It was just over a week ago when everyone was banding together to trash SOPA and PIPA. We can agree that, as creators, nobody likes pirates but we hated the idea of losing our rights to innocently pirate, ourselves. The idea of being shut down, fined or arrested for sharing music, images or video that we “borrow” for use on our blogs and/or favorite social media brought together a nation of internet users that rallied to crush those bills and won an indefinite reprieve.
I guess we are all in agreement that it’s OK to pirate a little bit, so long as nobody is profiting directly from the pilfering. It is, after all, free advertising, right? As a creator, what could be better than seeing your work go viral and having the whole world find out about it besides, you know, being paid for it?
The real pirates, the bad guys, are the ones with those vicious torrent download sites, scanning entire issues of comics, ripping entire DVD’s of major motion pictures, and cataloging music by the truckload for downloads as mp3 files. Those guys are rapists! They literally rip the food right out of the creators’ mouths by preventing them from benefiting from sales that were lost to the downloaders. The downloaders are the pirates’ accomplices, they are pirates too, red handed with stolen goods and the first ones to share an innocent link or post tainted content.
So, SOPA and PIPA have been dead for barely two weeks and everyone is already screaming about how we have to take down the pirates. Comic artists everywhere are starving and nobody wants to pay for comics, especially if they can get them for free. What are we to do?
Kill the pirates! Shut them down!!
Please, just don’t use SOPA or PIPA.
Almost symbolically, good ol’ SEAL Team 6 heroically trashed a real-world, pirate compound in Somalia and rescued two aid workers that had been kidnapped. Nine pirates were killed. Everyone is happy!
This all got me to thinking. Pirates are a motivated lot, as are most bad guys. They don’t steal and plunder just for the fun of it. They do it for the money. They gather up a ton of treasure and then they bury it on a deserted island. The downloader’s reward is free comics but the mastermind must be making a fortune to be willing to risk federal charges.
The pirates have figured out how to make money with comics while giving them away for free! Those rat bastards! If only we were that smart! Comic creators could be happy again.
Well Golly! Web comics have been using the same business model as the pirates for years now with varying degrees of success. We use it right here at CO2 Comics! Yet it is always a struggle to justify giving comic content away for free because it flies in the face of the old distribution system, the same system that has a stranglehold on the industry’s move to a digital market. We are so afraid not to make a nice buck off a sale in a micro niche market that we are unwilling to make a small return on each sale in a potentially monolithic market or let graphically rich, free content drive streams of traffic through a sponsored website.
Free content drives every major website on the internet wether it is a search engine, a social network, a news agency or whatever. Who pays to use Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, or Twitter?They are all among the top ten sites in the world and all worth BILLIONS of dollars! Content that is free to consumers has driven entertainment industries for decades. Newspapers, radio, and television have all been huge beneficiaries of delivering free content.
Build a big enough comic reading audience in a free and open market and you will see the number of book sales begin to rise to numbers not heard of in decades. There is plenty of evidence that free web content has helped the sales of trades. Retailers will be happy to see a parade of new clientele march through their doors. We won’t have to read blog posts by comic artists crying duress driving down their power of negotiation to corporate publishing scum by playing a vulnerable hand. Free content also neutralizes piracy by taking away their only incentive to attract comic readers to their torrent sites.
Comic art has more value than we are daring enough to place on it. Let the work declare its own value and surprise yourself. Always remember that Disney is built on the back of Mickey Mouse and Time-Warner on the shoulders of Superman. Walt Disney believed in Mickey and let Mickey’ s success establish the worth of his company. Seigel and Schuster, in a fit of desperation, sold Superman, a comic that nobody else wanted, for a lousy $130 and made someone else rich beyond their dreams.
Which creator would you like to be?
Let’s learn from the pirates. Comics are treasure even when they are free. We are in a position to command the destinies of our creative properties. Do not let senseless fear jeopardize the future of the industry. Take time to analyze and understand the market. Take control.
Maybe I’m just one of those lousy conspiracy theorists. But one has to wonder what is going on over at DC Comics.
This week the new DC Comics logo was unveiled and, beside it being one of the most god-awful logos I’ve ever seen, I was impressed with the need for the change. DC Comics is covering their butt and making sure the new logo is protected when used on everything under the sun!
DC Shoes logo
All this in light of losing a trademark infringement suit in 2008 against DC Shoes where it was revealed that DC Comics, because of their own lack of diligence, was the actual infringer!
It is obvious that DC had to come up with something that nobody in their right mind would consider using since the list of organizations that use those two letters on their letterhead extends all the way to our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C.!
With all this new sense of assiduousness toward their logo trademark it seems strange that DC Comics is working so hard to undermine the values of their most important trademarks, the characters themselves.
The concept of “Truth, justice and the American way!” that has exemplified the values of super heroes since the inception of Superman in 1938 has been completely thrown under the bus with the launch of the New 52.
We in the comics industry know that the medium has grown up and that comics haven’t been just for kids for some thirty years now but the general public still recognizes the values that established these characters as the trademarks they are, and those values are decidedly kid friendly!
The term Super Heroes and variations of it is a trademark shared by both Marvel and DC representing a particular brand of character that represents both companies specifically.
This is why a furor is created when a Fox News affiliate in Washington D.C. points out the sex, violence, blood and gore that is present in DC’s current lineup. This is why people outside of comics get upset when they see Batman schtupping Catwoman on a roof. What they see is an abomination of a trademark that they have come to trust and they react like they did when Coke changed its original classic recipe. As consumers, they feel a trust has been violated.
DC Comics, licenses their trademarked characters to a zillion licensees most of which make product targeted to children. DC has the right to approve every item produced, checking for quality and an assurance that the products represent their trademarked property well. Would they approve of bed sheets or a lunch box with Batman and Catwoman doing the nasty?
Let’s reverse the roles. Do the licensees want to see the trademarked characters that they paid top dollar for so they could put them on kids products have sex in comics, movies, or anywhere? Ask Tiger Woods. His indiscretions cost him plenty in lost endorsements to products targeted mostly at adults! Why shouldn’t Batman behave himself? At least Tiger made his own mistake. Batman’s blunder is made by a team of responsible editors and a huge corporation.
DC is so fast to hunt down and challenge any trash truck with the Superman logo on it or a restaurant with a bat in its logo regardless if that logo resembles theirs or not. They have created every possible bat logo imaginable in an effort to protect their franchised character yet they seemingly let parodies of their most significant trademark characters proliferate on the porn market with no opposition. Look at these YouTube trailers and ask yourself how does DC let this go? ?
These take-offs are so specifically exact to the characters and their films, is it possible that they go beyond parody? Even as legitimate parodies, a huge company like Warner Brothers could step up to the plate and buy them out just to protect their trademarks or do they have some kind of stake in the porn market that is not publicized.
So what’s the deal?
My theory is that DC has been systematically altering every character in its universe primarily to separate the copyright ownership of each character from the original creators and their heirs.
DC is attempting to put their characters in every possible situation, like their new logo, making their trademark characters viable in as many markets as possible, even the porn market, so that the idea of Batman having sex cannot be considered parody.
DC has realized that, unlike copyrights, which can revert eventually to originators, trademarks can last indefinitely so long as they are continually used to identify their goods and services.
DC Comics is on a mission that is borderline paranoia and the result will be a long list of bland, diluted characters paraded around as valuable trademarks of a huge conglomerate that has shot itself in the foot.
I can’t imagine that Disney will do the same with Marvel. If anything, expect Marvel/Disney to begin a very focused campaign, establishing a trademark paradigm that will be held as gospel and beware of anyone attempting to parody, lest they suffer the agonizing trials of the air pirates.
Speaking of pirates, I was intending that the blog this week be about the war on SOPA and PIPA but miraculously both have been indefinitely suspended due to public outcry.
Now please excuse me while I delete all the porn cookies I had to incur while putting this blog together and don’t worry, I know Spidey and his friends are slinging the triple X’s too. Maybe CO2 Comics should get into the parody biz, we might get rich if we were prostituting our comics.