This weekend there was a great disturbance in the online geek community. The LiveJournal group “Scans Daily” was suspended for violating one of LJ’s few rules that don’t involve stories about Harry Potter characters having sex with each other.
This community was known primarily for two things: posting scans of current (and older) comics, and then bitching about what happened in them. Rumor has it that the cause of the shutdown was one comics creator finally getting fed up with people both ripping him off and ripping on him and decided to put a cork in this thing once and for all.
Naturally, this immediately caused great consternation and outrage among the folks doing the scanning and bitching, who replied with the geek’s usual calm, reasoned discourse:
Dear Peter David,
When I tell you ‘Die In A Fire’, I do so because I don’t want to use sex as an insult or phrase revolving around my disgust and anger with you. Fucking is fun, and it shouldn’t be used to tell people to go deflate their heads. Also, rape is serious and also shouldn’t be used to go tell people to deflate their heads.
Now I’m going to imagine you happily roasting to bits in a fire (LIKE BACON)- cause really, my personal fantasy tv, isn’t something you can censor (though you can complain). Much like I can complain, but can’t censor your skanky race and gender issues.
To hear the Scans Daily people talk, you would think that every one of them was buying multiple copies of every comic posted there, and thus filling the coffers of the comics companies to overflowing with their patronage. Which makes it perfectly reasonable to ask: if this is the case, why scan them? Just talk about the comic you all purchased right there in front of you for reference.But instead there is geek outrage because The Man has shut down this bastion of free speech, this grassroots organization, this bunch of people all knowingly violating copyright but feeling that not only should it be okay for them to do so, but that they are entitled to it and should be thanked by the comics companies for doing it.
After all, goes the argument in the second comment of this MetaFilter thread about the event, comic books cost too much. So really, when you think about it, this is all Marvel and DC’s fault. Comic books are pricey, so we revert to the standard rules of Capitalism: it’s okay to steal something until the price comes down to the point where consumers will deign to pay for it. (See also: music.) The next argument in the thread states that the “Big Two could try not being so awful and gimmicky” which drives the point even further that this is a failure on the parts of the comics company. If the comics weren’t so terrible, I would buy them instead of relying on copyright violation to find out what happened next in Thor.
The main argument being put forth by the SD-fans is that this “try before you buy” outlet got more people to buy more comics than didn’t. By shutting down Scans Daily, they argue, you are shutting down the only way people have of discovering new titles, or even comic books in general, because remember, this is LiveJournal, and for most people there, the Internet outside LiveJournal is a vast, uncharted wasteland peopled solely by Langoliers and possibly hoodoo spirits. The fact that there are plenty of places online where you can find out about what’s going on in comics — as well as get plenty of preview pages — is unknown to those who don’t venture outside LiveJournal, even though they refer to those sites in their defense because they don’t understand the difference between a company releasing five pages as a preview to a news site and some geek with a scanner offering up half a book on his own.
These two arguments — that the material is too expensive and low in quality and that also these scans increase sales — are coming out of the same mouths despite their obvious contradictory nature. In essence the SD crowd is attempting to threaten the comic companies with an ominous, “Terrible business you’ve got here. Wouldn’t be a shame if anything happened to it.”
The geeks are now trying to convince the comics companies that it’s in the companies’ best interests to let them do whatever they like because otherwise they’re alienating their fanbase and “being dicks”. This is similar to the arguments made for Napster a few years ago except in one major way: the music industry wasn’t the shambling, amateurish mess that the comics industry is. It’s not so easy to tell if the loss of Scans Daily patronage would affect the comics companies. After all, is a wino in an alleyway really much better off if the lice are removed from him?
Nevertheless, the geeks will continue to try to threaten the comics companies into letting them have the product for free, and in fact have already moved to a new site for doing so. They can continue scanning half of each new issue of Batman and then complaining that DC are a bunch of dickless morons because they won’t give Stephanie Brown a memorial case in the Batcave while all the time wondering why DC doesn’t thank them for doing so.
Does it make sense? Of course not, but geeks LOVE explaining to companies why giving stuff to them for free is excellent business!