MARK WAID WANTS YOU TO STEAL HIS COMICS.

No joke. One of comicdom’s most prolific, most respected, and most cutting edge creators spoke on his site praising folks who made his new digital comic, “Insufferable,” available for free via torrent. The book is a giveaway at his Thrillbent website, but Waid added: “My hand to God, even if we were charging for it, I’d still be happy because the exposure and promotion is worth more to me at this point than dollars and cents. But more than that…more than that…after having been hip-deep in the research for the past three years, I have seen zero conclusive evidence that, on the whole, “piracy” removes more money from the system than it adds to it.”

I can’t say that I’m in favor of filesharing, but I have to agree. Of all the music “stolen” via filesharing in the early 2000s, the most pirated music was also the music that sold the best. The music industry claimed it would have sold more but for the piracy, but that doesn’t ring true: If you recall, it was right before Napster that the music industry managed to repackage and resell all its vinyl and audiotape offerings as CDs. That resale boom/wave had already peaked, and sales were already on a downward slide when Napster came along. If anything, the music industry should be ashamed of itself for not getting ahead of the digital craze and repackaging its products once again to a digital market.

The same is true for motion pictures and television: The DVD wave crested and broke a few years after Napster, and it was right about then that we started to hear about how filesharing was killing those industries. Think about if instead of crying and suing (fruitlessly), the copyright owners had thought about creative ways to repackage digital material, with bonus features or voiceovers or any number of things you can do via the interwebs. Know why they didn’t?

Because creators don’t own most of the copyrights. Suits own the rights, creative types just get paid. And often not nearly enough.

And, frankly, I’m of the belief that most people download stuff they probably wouldn’t buy anyway. Sure, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, that’s true. Either they couldn’t afford it, couldn’t find it, or simply wouldn’t part with their money for the product they’ve downloaded. So these are viewers/readers who otherwise wouldn’t see the product. If marketers can figure out how to build advertising content into it, think of what they could do? A comic or movie might get 20 or 30 thousand more eyes on it. And they’re generally younger, hipper eyes—the exact target market for most advertisers. So that crashing noise you hear in the middle of the night might not be a thief: It might be opportunity knocking.

Another common argument is that only indies benefit from piracy, because nobody would read their books anyway. To that I say, balderdash. Again, the most pirated movies and music are always, consistently, the best-selling. Avengers sold over $1 billion in movie tickets, crushing all but two other movies in the history of the entire world. How can they say that piracy is hurting sales? Would they sell more but for piracy? Frankly, it’s hard to imagine how any movie ticket money has been left on the table there.

And guess what torrent trackers report is the most downloaded movie of the past few weeks? Go ahead, guess.

(Yes, it’s Avengers.)

Marvel Comics seems to be trying to figure out the digital comics game by adding AR content and special, internet-only features. Sketches. Script pages. The kind of stuff they used to stuff in the back of trade paperbacks. This is the way to go. Mark Waid seems to understand that.

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