Tag Archives: piracy

Around the Tubes

Justice League is out in the theaters! Who has already seen it? Who’s planning on seeing it? Sound off in the comments below! While you contemplate all of that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Newsarama – Marvel Cancels Powers and United States OF Murder Inc. – Is anyone surprised?

The Beat – Liam Sharp to revive The Brave and the Bold for DC in February – Nice. That’s a series a lot of folks wanted to see return.

Engadget – Hollywood strikes back against illegal streaming Kodi add-ons – And the battle continues.

CBR – Christopher Tolkien Resigns as Tolkien Estate Director – This is a pretty big deal.

The Outhouse – Film Adaptation Of Vertigo’s The Kitchen Gets Tiffany Haddish – Great comic if you’ve never read it.

 

Reviews

CBR – Coyotes #1

The Beat – Imaginary Friends #1

Talking Comics – Moon Knight #188

Comic Attack – Ninja-K #1

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day! What are folks excited for? What do you plan on getting? Sound off in the comments below! While you wait for shops to open up, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web.

Around the Tubes

Newsarama – Five Arrested For $3.47m Comics Piracy Case In Japan – The lesson is, don’t pirate.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Comic Attack – Motor Crush #6

Capeless Crusader – Rose #6

Around the Tubes

all-new-captain-canuck-0-coverIt’s new comic book day! What is everyone excited for? What do you plan on getting? Sound off in the comments!

While you decide on that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

SKTCHD – Money for Nothing: A Look at the Popularity and Questionable Legality of Free Comic Sites – An excellent article and gets to the heart of the matter. We’ve discussed this topic for years and people will go to illegal venues when the legal venue they want is not available.

Ottawa Magazine – Canada’s Secret Identity — New exhibit features Canadian comic books – This is pretty cool!

CBLDF – Utah Backs Down From Deadpool Censorship Attempt – Good.

Piracy Crippled as The Pirate Bay is Knocked Offline

piracy featuredIf you’re looking for your torrent of pirated comics this Wednesday, you might have a more difficult time than usual. The Pirate Bay was knocked offline, after police in Sweden raided the controversial technology tool, seizing servers, computers, and other officer equipment. Violations of copyright law are the reasons cited and reported for the move.

In a statement to TorrentFreak, police national coordinator for IP enforcement Paul Pintér said:

There has been a crackdown on a server room in Greater Stockholm. This is in connection with violations of copyright law.

Numerous websites are down on top of the Pirate Bay’s main website (at least the previous version of it). The Pirate Bay’s forum Suprbay.org, image-hosting website Bayimg.com, and text-hosting website Pastebay.net are also offline. Other peer-to-peer torrent sites have also been brought down as well.

This comes a couple of days after Google Play took down apps related to The Pirate Bay, and around a month after the arrest of four of the co-founders for the website.

The Pirate Bay is already back online at a Costa Rican top-level domain, showing the game of whac-a-mole that’s played when trying to combat this sort of thing.

A Florida Judge Rules an IP Address Isn’t a Person & Can’t Identify a Pirate

pirateA judge in Florida has delivered a blow to piracy lawsuits when she threw out a case filed by Malibu Media, an Adult film company, this week. As has been a pretty common practice, Malibu filed a bulk lawsuit listing IP addresses. The hopes is that the court would then subpoena the cable operator (Comcast in this case) to connect the dots and turn over the actual individuals. In many cases in the past, the person accused is not actually the offender. It seems some judges are taking that fact to note.

US District Judge Ursula Ungaro tossed the lawsuit because:

[t]here is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos and establishing whether that person lives in this district.

Basically the question is, without knowing who it is, how do you know if this is the right venue for the case?

Malibu lawyer Keith Lipscomb attempted to argued they hired an investigator who used a geolocation that:

…has always been 100 percent accurate when traced to the Southern District of Florida.

By directing its lawsuits at IP addresses from Comcast Cable, Plaintiff knows that almost always the IP address will trace to a residential address.

Ungaro rejected Malibu’s argument and dismissed and closed the case, she felt the evidence didn’t prove the plaintiffs could prove the actual individual for the lawsuit.

Plaintiff has shown that the geolocation software can provide a location for an infringing IP address; however, Plaintiff has not shown how this geolocation software can establish the identity of the Defendant

There is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos, and establishing whether that person lives in this district.

Ungaro also insisted that Malibu justify two other lawsuits against users identified only by IP addresses.

This ruling isn’t a first and follows a decision by a New York judge in the case K-Beech v. John Does in 2012. That judge said the plaintiff needed specific users. This along with those previous cases give individuals ammo to fight back against blanket lawsuits.

(via Torrent Freak)

Another Study Shows that Piracy Isn’t All Bad

pirateThe effects of piracy have long been debated with organizations like the MPAA and RIAA resorting to draconian tactics to stop it including an attempt to push through legislation that lead to the shut down of a large chunk of the internet. A newly updated study by economists at the Munich School of Management and Copenhagen Business School shows that it’s not all bad and the implications are a bit more nuanced.

The researchers looked at five years worth of data, comparing box office revenues before and after the shutdown of Megaupload.com, which at one point claimed to account for 4% of the daily internet traffic. The theory goes, if piracy really is bad, box office revenue should increase generally after the site’s shutdown.

What they found was the results weren’t so black and white.

We find that box office revenues of a majority of movies did not increase. While for a mid-range of movies the effect of the shutdown is even negative, only large blockbusters could benefit from the absence of Megaupload. We argue that this is due to social network effects, where online piracy acts as a mechanism to spread information about a good from consumers with low willingness to pay to consumers with high willingness to pay. This information-spreading effect of illegal downloads seems to be especially important for movies with smaller audiences.

The theory as to why indie releases were hurt is word-of-mouth. Folks are pirating indie movies and then telling their friends about them, who then see the film. Without the piracy, the word-of-mouth doesn’t happen and people are risk averse, not willing to give something they don’t know a shot. Jeff Bawkes, the CEO of Time Warner which owns HBO, has made the case that this is exactly what has happened with Game of Thrones.

This also plays into the idea that entertainment publishers are less inclined now to support independent work, instead opting for likely big budget mass market works and are in fact pushing policy that makes that even more of a best bet, damn the creators.

Of course the MPAA wasn’t happy with this study and attacked the methodology and its conclusions with a released statement:

An independent review of the academic research … has shown that the vast majority of research available in fact does show that piracy does harm sales. And a recent study from Carnegie Mellon University found that digital sales in countries where Megaupload was popular increased after Megaupload shut down. And in fact, the Munich and Copenhagen paper also finds that box office increased after Megaupload shutdown for an important segment of titles that they don’t clearly define, although it’s hard from the study’s descriptions to determine exactly what the control and treatment sample groups are, among other key factors.

Unfortunately, in order to reach its conclusion, the Munich and Copenhagen study also all but ignores a critical piece of the box office picture – how timing or other factors that are completely unrelated to Megaupload impact the box office performance of small, medium or large films.

The researchers did in fact attempt to work ont he variables that might have led to the outcomes they saw, and describe how they did so in their research paper. There’s also this study by Ofcom that also shows how piracy benefits entertainment.

You can read the full study here.

Is the Entertainment Industry Coming Around on Piracy?

pirateAnother entertainment titan seems to be a bit less asshatish when it comes to piracy. Games of Thrones is an entertainment juggernaut right now, it’s also one of the most (if not “the” most) pirated shows on television. Games of Thrones is on HBO which is owned by Time Warner. When asked about piracy, CEO of Time Warner Jeff Bewkes said that it’s “better than an Emmy.”

We’ve argued the word of mouth generated by piracy is rarely mentioned as a positive from it all. Nevermind studies show that piracy helps if anything. Here’s his full quote from a company earnings call this week:

We’ve been dealing with this for 20, 30 years. People sharing [subscriptions], running wires down the backs of apartment buildings.  Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs. I think you’re right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world. That’s better than an Emmy.

The comic industry has also seen an attitude change of late with publishers more willing to embrace DRM free products. When Image Comics decided to go DRM free Image publisher Eric Stephenson told Wired:

My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment. There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.

Piracy is not going to stop; everybody’s doing a completely ineffectual job of stopping it now, and I don’t think that this is going to add to it… Now that the technology has caught up to us, then the attitudes and the opinions [in the industry] have to catch up as well. And that takes time, because it’s a shift in the paradigm. There are a lot of people who still don’t quite understand it.

We’ll be following to see who the next big domino to fall will be.

(via GamePolitics)

Image Expo 2013: Image Drops the Mic & Gives the Middle Finger Part 3 Other Digital Services

In the first part of this three-part story, we examined terms of service and the claim that Image was “first” when it comes to offering DRM free comics. The second part delved a bit deeper into the concept of ownership. This third part looks into the possible fallout from this decision by Image Comics.

IMAGE VS. COMIXOLOGY

Image has been releasing comics through comiXology, the leading service in digital comics, having joined the comiXology digital service in August 2010. They also release digital comics through iVerse, iBooks and some of their imprints such as Top Cow and Shadowline have DRM Free deals with other services like DriveThru Comics and My Digital Comics.

And while Image comic books will still be offered for sale on ComiXology, iBooks, and every other platform where it was previously available, Image’s Director of Business Development Ron Richards says that offering the direct-to-consumer downloads is important. “There’s something to be said for the ownership factor. If readers purchase a book on ComiXology, that may be their library [on the service] but from what I understand that could be revoked. And God forbid, if ComiXology goes under or their data center has an earthquake all their hard drives go away — then you’ve got nothing.”

Ron Richards has a history in the digital realm. He was the founder of iFanboy which was later acquired by Graphic.ly which is the highest profile digital comic service to fail. His comment about comiXology “going under” is from his own experience in that previous venture. ComiXology CEO David Steinberger has addressed this previously during conventions stating the company is doing great and if it were in trouble it’s a high target for acquisition, something I’d believe. But with their current growth any issues are far down the line.

But Richards’ logic completely fails the smell test. His quote is filled with hyperbole and logical conclusions that apply for Image’s own business as it does comiXology.

And God forbid, if ComiXology goes under or their data center has an earthquake all their hard drives go away — then you’ve got nothing.

The act of God scenario. ComiXology has had issues in the past, most famously when the service crashed due to high traffic load during their promotion to give away the first issues of over 700 Marvel comics. Weposted on why it happened, a massive influx of interest which resulted in a denial of service. However that interest is a good thing as it caused many people who have never known about the service to traffic the site and as you can see by our graphics below, the service has retained a lot of that traffic. There wasn’t a “database” issue and a tech company like comiXology will have multiple copies of databases. Data centers are built for those types of scenarios and redundant features are built in by major technology providers. But these issues arise on occasion as services move to the cloud, Netflix, Amazon and many others have suffered the same fate.

But, this also applies to Image. When you purchase a comic, the comic is saved in my profile. Does Image have multiple data centers and back-ups of these purchase in case of failures on their end. I do have the downloaded file, but a similar issue arises for them, that of data storage. So, best the publisher has everything set on their end. The first time their site goes down, he’ll have to eat his own words.

The publisher has also taken numerous opportunities to criticize the digital publisher in the past. But, using Ron’s logic, is Image opening up it’s own physical distribution as well? Currently the comic industry is serviced by Diamond Distribution, a company that has an almost near monopoly on the business and that has had serious financial issues in the past. Going by this same logic, there needs to be another “just in case” (a belief I actually have, but that’s a discussion for another time). There has been some communication issues in the past, many of the issues attributed to comiXology are also due to Apple’s terms of service. Richards’ comments sound like sour grapes the more you factor in his previous work history.

Going through the purchasing process of Image’s digital comics, there seems to be no age restriction, an issue that’s just begging for trouble down the road. Comics such as Black Kiss II which are very mature are available for anyone to purchase without ratings present. That’s a poor choice in this digital age.

No matter, I can’t see the relationship between Image and comiXology being the same going forward, this is a clear kick in the nuts to the digital platform.

IS IMAGE GOING THIS ROUTE THE SMARTEST THING?

One can only sum up Image’s move as burning bridge between themselves and comiXology. Ron Richards himself admits they are now competing with other digital services. The growth of digital sales Image cites can really be attributed to these platforms, especially comiXology which has been a leader. They have shown it’s a viable business and people want to consumer their comics this way. But, to have sales you need eyes on the product.  Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come to paraphrase Field of Dreams. That’s partially what comiXology brings with millions of users and millions of page views a month on their website alone, plus recommendations. People might come to comiXology to purchase one item, but then discover others, something you don’t get with an “Image only” store.

I took a look at traffic between the two companies and you can see comiXology dwarfs Image in the United States (and we’d imagine globally as well).

comixology_vs_image_traffic

To make up the ill-will, Image needs to make sure that they will have enough traffic to their site to make up for possibly less views on comiXology. The gap though is enormous. One just needs to look at anemic traffic for Image and you better believe we’ll keep an eye on this.

2013-07-02_2130(This graphic compares the terms “Image Comics” to “comiXology”)

Further while Image might seem to have all of the buzz with their numerous comic sell-outs, the buzz online isn’t there. Looking at Google Trends, we see that Image has had a downward slide since the early 2000’s while comiXology has only seen massive growth in interest regularly dwarfing online buzz since mid-2011. Image needs a shot in the arm, maybe this is it.

IMAGE’S IMPRINTS

The other question is how this decision affects Image imprints like Top Cow, Joe’s Comics, Skybound and Shadowline. Can they opt-out of this? Top Cow and Shadowline currently offer DRM free comics through other services.

IMAGE SAVES ON FEES

By selling through their website, Image cuts out fees they’d have to pay to Apple, comiXology which are a decent chunk. Image saves on those fees, minus whatever new costs are associated with this venture. Will they be paying better rates to creators then?

From CBR:

Aside from a promotional edge for Image with readers wary of digital comics apps, the publisher is also anticipating more benefits for its creators. “I can’t get into specific contracts, but basically there is no middle man,” Richards said. “There’s no cut for comiXology or Apple or any other piece getting taken out. Ideally for a creator, sales through the Image website gets them the most money per sale.”

It sounds like that hasn’t been determined. That’s a pretty big deal since contracts tend to need to be settled before large ventures like this. This backs up my thought that this concept was rushed and not totally thought and planned out. A lack of Terms of Service is another thing, something no lawyer would allow them to launch without. If I were a creator, I’d be digging through any contracts I had right now, especially if one of my comics was a launch title.

IMAGE VS. BRICK-AND-MORTAR

The final question is the impact on brick-and-mortar stores. They made Image Comics and by offering this service Image will absolutely hurt them, though by how much is to be seen. We’ve seen the digital and print market can grow together, there’s no opportunity so far for stores to profit from these digital sales like they can with comiXology. I haven’t seen the normal outcry concerning digital comics and their dooming print sales, but this is a slap in a face to them.

CONCLUSION

Digital Rights has been a topic of much buzz, especially since Microsoft’s launch of the Xbox One and their failed decision involving DRM. While Image has been deservingly winning praise for releasing some great new series and revitalizing their brand over the last few years, the praise lavished upon this announcement is a bit premature. Hard hitting questions, like the many we’ve covered, haven’t been asked (or answered) and whether this is truly a good deal for creators hasn’t been established. Until we get some of these answers, lets cool it with the adoration. While this sounds like a step in the right direction, the devil is in the details.

Image Expo 2013: Image Drops the Mic & Gives the Middle Finger Part 2, DRM Free Vs. Ownership

Earlier today we released the first part and a few follow ups debunking the myth perpetuated by other sites that Image Comics is the first publisher to offer DRM free digital comics. They are the largest (we think) so far to do so and if I’m wrong please fact check me on that, but from what I’ve looked at, I’m pretty sure.

Though Image’s Director of Business Development Ron Richards told CBR, “You buy it, you own it,” I remain skeptical because there’s a far difference between being DRM free and owning something.

DRM FREE VS. OWNERSHIP

DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is a way for copyright holders and technology companies to manage consumers’ uses of products they purchase after they purchase them. The easiest example is purchasing a book and only being able to read it on one reader or having to confirm the purchase of a product by entering a key or connecting with a server over and over. The last one being an issue that’s come up in the video game industry.

We as consumers deal with DRM every day, for instance  being locked down as to what we can watch on television. When iTunes launched, they instituted FairPlay DRM for their entire music library. In April of 2009 though, the company changed their policy increasing the price of tracks and selling music DRM free, though video and apps still employ Fairplay DRM. So, this is not uncommon, but how it’s implemented can become a firestorm, just ask Microsoft.

If you’ve ever bought a digital comic book, your experience probably went something like this: You opened up an app like ComiXology, paid around $1.99 to $3.99 — likely, the same price as a print issue — but never downloaded the file for the comic to your hard drive. That’s because you don’t really own it — you’ve simply licensed the right to look at it in someone else’s library.

…Image Comics announced at its Image Expo convention that it will now sell all of its digital comics as downloadable via its website for both desktop and mobile users, making it the first major U.S. publisher to offer DRM-free digital versions of comics.

Yes, Image is probably the largest publisher to offer DRM free. But that doesn’t mean we’ve suddenly arrived at a point where we own everything that we purchase through them, there is a difference between ownership and DRM free. Mere possession is not ownership. Content creators do have a history of calling something “owned” up until the point it no longer suits them, but without a Terms of Service about digital purchases, it’s unclear as consumers what our rights are. Just because something is DRM free doesn’t mean we own it outright, there can still be fine print which isn’t clear currently. So, to me this announcement comes off more as a public relations stand than something new and ground breaking.

Entertainment Consumers Association founder and President Hal Halpin sums it up nicely in addressing the same debate when it comes to video games:

We know that, to be blunt, consumers consume. We purchase, rent or license what content providers like to call “Intellectual Property.” I believe that, if we legally purchase it, we buy the right to own it, use it, rent it, and sell it as we see fit – again, a doctrine which falls comfortably under First Sale.

If we rent it, it’s with the understanding that the financial principles are fundamentally different: we don’t own the product; we simply have the right to use it for a specified period of time, in an extraordinarily specific way, and for a LOT less money (typically ~$5.00).

If we license the product, we have a reasonable expectation that our rights to the product lay somewhere in between owning and renting. We certainly don’t own it, but the restrictions on use and for how long as Draconian as with a rental. Price is typically about half as much as those who outright own the product (typically ~$30.00).

PIRACY

When it came to the battle on PIPA and SOPA, some Image creators spoke up, while the publisher was silent, we reached out to numerous publishers with a few such as 215 Ink and Fantagraphics siding with consumers and against the draconian legislation.

Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson told Wired:

My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment. There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.

Again and again, numerous studies have showed that pirates purchase more media and entertainment than non-pirates. As a site we believe that DRM actually purchases legal purchasers more-so than pirates and that the more options consumers have, the better. While the publisher might be taking this bold stance, the creators they represent don’t necessarily agree. Numerous creators have a strong stand against piracy, stating it directly takes money and food from them. Will creators be able to opt-out of this new store if they are uncomfortable with DRM free product?

Stephenson continued in the article:

Piracy is not going to stop; everybody’s doing a completely ineffectual job of stopping it now, and I don’t think that this is going to add to it… Now that the technology has caught up to us, then the attitudes and the opinions [in the industry] have to catch up as well. And that takes time, because it’s a shift in the paradigm. There are a lot of people who still don’t quite understand it.

We’ll be keeping a lookout on DMCA notices and other moves by Image when it comes to piracy going forward and if this move will increase the availability of digital Image Comics and the affect on sales.

CONCLUSION PART 2

This is a great first start by Image, but the devils are in the details, aka Terms of Service. Part 3 will be posted later today.

Image Expo 2013: Image Drops the Mic & Gives the Middle Finger Part 1

During Image Expo yesterday, Image Comics dropped the mic and raised a middle finger to others when it comes to digital comics. The publisher announced they’d start selling comics directly through the newly revamped Image Comics website. The bombshell was that these comics would be DRM free, snubbing their nose at digital comic industry leader comiXology as well as iBooks and other digital comic platforms. Readers can also choose the file format they prefer: PDFs, EPUBs, CBRs or CBZs. The comic blogosphere was quick to praise without really diving into the details.

The announcement was followed up with a puff piece on Wired.com which I normally expect good tech journalism from. Instead the article begins with an incorrect and misleading title, “For the First Time, You Can Actually Own the Digital Comics You Buy.” The fact is, this isn’t the “first time” this option has been available. The article by Laura Hudson overlooks DriveThru Comics which has been a DRM free platform that has existed for over a decade (comics has been about 7 or 8 years) and offers some Image Comics (Top Cow is often featured). By claiming Image is “the first major U.S. publisher” to offer this is a slap in the face of DriveThru, Top Cow, Archaia and others who offer their comics through that service and clearly haven’t received the attention or praise they deserve.

But, that “exclusive” article is little more than an extended press release that treads more in fear than facts and goes nowhere near actual questions and details. Things we as fans, and most importantly consumers, need to know when weighing how and where to spend our dollars.

Working in the tech sector, I thought it’d be nice to dissect this move by Image weighing the good and bad. We were an early voice in the arena of digital comics having brought up issues when it comes to ownership of digital comics in 2011. And having consistently fought for consumer rights (*cough* SOPA and PIPA *cough*), this only seemed appropriate.

DO YOU REALLY OWN THE DOWNLOAD?

The Supreme Court recently ruled on the First Sale Doctrine which gives us the right to resell legally purchased items. Looking through the Terms and Conditions I found nothing on this or addressing ownership, the digital store was sparse with details. As I “own” these digital comics, just like a print edition, I should be able to resell the digital copy. And when I do that, what then? Do I need to delete my digital copy?

This is a very important question because if the answer is “no” then I don’t really own the digital copy and this announcement and praise is a bit exaggerated. We’ve followed up with Image Comics to clarify this point and will update this article when we receive a response.

The only terms and conditions we found were for the Image website. They’ll need to lay out exactly the digital rights we as purchaser get when we make a digital purchase. Anything short of allowing us to lend, trade, or resell is in fact not “ownership” and is in reality limited digital rights.

TERMS OF SERVICE?

The Image website terms of service covers all items under the Image website, which would most likely include their Digital Comics store which resides at https://www.imagecomics.com/store/comics. The terms of service states:

All information contained within ImageComics.com is protected under U.S. copyright laws. All rights reserved. ImageComics.com’s content may only be reproduced, without alteration, for distribution in print or electronically if permission has been granted by ImageComics.com. This includes all hidden text displayed within our source code.

Since the store falls under the website, then digital comics would count as content. Therefore it flies in the face of the First Sale Doctrine and true ownership. Selling the digital copy could be construed as “distribution.” The claims made in the Wired article are exaggerated and hyperbolic in nature.

CONCLUSION PART 1

We in fact do not “own” these digital copies in the traditional sense that we do physical printed copies. We most likely can’t resell these comics on eBay or lend them to friends or give it away. But, having gone through the purchasing process myself, there is no terms stated at the time of the purchase, so all I can go off of are those of the website which haven’t been updated to reflect this new offering.

We’ve reached out to Image for comment, but so far we’re looking at a lot of hype that’s not backed up by facts.

Be on the lookout for Part 2 later today.

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