lost sale, as it is indeed likely that the item wouldn’t have been bought in any case.

BUT you like that straw-man argument because lets you consistently ignore the moral aspects that piracy is always theft.

[Again, not that I’m upset at stealing material more than 28 years old: that’s the prior deal before massive greed set in.]

Because morality is what this Waid relies on. My prediction is that he’ll soon learn how much the culture has changed; most kids now believe piracy is perfectly okay…

Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
Where “I’m a pirate! You can’t stop me!” is one of the more thoughtful fanboy positions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Right... But one pirated item definitely equals one THEFT!

There are circumstances where enforcing the law is less advantageous than not.

The US constitution has a glaring admission of this with the 18th and 21st amendments. Enforcing the 18th was too much of a burden, so they just got rid of it, ending the prohibition era.

RD says:

Re: Right... But one pirated item definitely equals one THEFT!

“[Again, not that I’m upset at stealing material more than 28 years old: that’s the prior deal before massive greed set in.]”

Oh really?? So, I have your blessing, and will not have you attack me with name calling like “grifter”, if I download Star Wars or Michael Jackson’s Beat it album then?

Thanks. Off to TPB with OOTB’s consent.

S. T. Stone says:

Re: Right... But one pirated item definitely equals one THEFT!

one pirated item definitely equals one THEFT

No, it does not.

Theft implies that Person A has taken something of value that Person B owns, which means that Person B no longer has the item and cannot conceivably monetize it.

Piracy (better known as copyright infringement) implies that Person A has copied something of value that Person B owns, which means that both Persons have a copy of the same item and Person B can still conceivably monetize it.

Piracy leaves the original item intact, and while piracy can conceivably lower the value of the original item in the eyes of the public, piracy does not make monetization impossible in the same way that theft does.

Assume that I wrote a book and decided to distribute it through both digital and physical routes. Piracy means someone copied the digital version and passed it around, but I can still monetize it because I haven?t lost any ?stock?. Theft means someone took a copy of the physical book, which means I can?t monetize it because I no longer have it.

But, since I like to ask questions and start discussion, by all means: what makes the act of copyright infringement exactly, 100%, no-differences-whatsoever equal to the act of theft?

most kids now believe piracy is perfectly okay…

Do you know why people think of piracy as ?okay??

Maybe it has to do with people realizing what the technology of today allows and utilizing it to its fullest extent.

Maybe it has to do with companies putting out overpriced, DRM-laden, server-dependent digital versions of its existing content.

Maybe it has to do with companies not putting out legal content in some form in certain parts of the world.

I don?t mean to say that all people pirate for those reasons. A subset of pirates most assuredly download pirated content because they don?t want to pay for it. I recognize that reality.

But when the technology of today allows for convenient and costless copying and transportation of large chunks of data across a communications system that reaches around the globe, maybe people just don?t want to deal with overpaying for inconvenience.

When content creators offer convenient and low-cost legal alternatives to piracy, the rate of piracy drops because most people do want to support artists.

To bring this back to the subject of comic books: I?d love to support comic book creators, but until the major publishers offer up a system comparable to how people illegaly trade comics these days (e.g. trading CBRs/CBZs across torrents and filelockers and IRC networks) with a reasonable price for each individual comic (I?d personally go with half of the price of a print copy), I see no reason to abandon the pirate route. (For the record: I don?t pirate comics as much these days as I used to just a few years ago.)

I want to feel as if I own a legitimate copy of the comic I bought, and I think a lot of other people would feel the same way ? but buying a copy of a comic that sits on someone else?s servers and relies on those servers staying up for me to access it doesn?t feel the same as ?ownership? to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Right... But one pirated item definitely equals one THEFT!

1) Subject line is completely false, if you want to be taken even somewhat seriously you can’t call copyright violations theft.
Example: I can write a program that copies the contents of a book more times than the book has been printed out. Just 10 trillion copies of “50 shades of gray” sitting on my very large data server. Does that mean the author and publisher lost 10 trillion sales of the book?

2) Morality? It’s quite immoral to represent something as it is not. Copyright is against the law, but nothing is stolen so you have “thefted” nothing. Because you have CREATED something from nothing.

3)I think ‘this Waid’ cashes checks at the bank to rely on his continued existence. Not an existential concept of morality, but a sound understanding what is feasible vs non feasible given the constraints of the shared reality we all perceive.

Magical Mimi says:

$10 says that once his bosses at Marvel (a subsidiary of Disney) find out that what he said is being repeated this way, he’ll be off his Marvel books faster than you can say ‘Boo’.

Oh well, he at least still has his job at the Indy publisher Boom!

Oh wait, he doesn’t…

Good luck Mark! Just be glad you aren’t in the mess at DC (a subsidiary of Warner Bros.) these days! The horror stories that the exiting writers and artists are telling really just show how much Creator’s Rights need to be ‘Improved’. *Insert Kirkman and Liefeld jokes here*

Nellius (profile) says:

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have pirated a fair number of comics.

One of the biggest problems comics have is that individual issues are fairly expensive, so buying back-issues to catch up is almost impossibly expensive, especially in large shared universes such as those of Marvel and DC. Pirating comics let me catch up with a large number of ongoing comics, and I now happily spend roughly ?50 per week on new releases. I definitely wouldn’t be spending that money if I had not been able to pirate some comics and catch up.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: They can't be that dense

Company CEO: We’re in trouble people. Our latest game is filled with glitches despite cracking the whip, sometimes literally, over the heads of the ‘bug hunt’ department in an attempt to push the game out for the holiday release that some moron in PR promised.

Our play-testers collectively quit and went to become monks, and even the rabbit we hired to replace them has refused to play, even after attempts to bribe him with apple slices.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how we can salvage this?

(Collective silence before someone stands up)

Project lead: What about if we add some DRM to it?

(Confused looks all around)

CEO: Given that would cost more money, on top of what we’ve already spent, how would that make things better?

Lead: Well it goes like this. When people complain about the DRM, we’ll just say that it’s to stop piracy. And when the game tanks, and the sales are horrible and the investors are looking for someone to blame, we can just point to the DRM and tell them ‘See, we tried to stop the pirates from downloading our game, but obviously it wasn’t good enough, and that’s why sales of our game, which is obviously amazing despite what those slanderous reviewers(who were just bucking for kickbacks that we refused to give) may have said, were so bad.’

(Silence fills the room as the group considers the idea)

CEO: You know, that just might work! Someone get on licensing some DRM, we might just make it out of this yet!

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Facts are stubborn things

25 studies have found that piracy reduces digital content revenues.

Kindly share these studies since looking at the IFPI studies from 2000 to now have shown piracy to be in areas without legal alternatives, there’s the Media Piracy report, and there’s also the experiences of Valve in Russia, Neil Gaiman’s experiences, and the reports of the UK and other countries that seem to say that publishers charging too much is the creation of the piracy issue.

There are 25% fewer musicians filing taxes as musicians in the US since Napster and those that are left make 45% less money than in 1999.

Yet, we have more artists that ignore copyright industries. Also, we have more music from independent artists. But isn’t the fact that you’re using the 1999 numbers means you’re admitting that the RIAA was price fixing before?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Facts are stubborn things

There are 25% fewer musicians filing taxes as musicians in the US since Napster and those that are left make 45% less money than in 1999.

And yet there’s a MASSIVE increase in independent musicians:


And the 45% number is also bogus because the decline in revenue is JUST recorded music sales. Revenue in nearly every other part of the music industry has gone up.

Facts are stubborn things. Might help if you found some.

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: Facts are stubborn things

Ahh, yes, Techdirt “truthiness” at work!

Your increases can be mostly attributed to better sorting of the people, and not any great increase in actual musicians. It would appear as an example that people who were identified as working generally in the music industry have been better quantified as musicians, rather than workers.

If you are basing your entire “music is growing” on this sort of stat package, it’s no wonder you seem so much at odds with the reality on the ground.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Facts are stubborn things

Your increases can be mostly attributed to better sorting of the people

You said this before, and you had no evidence then, either.

The only “evidence” you supplied was a large jump in independent musicians between 2004 and 2005. (You actually compared 2003 and 2005, for whatever reason, but there were 700 in November 2004, and 1310 in May 2005).

Let’s assume that there was some change in the BLS’s methodology that happened at that point. We’ll look at the numbers pre-2004, and the numbers post-2004.

In Jan. 2002, there were 430 independent musicians. In Nov. 2004, there were 700. That is an increase of 63%.

In May 2005, there were 1310 independent musicians. In May 2012, there were 1830. That is an increase of 40%.

Even accounting for your “better sorting” theory, the number of independent musicians is increasing.

If you are basing your entire “sky is falling” on this sort of stat package, it’s no wonder you seem so much at odds with the reality on the ground.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Facts are stubborn things

25 studies have found that piracy reduces digital content revenues

Most of which were funded by major copyright holders, and did not make their methodology public.

In the meantime, all independent studies have shown that people who pirate spend much more on music than people who don’t.

There are 25% fewer musicians filing taxes as musicians in the US since Napster

This is total bullshit. Napster was started in 1999 and shut down in 2001. During that time there was an 18% increase in professional musicians. The number of working musicians didn’t dip below the 1999 levels until 2010. And compared to the 1999 levels, there is only a 9% decrease in working musicians.

Musicians working in 1999: 46,440 (BLS)
Musicians working in 2001: 55,100 (BLS)
Musicians working in 2009: 47,260 (BLS)
Musicians working in 2013: 42,100 (BLS)

and those that are left make 45% less money than in 1999.

More bullshit. In 1999, the median percentile annual wage was $30,050 per year. The 2013 figures show hourly wages, not annual wages, but the median percentile hourly wage was $23.50 per hour.

If, as you claim, musicians in 1999 earned 45% more, they would be earning roughly $34.00 per hour. That would mean that in 1999, professional musicians, for whom music was their primary source of income, worked only 16 hours per week on average.

That is ridiculous. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that they worked 40 hours per week on average. If that’s the case, then they earned about $14.48 per hour.

That means that working musicians today earn about 62% more than they did in 1999.

If you want an apples-to-apples comparison, the first year that the BLS reported musicians’ hourly wages was 2004. The median percentile hourly wage was $17.85. So, from 2004 to 2013, there was a 32% increase in hourly wages.

Any way you slice it, you’re a liar.

ECA (profile) says:

NEED clarification

Can someone display the way that the movie and TV industry works?

Its been posted/said/demonstrated that the movie industry doesnt MAKE money..(on purpose) by hiding and subversive acts.
EVEn if they DID make money, they would show a $0 balance and pay NO TAX on the subject matter.

I understand SOME of what is happening.
A maker makes a show for TV,
He Pays for a SLOT to be broadcast.
He gets Adverts to PAY for the slot, privately? thru the TV/cable company?
The TV corp plays the video..and gets paid by Cable/sat for the service.
The cable/sat gets money from the consumer..

Its a round robin, of money going back and forth, and IT DONT NEED TO BE. its a GIANt shell/find the pea, game..
iF WE CAN untangle IT, THE irs WOULD LOVE US.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: NEED clarification

its funny, that all those concerned with the broadcasting are linked.
they control all the levels and needs, After the slot is bought up..

7 corps Own most of the stations around the world.
then there are the advertisers, OWNED? by whom?

Then if the people that BOUGHT the slot arent independent..
(90% of the stuff isnt NEW) if the show is GOOD, it gets BOUGHT up by the CORP..and shown OVER and OVER and OVER, for 5 years, then SHIPPED to an affiliate(s)..to be shown OVER again and again..
remember that there are only 7 corps..so the show fills LOTS of channels.

I had a GOOD show on Broadcast TV, got bought up and SHIPPEd to the Cable Affiliate..and NEVEr seen again on broadcast. Some trickle down..

Another thought for you..
Broadcast is FREE.
If the companies had to install the hardware to ad towers around the country, which would be CHEAPER..10,000 TOWERS and land…or a Satellite system that can HIT everyone, easily.
remember, Broadcast from TOWERS is FREE.,.

ECA (profile) says:

I like this guy

This person get the point…

The ONLY people that DONT Hijack a copy..
are those that WANT to KEEP it, and Keep a hard copy as a collection.

Even on a news stand, COPIES get stolen. even by collectors.
USE the internet..
Let people SEE/USE your product as a ADVERT. And the computer copy ISNT ORIGINAL HARD COPY. giving it AWAY means OTHERS cant make money on it. collectors will go DIRECt and PAY first, and get a mail copy..

guest (user link) says:


> Microsoft filed a letter seeking $420,000 in restitution for lost sales

Microsoft is falsely asserting that people who use recycled computers would have paid for something they did not need.

> I started learning what planned obsolescence was,” he said.

Surprise: this planet is run by corporate crime syndicates. Rude awakening, eh?

> the assistant U.S. attorney on the case told him, “Microsoft wants your head on a platter and I’m going to give it to them.”*

Translation: “Microsoft made me an offer I could not refuse.”

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