What’s So Funny – On Being an Asshole

I’m sorry. You can’t be an asshole anymore. For years, decades even, being a comic book reader came with it an elitist attitude that allowed you to look down your nose at those who probably beat you up in high school. We kept our cliques small and self-serving, and we’ve encouraged the publishers to do the same.

Well, sorry, folks, but, that’s over. SOPA or PIPA or arresting website developers is not going to change the world that we now live in. There’s no amount of threats, either legal or brow-beaterly that will change the fact that many more people are unwilling to pay for the intellectual property than those who are happy to plunk down the cash.

And, of course, the economy is horrible! And you’re un (or under) employed! And you have to see/read/listen or else. I’m sorry. That sucks. But you’re being an asshole. Stop it.

We’re all spoiled brats, myself included, but, we can’t do that anymore. We have to get over our greediness (just like we keep bitching about the bank executives doing) and put something ahead of our own (incredibly trivial) needs.

Comics ARE expensive. Games ARE expensive. Movies ARE expensive. Music… not so much, but, for the sake of argument.

Here’s the thing. Up until a few years ago, there was still enough of an audience to make up for the percentage of you who are stealing. But, not anymore. Now, everybody steals, or, at least a higher percentage of the total audience than those that pay.

The comic market consists of about 200,000 people, on the high end. Now, certainly, you’ll have your Justice Leagues and Batmans and Flash’s that do amazing sales and are generating profits. But almost every other book that isn’t up there in the top 25 or so titles is almost certainly losing money.

So, if I’m Warner Bros or Disney, or, in the case of Last of the Greats, ME, and I see that we’re busting our asses monthly on something that’s not only not profitable but is actually losing money, what other choice do I have but to shut it down?

Very few of us (from Writers to Publishers) are in this for the money. We’re all here because this is something we worship and love and it’s something that drives us to the point of obsession. But, we all have mouths to feed.

If you keep on letting the world slip on by, then you’re helping to guarantee the demise of something you love.

So, while I’m telling you to stop being an asshole, I need you to do something for me. Be an asshole. You know how when someone you’re talking to makes a horrificly offensive racist comment and you immediately tell them to watch their mouth (or smack them or what have you…)? Well, I want you to do that about Piracy. Call them a fucking cockhead. Tell them that they’re singly responsible for ruining the comic book industry (or the film industry or whatever.)

Folks, the ship is sinking and we all need to stand up and fight.

j.

25 thoughts on “What’s So Funny – On Being an Asshole

  1. Pingback: 4thletter! » Blog Archive » His Reasoning Is Askew

  2. Pingback: Comics A.M. | San Diego Convention Center plan advances | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

  3. Came here from ComicBookResources, thought I’d post a response from a different perspective, something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now.

    I consider myself a member of the largest comic market, and the largest part of the problem. I’m a 40-yr old male. Lifelong reader, when I was a kid I would brazenly read issues off the spinner rack, but I would also buy them when I could and was constantly on the lookout for issues at garage sales (back when you could buy them on the cheap.) I was never a collector, buying comics to read not collect and have always treated issues fairly shabbily. I weathered the 90′s market, and started my migration towards trades then but still buy monthlies on a regular basis. In the early part of the new millennium, prices for comics started going way up in relation to other entertainment prices, and that became a line in the sand for titles I either dropped or passed by. Same with reboots. Same with events that required multiple purchases. I no longer (with VERY rare exceptions) buy comics over $3. I’ve completely stopped buying DC comics because of the reboot. Few event comics which means a lot of Marvels are out. Each week to my local shop seems to have less and less titles I think are worth the money I’m being asked for them.

    I don’t download comics. I don’t read comics digitally. I certainly have the capability and know-how to do so, I’ve worked in the computer industry most of my professional life. I also read a small number of web comics on a fairly regular basis, but they are strips not multi-page affairs. I just don’t like reading what I consider comics that way. I’ve tried it a couple of times, it just doesn’t appeal to me, legally or otherwise. I do buy MP3s from Amazon vs. buying CDs though. I love Netflix, and have downloaded new Doctor Who episodes through my Playstation instead of torrenting them because it was affordable, easy, and the value was there vs. subscribing to a large cable package vs the channel I really wanted (BBC America). I’d consider giving digital comics another shot if the value were there and I had assurances that the comics I bought were mine free and clear (no DRM) and not tied to a single platform. The industry just isn’t there yet.

    The problem is value. And yes, for a large number of people the ability to pirate vs. purchase contributes to that. But that isn’t the sole problem. The value isn’t there. It just isn’t. And that’s been a problem in the comics industry for decades, but one that recent advances in entertainment have hammered home. And I don’t know how that gets turned around. But to blame it solely on piracy is looking at a small part of a much larger problem.

  4. So why did you download BBC tv, television shows paid for by the British public, instead of waiting the short amount of time until BBC America shows it? That’s nothing to do with money, that’s the sorry attitude of self-entitlement.

    And that makes you an asshole. The British public, myself included, pay what is essentially a tax of $230 a year every year for those tv shows that you steal. There are reasons it’s not shown over there right away, but you ignore them because you want it. So you take it.

    I bought Last of the Greats in singles and had a preorder on the book ready to go. I scrapped that. I don’t steal from you, but you steal from me. So I won’t give you another penny of my money.

    Admitting you are an asshole too does what, exactly? You admit to stealing BBC tv so…what? You don’t need to feel that guilty conscience nagging at you? Are you actually going to STOP stealing, or are you just admitting to it with no intention to stop?

  5. You’re not wrong. And I thought about it long and hard while writing the aforementioned posts. I’ve found myself in plenty of situations like that, whether it’s finding research material for long out of print comics that I’m asked to pitch, or playing fast catch up on a tv show for a job.

    The only real mea culpa I can offer is that I’ve built a ridiculous set of requirements before I download something. For example, with Sherlock, I preordered the series on Blu-Ray before I hit download. I’m making sure it some little way that while I am an asshole, I’m slightly less of an asshole than the people who just steal it and move on.

    But, like you said, you’re definitely right, and I appreciate you pointing it out.

    j.

  6. RE: Chris – I should have said “paid and watched” vs. downloaded Doctor Who through my Playstation. I thought the distiction was clear when I said that instead of torrenting, but my bad.

    I did pay for them, through the offical Sony Playstation3 store. I used another distribution channel that was more affordable and made more sense to me value-wise. They had already aired on BBC America by that time. I assume that Sony paid BBC for the rights.

    For that matter, I love Top Gear and watch episodes through Netflix, a legal method that I pay for and that BBC (and you) gets compensated for. I also watch Misfits through Hulu, learned about that one through the excellent Bleeding Cool website. I think it’s fair to say that the BBC got paid for that as well.

    The point I was trying to make is that if you have a way for customers to get your product in a way that’s legal and makes sense value-wise, I like to think most people will go that route instead of hurting the people that make it.

    P.S.
    Also, you seem to be under the additional wrongful impression that I’m the blog’s author/admin. I’m not. I’m a vistor to the blog referred to it from another website who decided to leave a comment. Different person entirely.

  7. Karl, I wasn’t addressing you with my comment, I didn’t mistake you for Josh, I just clicked reply and my comment followed yours.

    Ordering the blu ray or DVD is STILL no excuse. Again, that’s just entitlement. You’ve paid for a disk that isn’t out yet so you feel entitled to take it illegally. What I’d everyone did that with your books? Instead of buying any singles, instead just taking them, and then waiting for the trade? Is that okay?

    The answer should be “no” because people are still stealing, even if they’ve paid for the trade. It doesn’t give them the right to steal until they can get it legally.

    Really. If you’ve paid for the blu ray, wait for the blu ray. Or wait for it to be on tv for free. If a tv show is so important you have to steal it so you can see it right away… you need to rethink things.

    This is the problem with piracy. Entitlement. And the flimsy justification that people trot for why they did it and why it’s okay. Nothing anyone says about it will matter to you either. You won’t change your mind. You have your “set of requirements” that, to you, justifies your theft and that means you can do it. and so do comic pirates, I bet. They might have a different set of requirements, but they can justify why they steal too. Can you see why it’s a losing battle? Everyone has reasons why it’s “okay” for then to torrent things.

    Oh, and the “I preordered it so I can steal it now” line? That makes you an asshole.

  8. Cr@p, I did recently watch the second season of Sherlock via an streaming site because it wasn’t available over here yet, and I can’t leave the admin hanging. I’m an @sshole too.

    I still think my main point mostly stands, but I’m not innocent of the crime in question. Sorry Chris, love your shows, although I’m still blaming you for reality TV.

  9. Um, I think Chris H has made it clear (twice!) that he *paid* for a *legitimate* and *fully-licensed* copy of Doctor Who from the PlayStation store. Not a pirated file stolen for free. The BBC *wants* North Americans to buy content from the PlayStation store (or Netflix, or Hulu, or wherever else they license it to be sold). If they didn’t, they wouldn’t strike deals with these companies to stream that content, in addition to deals they make with broadcasters and/or cable networks to run their programs in more traditional ways (i.e., on a schedule, and loaded with advertising).

    So there’s that.

    But to Joshua’s main point, I absolutely agree. Support What You Love is my mantra for the year, and I’m already preaching it. It’s particularly the case with comics, although it applies to every cultural form and practice as well (e.g., like that bar as a hangout? Buy some drinks there!, etc.). Sure, you may only “like” some things not far enough to pay for them. In that case, Don’t Do Them. Simple as that.

    That said, for things you really love, I’d go the extra mile. Pick up a few books (digitally, or better yet, at your favorite shop) every week or month or whatever you can afford. Repeat. Get into the habit. Want to save some money? Stop paying for cable TV and/or insanely overpriced phone contracts. Move your money away from the things you don’t like and towards they things you love. That’s how you pay for it.

  10. Josh, thanks for your follow-up blog post, which I agree with much more than this one. :P

    Is piracy theft? The fact is, it doesn’t matter. It’s a completely academic question.

    This is the reality of comic piracy in 2012: you can Google the name/issue number of any DC/Marvel comic published in the last few years, plus the name of a certain file-sharing site, and you can get a direct download link within seconds. Other comics are only slightly harder to find.

    This process bears so little resemblance to any of the practices that have historically been unanimously understood as theft – it’s so easy, so abstract, and so completely devoid of any possibility of legal consequences – that you will never, ever be able to convince any remotely significant percentage of pirates that what they’re doing is equivalent to theft.

    If your anti-piracy strategy consists mainly of attempting to convince pirates that they’re thieves, well, that fight was lost long before piracy even made the radar of most creators.

    That’s not a defense of piracy – it is, at the very least, an unethical practice that almost certainly has a negative net impact on most comics sold – but I strongly believe that it’s the reality of the situation.

  11. @Karl “although I’m still blaming you for reality TV.”

    Ahem. Reality TV came about because of the 1988 Writers Guild of America. No writers = reality tv. You can’t blame us for that ;)

    @DKompare “has made it clear (twice!) that he *paid* for a *legitimate* and *fully-licensed* copy of Doctor Who from the PlayStation store. Not a pirated file stolen for free. The BBC *wants* North Americans to buy content from the PlayStation store (or Netflix, or Hulu, or wherever else they license it to be sold). If they didn’t, they wouldn’t strike deals with these companies to stream that content, in addition to deals they make with broadcasters and/or cable networks to run their programs in more traditional ways”

    I made it clear that I _wasn’t_ talking to him, but was talking to Mr. Fialkov, who has been open about illegal torrents.

    And my point is one you mention there. The BBC have deals in place. Advertisers for popular shows like Sherlock and other licensing issues. Geographically restricted for a purpose, this is why you can’t just watch iPlayer in the US, while I can, for free, in the UK. There are reasons you can not get it right away, and ignoring those to download it illegally is wrong, especially when it is purely impatience and not because it will never be released there.

    ” I also watch Misfits through Hulu, learned about that one through the excellent Bleeding Cool website. I think it’s fair to say that the BBC got paid for that as well.”

    Well, MISFITS is Channel 4, so that’s a little different, but it’s good that you are doing it the right way. Not many do.

    BUT

    “The point I was trying to make is that if you have a way for customers to get your product in a way that’s legal and makes sense value-wise, I like to think most people will go that route instead of hurting the people that make it.”

    Here is the problem. SHERLOCK, like DOCTOR WHO and LIFE ON MARS [other shows I know comic professionals have illegally downloaded while at the same try shouting at comic pirates] were/would have been shown on American tv. There is NO issue with accessibility or value. The only issue is entitlement and the fact that people do NOT want to wait for it.

    Which, for me, is more of an issue that comic pirates. They are cheapskates, they don’t want to pay for their books. TV thieves? They aren’t cheapskates [especially when they pretty much all, as above, trot out the excuse that they buy enough dvds and so on], they just don’t want to wait. And that’s pretty shocking. And you’ll never stop pirating when people have that kind of attitude towards things.

    Especially when they honestly think it’s okay to steal because they have ticked some other imaginary box they have to make themselves feel better about it. Or, rather, ticked some box so that they don’t have to give a shit about being a thief.

    @admin “you’re right”

    Right about what?

    Nothing anyone says about it will matter to you either. You won’t change your mind?

    Are you going to stop illegally downloading British tv? And be honest. Don’t just say you will if you fully intend to keep torrenting. Don’t be THAT kind of asshole. Be much better to say “no, I’ll keep doing it” and be an honest asshole.

  12. Chris –
    You’re right. If you read the article I say that I too am guilty of exactly what we’re all talking about. I say from the top that the time for excuses is past. You. Are. Right. I will no longer be torrenting anything.

    Feel free to keep yelling at me, though, it is what I told you to do in the post, afterall. :D

    j.

  13. “There is NO issue with accessibility or value. The only issue is entitlement and the fact that people do NOT want to wait for it.”

    US fans of British television shouldn’t be waiting months for those shows to air… and it’s not a defense of piracy to say that people WILL download those shows if that occurs.

    Find ways to reduce incentives for not pirating. Offer better, wholly legitimate options. Yelling at pirates and telling them what bad people they are isn’t going to accomplish anything. The genie is NOT going back in that bottle.

  14. I actually believe comics are unhealthy for the reader and long term fans and people should stop reading superhero books completely. So much emotional investment, so much wasted energy and rage against things we can’t change or control. its unhealthy. Right now on CBR there is a 12 page discussion about Civil War, an 8 year old comic event is upsetting them, because people who have not been reading comics for as long as that, enjoy the comic. and their rage and dissatisfaction has not waned in anyway. pointless impotent rage being shouted at nothing to be heard by none.

    I am not about this, I have hated the recent Iron Man run for the last four years. but I hate the fact more that I still have this hatred after four years. nothing has made me feel this type of irrational anger, even real world problems and issues do not effect me the same way.

    comics are a toxin and should be destroyed in all forms.

  15. There could be a flaw in Chris’ argument in regard to BBC shows that have not aired on this side of the pond and are likely to take months, if at all. I do NOT believe this should be considered piracy. Under the Berne Convention, if it is not licensed here it is NOT covered by copyright. It is then considered public domain and is legal to attain and use you see fit, until such time it becomes licensed here. Blackest Heart Media operated under this premise for years and Video Screams continues to operate under this legislation and has so for 20 years.

    “Video Screams specializes in three types of videos. Either (1) Public Domain, hence unlicensed or (2) Foreign Imports, unlicensed in this country, hence considered public domain under the Berne Act. or (3) Alternate versions of films not otherwise available. Video Screams also offers UNCUT, UNCENSORED, UNRATED, or otherwise unavailable versions of films which are not available in the U.S.”

    Non-US-licensed BBC stuff would fall under (2) and would be considered public domain in the US until such a time when they’re licensed for release.

  16. Casual piracy has always been a reality since the days of VHS, but back then, there wasn’t a way to automate the replication and distribution of VHS tapes once a tape was made. That has all changed. With the new reality, once a single copy is made, it can go worldwide. And when that copy happens really early in the production process, as happened with the movie The Hurt Locker, it can cost dearly.

    Why is this a big deal? From the days of Michaelangelo, the creative process has ALWAYS been enabled by sponsors who fund the creative process upfront. The chance at a huge payday is something that drives all creative types, whether you are an artist or actor. Why do you think so many actors move to LA and wait tables waiting for their big moment?

    But with piracy, the upside is kneecapped. It is simply irrational for a company to take risks on a new product if the worst case scenario is zero sales and the best case scenario is breakeven. It is not managerial ineptitude; it’s not racism; it’s simply economics. And if artists don’t think they can make money doing something they love, their significant others will one day guilt them into doing something else that, you know, actually pays the bills.

    The reality is that if you’re in the creative industry, the laws that most people lean on, particularly the DMCA, only work if you’re in a jurisdiction that recognizes the law. Companies have zero options when dealing with bad actors who choose to live in places because it allows them to evade the DMCA. That’s what SOPA and PIPA tried to address.

    No matter your politics, here’s what’s going on. If you run into something you love, whether it’s a restaurant, store or even a comic book, try paying for it at least six months out of the year. And during the other six months, when you can’t make it, remember to refer your friends if you think they’ll like it. Because it you don’t do it, the chances are better than 50% that the thing that you love will simply shut down in eighteen months.

  17. “Here is the problem. SHERLOCK, like DOCTOR WHO and LIFE ON MARS [other shows I know comic professionals have illegally downloaded while at the same try shouting at comic pirates] were/would have been shown on American tv. There is NO issue with accessibility or value. The only issue is entitlement and the fact that people do NOT want to wait for it.”

    Chris H, I think you’re undermining the point you’re trying to make. But I appreciate the passion behind it.

    The BBC HAS made shows like Dr. Who available on multiple platforms. Though it may not be available on BBC America yet, it is LEGALLY available in North America for download. That has nothing to do with entitlement. it has to do a smart company making it’s product available in multiple ways, all of which bring money in. Choosing one of those options available and paying for it isn’t piracy.

    But aside from example, your underlying is absolutely correct, true piracy has EVERYTHING to do with entitlement.

  18. “But aside from example, your underlying is absolutely correct, true piracy has EVERYTHING to do with entitlement.”

    I don’t totally disagree with this, but I don’t totally agree either. For some, I’m sure it is about entitlement, for many others it is a lack of availability, but for many, and there’s nothing sinister about it, it’s about convenience…it’s just quicker, easier, more reliable to get it from Bittorrent and most importantly, it’s all they really know. For others still, it’s a matter of perceived respect. If the industry isn’t going to respect them, why should they respect the industry. There is also a general perception, and a point of view shared by myself, that digital content is vastly overpriced.

    To demonize people who grew up with this technology, who have really not known a world where such privilege is not an option is really not fair when the entertainment industry essentially allowed it to get to this point by opting to basically ignore it for many years and hope it goes away, then go the path of legislation and litigation rather than innovation. Imagine what a better position the entire industry (Not just Music) would be in if the RIAA had partnered with Napster rather than suing them and burying their head in the the sand while technology and consumer expectations left them behind. At the time Napster had over 500000 users, small by today’s standard, but that’s a lot of potential customers to piss off. The, at the same time, you had mouthpieces like Lars Ulrich spouting off his poison pissing even more people off. Napster was a huge gift-horse the music industry should have been exploiting since day one. I blame the entire piracy scene on this one incredibly poor decision. The billions spent on lobbying and law suits in the US could have been better spent on improving delivery and public relations. It’s all water under the bridge now since the entertainment industry has chosen the path of opposition and has likely, and permanently, ruined their public image.

    It may surprise some, but many countries outside of the US are years behind in technology and digital services. I recently read an article that claimed Canada (Yes, I’m Canadian) to be the 6th largest consumer of digital goods in the world. We’re at least 10 years behind the US in Internet technology, broadband and digital services. On top of that we have overly strict incoming copyright law which has among the strictest digital lock protections in the world which will further slow development of new services…AND we still have US lobbies pushing through backdoor channels for SOPA-like reforms here. If everything passes, the laws will be so strict here, vastly more strict than in the US, that we’ll be essentially hog-tied for new services, while some existing services may choose to leave or close to avoid all the new red tape. We have very few on-line stores for digital content and even fewer quality streaming services and those we do have are generally subject to heavily geo-blocked content. Christ, we still have bandwidth caps on our Internet. 60G/mo for me and that’s the top plan available to me.

    Several years ago I received an infringement notice for downloading an episode of Dexter that I had missed. It was the standard notice from the standard type of watchdog. It gave 3 alternative, and legal, download sites to purchase it on-line (Straight from HBO, iTunes and another I can’t remember). In any case, all three blocked Canadian users from downloading the content. At the time, there were no legal services where I could download it, so my options were to download it from bit-torrent or stop watching and wait for it to come out on DVD. I downloaded then and would do the same today, if faced with the same options. Personally, I see downloading TV shows, that I’m already paying for with my Satellite subscription, as a grey area at best.

    As an aside, I don’t trust anything the American government, the MPAA, RIAA, CRIA say. If we’re to believe the American government, US piracy is at an all-time low. Unless world piracy rates have dropped substantially, from my own testing on bittorrent I’m pretty sure the US government is lying about the rate of infringement in the US. Pick ANY English language torrent, doesn’t matter what it is (Movie, TV, music, printed), 80% or more, of the peers in the swarm will be American IPs.

    The bottom line is that I don’t see it being about entitlement, it’s about respect and because of many of the decisions the RIAA and MPAA have made, the general public has very little respect for the entertainment industry as a whole and copyright by extension, which is not fair to other sectors, but it is what it is. Or perhaps it is about entitlement, if you listen to or read interviews with industry executives such as Chris Dodd or outspoken pro-copyright entertainers such as Metallica, Kiss, Loreena McKennit, they often come off as having a perverse sense of entitlement. The entertainment industry complains about out of date copyright laws and enforcement, when they haven’t changed their core business models to adapt to changing times in decades. Again they have this warped idea that the world should change for them. Again, this screams of a sense of perverse entitlement?

    And let’s be honest, while it might have started about piracy a decade ago, the fight hasn’t been about piracy for years. Time and time again it’s been shown that industry losses are grossly overstated, while at the same time the music and movies industries are posting record profits. The fight is all about control of the Internet. The MPAA and RIAA want absolute control over their content, well they can’t do that unless they absolute control over the flow of information.

    All that being said, smaller industries, such as comics, where the profit margin is much smaller, are the industries most affected by infringement and while it is those do the uploading causing the harm now, it’s the media giants that cause and continue to make the problem worse.

    I’ve said it before, but there will be no easy fix. Overly draconian measures, will just cause people to become bitter and move further underground and while it might help in the short term, it will ultimately, in the long haul, cause more harm than good to the industry as circumvention and anomalizing technologies mature. On the other hand overly light measures will not work either, if it’s free, people will take it. Somewhere in there, there’s a happy medium that neither side will be happy with, but that’s how it is with these things.

  19. With pleasure I will refrain from downloading Joshua Fialkov books.

    Of course, since that won’t let me know if they’re good or bad, I will not buy Joshua Fialkov books.

    Hmm, maybe that wasn’t a good idea, Joshua Fialkov…

  20. With all that exposition, I thought I was reading an issue of I,Vampire.

    Talk to Jeff Parker about what piracy actually does for a good book.

  21. This is solely my opinion but I’m a lawyer who does some copyright law. I understand your plight but you, like most of my clients, seem to overlook that your companies, the ones you provide material for, are doing very little to help you against piracy. It seems to me that you should be pressing your employers on this issue. I’m not talking about industry associations, I’m talking about the companies for which you work. What are they doing for you, the creator, to protect your copyright interest? Deterring piracy takes more than just a cease and desist letter. These companies, with their lack or prosecution, are silently acquiescing and approving of the piracy. All the press releases and interviews denouncing piracy are just posturing. Without further action, its just talk. It’s not like its difficult to find the pirates on the internet. I recently read an article by Charles Soule where he went into a chat room and actually spoke with the people that pirate his work. So, why aren’t the publishers doing more? Just a different perspective for you to think about.

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