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.