More on Z-Cult and the torrenting mess
Following the various stories all over the place. A few quick followups:
DC and Top Cow has asked Z-Cult to take down links to torrents of their books. Matt Brady points out:
…with the action against Z-Cult only having a superficial, if any, effect on the number of comic book torrents available online, many observers as well as downloaders are left wondering if the comics industry will soon be looking at a day when a publisher singles out and files suit against an individual who downloads – or scans and uploads comic books. While similar actions have shown little overall effectiveness in reducing the activity in the realm of movie and music or even as acting as a deterrent, they have been a public relations nightmare for the MPAA and RIAA. In an industry a few orders of magnitude smaller than either movies or music, one is drawn to ask what the effects of such a move by a comic publisher would be. Likewise, and this isn’t meant as a shot at the comic book industry, using the RIAA and MPAA cases as thumbnails, the legal costs to prosecute one such case of illegal uploading or downloading would quickly eat into even the largest comic book publisher’s bottom line.
The interesting thing is that DC, et al, do not seem to be issuing actual DMCA takedown notices. This is fascinating on a number of levels– the least of which is that the publishers aren’t really calling out any heavy legal artillery yet, this is mere politeness. I supect that at least one reason why they aren’t issuing true DMCA takedown notices is that it would require the publishers to show that they actually control the copyright in question, which could easily be thrown into question. (Superboy, anyone?) The DMCA grants copyright holders the power to demand the removal of works without showing any evidence that these works infringe copyright but the courts have begun to recognize this, and are beginning to issue large judgements against careless, malicious or fraudulent DMCA notices — for example, Diebold was ordered to pay $125,000 for abusing the DMCA takedown process. This also means that nobody has resorted to saying, "Oh yeah? Make us!" yet.
Related to this is that the companies almost certainly don’t know what they have legitimate rights to. This leads into a comment that JK Parkin made while blogging about Colleen Doran’s experience with Marvel DCU:
What I found interesting was that Doran said she’ll be using the site as a reference. I guess I found it surprising (and maybe I’m being naive here) that Marvel doesn’t have some sort of system in place already where freelancers working on a particular character have access to images of said character. That way Marvel could ensure the character was being drawn in the right costume, and the freelancer wouldn’t have to hunt for back issues.
–which leads into yet another story of how I was brought in to discuss digital strategies with comic companies. This time I was brought in to meet with Gui Karyo, at the time the CIO of Marvel, in March of 2001 to discuss the status of their archives, digital and otherwise; their upcoming CD-ROM archives, and digital asset management in general for the company. I pointed out that Marvel’s in house archives were a disaster, certainly in comparison to DC’s– Marvel didn’t even have complete printed runs of the comics they published, with gaps as recent as the previous decade. Their film for publication had been stored in a warehouse in Arizona, and hot climates are always where I want to store four decade old film.
One of the things I had suggested was taking the time to build a system for digital asset management, so that the company would know what they had and everyone in the company, plus freelancers and licensees, could access it easily. As a demonstration, I pulled out a thousand dollar comic book– Man Of War Comics #1– and said that I could make a decent argument in either direction on whether Marvel owned the rights or not.
For a variety of reasons, Marvel still hasn’t done it, and as a result their own freelancers are now shelling out money to get reference that the company should be providing. God only knows what it’s like for licensors. I’ll bet that they don’t even deal with Marvel and just look at Corbis instead.