MIKE GOLD: Steve Niles’ Courageous Act
At the 2010 Baltimore Comic-Con Harvey Awards dinner, Mark Waid offered a courageous keynote address which offered a simple message: digital comics are here to stay, there is an international bootlegging community and we as creators and industry doyens must learn to deal with it. For this, Mark was roundly booed, hassled and harassed by his peers. Astonishingly, one of his tormentors was the otherwise quite gentlemanly Sergio Aragonés.
I don’t recall if Steve Niles was at the dinner, but if not, it’s likely he heard about it. Suggesting that any acknowledgement of those who pirate comics is akin to taking a dump on the bible. This is true throughout the media: records (yeah, it’s okay to call them “records;” look it up), movies and teevee shows, even books. And you thought nobody was reading.
The media industry’s response to this has been to advocate passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a.k.a. SOPA. Simply put, SOPA allows any intellectual property (IP) owner to legally compel any Internet Service Provider (a.k.a. ISP; we’re shooting for the entire alphabet this week) to kick off any website suspected of copyright infringement.
Well, here’s a clue for you. Well over 99% of the websites on the Internet infringe copyrights and trademarks. Pick-ups of news items, graphics used to illustrate anything, sound bytes and even some You Tube links – they are all infringing upon somebody’s IP. You rip off the Superman logo font because you’re artistic and just being cute? Well, that logo is a registered trademark, and you are now Lex Luthor.
So Steve, bless his 30 Days of Night heart, took a stand. “SOPA does more than go after so-called ‘piracy’ websites,” said he. “SOPA takes away all due process, shuts down any site it deems to be against the law without trial, without notification, without due process… Nobody seems to give a shit, or either they’re scared. Either way, very disappointing. I guess when it affects them they’ll get mad… I know folks are scared to speak out because a lot of us work for these companies, but we have to fight. Too much is at stake.”
He tweeted all these comments; I got them from our pals at Digital Spy, except they asterisked “shit.” We here at ComicMix are beneath that.
Here’s some facts. Every time somebody unlawfully downloads IP – and note I said “unlawfully” because it is unlawful – the media racket sees that as a lost sale. This is overwhelming bullshit. People sample, people are curious, people’s friends make a recommendation and said people check ‘em out. There’s plenty of stuff that you’d check out before laying down your plastic sight unseen. The actual number of downloads that defraud the owner (which is usually not the creator) is a fraction of the total. These downloads are still illegal, but IP moguls should pull the stick out of their ass and tell the truth when they are babbling about how much bootlegging is costing them. They are liars.
There are a great many services that allow you to legally purchase IP, and the largest of these is Apple’s iTunes, which offers music, television, movies, books, magazines, newspapers, software (a.k.a. “apps”) and probably jpg’s of papyrus scrolls. As of around October 2011 – the date varies by category – iTunes has sold over 16 billion songs, about one half-billion movies, videos and teevee shows, some 20 billion apps, and Crom knows how many books, magazines and newspapers.
Here’s the rub: in each and every one of these approximately 40,000,000,000 cases, the purchaser could have downloaded the damn thing for free. In most cases, it is far easier to illegally cop a boot than it is to purchase one. Let’s start with the fact that you don’t need to have a credit card or room left on your credit limit to procure your illegal bootie.
So. 40 billion downloads from just one – the biggest one – online merchant in a world that only houses seven billion people. That’s an average of four and one-half perfectly legal downloads for each and every person, including babies in the Amazon who don’t even have access to Amazon.
Hey! People are inherently good. Go know!
Of course SOPA is being supported by all the big IP companies, including Disney (Marvel) and Time Warner (DC). If only they were so moral about how they treat their creative talent, without whom both companies would constitute another real estate bust.
On the other side: Facebook, Google, Twitter and Wikipedia, the latter of which threatens to disappear should SOPA pass. Then students will actually have to do research, and we can’t have that.
Also standing proudly on the other side: Steve Niles. Good for you, pal.
Good grief. Now Mark Evanier is going to hate me.
Thursday: Dennis O’Neil