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With Great Scanners Come Great Responsibility
February 28, 2009 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Scans_daily is was a LiveJournal community specializing in posting scans of comic books, both older and current ones. On Friday night, however, the community got suspended, allegedly because comics author Peter David complained that one of his books was posted to it (David denies this in the linked blog post.) Regulars at scans_daily are outraged that the community has been shut down, claiming that the ability for people to "try before they buy" encouraged readers to buy more comics. Other comics fans are not so kind and cite that, for better or worse, the community was knowingly violating copyright. The community has resurfaced and is at least discussing what changes should be made to avoid this "unpleasantness" in the future and make the community more "copyright friendly". We've seen these issues come up with movies, games, and music; now it's comic books' turn to try to figure out what to do about the internet and digital technology.
posted by Legomancer (49 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
suspended

LiveJournal is so junior high!
posted by Sys Rq at 1:57 PM on February 28, 2009


Well, to start with, Marvel and DC could work on doing a better job of keeping their back catalog in print, or, failing that, making the comics cheaply and conveniently available online. Next?
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:05 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Next?

The Big Two could try not being so awful and gimmicky.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 2:44 PM on February 28, 2009


now it's comic books' turn to try to figure out what to do about the internet and digital technology

If superhero comics teach us anything, it's that conflict can only be resolved through direct overwhelming force.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:54 PM on February 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


it's funny that a community attempting to self-regulate gets shut down, while unregulated pirates flourish.

is the lesson not to try?
posted by eustatic at 3:05 PM on February 28, 2009


...claiming that the ability for people to "try before they buy" encouraged readers to buy more comics.

Comics bought before scans_daily: 0.
Comics bought after scans_daily: at least 30.

scans_daily was awesome.
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:13 PM on February 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


What to do about the Internet and digital technology: if they're like any other media, I imagine there will be panic, lawyering up, threats, statistics manipulated, moral hazards cited, and so forth while they hunt for the Big Red Button marked "MAKE IT GO AWAY."

The good thing about comic books, though, is that they don't run stupid anti-piracy commercials when I put them in, especially in the slot reserved for FBI warnings, and they don't install rootkits on my OS when I look at them, unless you want to count the way I can't stop thinking in little yellow boxes.

Time for yet another front in the endless battle between greedy, soulless corporations scrambling for new ways to shaft the consumer, and cheapskate consumers scrambling for new ways not to pay one red cent for anything, with a strange third front of libertarian-leaning technological mercenaries who will tell everyone the content should be free, and we just have to come up with a business model that makes relying on T-shirts and autographed posters profitable.

I just hope one of the points in the potential solution set doesn't look like a wasteland where big media decides to produce nothing worth pirating while consumers develop a taste for disposable swill.
posted by adipocere at 3:20 PM on February 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Regulars at scans_daily are outraged that the community has been shut down, claiming that the ability for people to "try before they buy" encouraged readers to buy more comics.
I've never really understood this (common) attitude.

I mean, I can understand thinking that the ability to try before buying will lead to more sales.

And I can understand thinking that the artists would therefore be wise to allow people to try before they buy.

And I can certainly understand being disappointed when it turns out that some particular artist doesn't want to let you do so.

But "outraged"? Huh? I don't get it. Seems to presuppose the idea that the artist should be required to idly sit back while his stuff gets distributed without restriction to people who don't pay him for it. And I just don't understand why he or she should be required to do this, regardless of whether or not it would be wise for them to do so.
posted by Flunkie at 3:23 PM on February 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Scans_daily is one of the strangest sites I've seen in some time. I have no idea how these people got their comics wedged into their scanners, or why.
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:56 PM on February 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Speaking as someone who will happily "steal" any kind of media that I can via the internet, I'm always astounded at the ire espoused by pirates or those who access pirated materials when their system is interfered with by legitimate copyright holders. It doesn't matter if the "try before you buy" system increases or decreases sales, it's still the copyright holder's choice whether to offer that opportunity to consumers.

Peter David is a great guy, and I've had occasion over the years to have dozens of conversations with him, via e-mail. I've read and enjoyed dozens, if not hundreds, of his novels and comics, and I've probably paid for 1/2 (or less) of everything I've read. But just because I'd rather steal his stuff than pay for it doesn't mean I don't think he has the right to protect himself from that.
posted by chudmonkey at 4:10 PM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Understand, scans_daily was never used to post entire works - there were strict rules on how large a sample of any given issue could be included. (The actual Pirate Bay analogue would be the long-defunct fullscans_daily, which was yanked for service violations years ago, to a resounding chorus of shrugs.) If livejournal hadn't punked, this would have been more of a limits-of-fair-use case, more Google Books suit than Napster.
posted by ormondsacker at 4:11 PM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


now it's comic books' turn to try to figure out what to do about the internet and digital technology.

Why, is it a new technology?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:30 PM on February 28, 2009


Flunkie, if that attitude amazes you, don't ever visit TechDirt. Aside from hating red light and surveillance cameras (an attitude which I can share), it's a blog more or less devoted to the "We're Geeks and We Know Better Than the Artists; We're Doing Them a Favor by Distributing Their Stuff and They Are Completely Ungrateful About It!" mindset.
posted by adipocere at 4:38 PM on February 28, 2009


I was never a regular reader of scans_daily, but I did follow the occasional link there to obscure and weirdass comics. I'm sad it's gone.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:53 PM on February 28, 2009


Shrug. Any number of Rapidshare/Mediafire search engines will let you find every comic published every week and you can download the whole shebang.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 5:17 PM on February 28, 2009


That's not really the point of s_d, ten pounds of inedita.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:29 PM on February 28, 2009


Yeah. Piss off your readers/audience, ask the music business how that's going.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 5:52 PM on February 28, 2009


Dear god, where will I go now to see people write "Squee" every other goddamn sentence?
posted by ice_cream_motor at 7:07 PM on February 28, 2009


Results for livejournal communities interested in "squee"
291 matches
posted by ormondsacker at 7:34 PM on February 28, 2009


If they're against 'try before buying,' they should seal comics* in plastic before shipping them to stores.

Potential customers can't flip through comics at the store? They're probably not going to buy 'em.

Lots of people (in small towns, in foreign countries) don't have access to comic book stores to browse through the comic books on display.

The internet (and resources like Scans_daily) opens up the market to these potential customers.

People who download comics and never buy them would be the same as people who go to comic book stores and read their comics fix and would buy them anyway.

I've spent far far more money than I really could afford (I'm a impecunious grad student) buying trade collections of comics that I enjoy which I found out through black digital sources, which I would never have if I hadn't been party to licensing violation.

---

I wonder how true this is:

Highly popular series: slightly decreased sales
Moderately popular series: increased sales as a wider audience realizes the value of the series
Mildly popular series: increased sales as increased 'cult' audience gets exposed and likes
Unpopular series: decreased sales as people who would buy figure out that it's crap before spending money on it

*graphic novels
posted by porpoise at 7:43 PM on February 28, 2009


Despite being once a fairly strong proponent of the 'scans let you try before you buy' - hell, I just linked back to some scans_daily entries in the recent Doom Patrol FPP - I'm becoming less and less comfortable with consuming without compensating. I'm not advocating a scorched earth policy against scanners, but it's hard to be sympathize with a bunch of entitled folks crying foul when they knew they were, at best, toeing the line of fair use.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:50 PM on February 28, 2009


adipocere: "unless you want to count the way I can't stop thinking in little yellow boxes"

I missed you, little yellow boxes!

S_D got me into Doom Patrol (itself the subject of an FPP) and supplied ample Superdictionary scans. For that:

.
posted by subbes at 7:52 PM on February 28, 2009


Aw, I'll miss that mad community.

The obligatory comic: "You Have To Get Out Of Here! YOUR VAGINA IS HAUNTED!"

.

posted by Pronoiac at 8:14 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember a time when a comic book would cost a dollar and take me a good 20 to 30 minutes to read. Sometime in the last decade, I realized was spending three dollars to be entertained for about five minutes. This would be the equivalent of spending 90 dollars to enjoy a two hour movie. That's when I really got out of comic book collecting.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 8:14 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's not really the point of s_d, ten pounds of inedita.

My point is that s_d never really had a point. It was like a YouTube where you could only view the first few seconds of a video, and only a select few videos.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 8:19 PM on February 28, 2009


If they're against 'try before buying,' they should seal comics* in plastic before shipping them to stores.
Eh. That doesn't really seem to be a useful analogy; frankly, it seems flawed at best and sophistry at worst.

People don't routinely walk out of comic book stores taking comics with them without paying for them, claiming to themselves and to anyone who looks slightly askance at them that they'll come back and pay if they wind up liking them.
posted by Flunkie at 8:33 PM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


...unless they have a library card.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:38 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


porpoise,

But you're just making the same point that others are attacking: it doesn't matter whether allowing people to see a comic before buying it boosts sales. Maybe it's the most brilliant move a comic company could make, maybe not, but it's not your decision to force them to do so. If they didn't do it themselves or tell you to do it, it makes no sense for you to declare that it's such a good idea that you'll do it for them.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:18 PM on February 28, 2009


Well, there's at least one comics shop owner, presumably making a living off selling comics to folks, who's going to miss scans_daily-- Randy Lander, of Rogues' Gallery Comics and Games in Texas.

I think he's right, honestly-- if you get a sufficiently passionate crowd sharing excerpts from their favorite books, you get more people to consider walking into a shop and picking them up, or ordering the TPBs from Khepri, or doing something to keep the comics market going. Are you going to get everyone? 'Course not, especially not with the existence of the DCP packs and other torrents of full issues.

On the other hand, I doubt I'm the only person who's ever torrented enough of a full-series scan pack to get started and then picked up the single issues from then on out, or the last couple TPBs and then the singles. I'll pick it up and lay my money down if something looks good-- and if I drop it, it's because the plot sucks, not because I can just get it from Pirate Bay and don't see the point of paying the creators, publishers, and distributors.

Make good comics, and I think people will still come and buy. (Anyone else eagerly awaiting that new Rocketeer collection from IDW? I heart me some Laura Martin coloring jobs.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:28 PM on February 28, 2009


I heart me some Laura Martin coloring jobs.

The former Laura Dupuy? Geez, I totally forgot about her.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:39 PM on February 28, 2009


Comic books are hot enough to pirate? COOL!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:13 PM on February 28, 2009


scans_daily is dead. Long live daily_scans! The community is up and running again in ~48 hours.

What's been lost is the archive. For example, s_d introduced me to the Suicide Squad, a series from the 80's. The premise was that a secret government agency offers D-list supervillains early parole in exchange for carrying out a few missions -- maybe sneak into the Soviet Union to hook up with a defector, maybe try to stop Darkseid. Plans usually went wrong. Every now and then half the team would get wiped out, and D-list villains don't come back from the dead a year later. There are very few superhero comics that have put as much thought into characterization -- this was Watchmen grade material. It's never been reprinted, so now you'll have to take my word for it.


Outrage:

The commentators upthread have missed out on who s_d readers are mad at. Let's set aside the irrational hate some people have aimed at Peter David, because the proper locus for outrage is LiveJournal:

LiveJournal and its designates shall have the right, but not the obligation, to remove any content that violates the TOS or is otherwise objectionable, or that infringes or is alleged to infringe intellectual property rights.

s_d is in a legal gray area. Posting excerpts is fair use, but how long can the excerpts be before excerpting constitutes infringement? LiveJournal knows, apparently. People get outraged when they see punishments being inflicted without possibility of appeal and without warning.

Right, LiveJournal owns their servers, but at some point we're going to need legislation for webhosting analogous to renter's rights.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:05 PM on February 28, 2009


Seems to presuppose the idea that the artist should be required to idly sit back while his stuff gets distributed without restriction to people who don't pay him for it. And I just don't understand why he or she should be required to do this, regardless of whether or not it would be wise for them to do so.

It seems to me its a generational sense of entitlement. Try it before you buy it huh? I tried that with frozen pizza, they kicked me outta the store. For further information, see Louis CK.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:10 PM on February 28, 2009


Try it before you buy it huh? I tried that with frozen pizza, they kicked me outta the store.

Are there pizza libraries?
posted by stammer at 11:35 PM on February 28, 2009


Can you pass used pizza on to your friends? Well, I suppose you can, but they probably won't like it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:34 AM on March 1, 2009


Before randomly stumbling upon s_d I never even considered that I would want to read modern comics; the last one I read before my twenties was probably about Care Bears. scans_daily is the reason I've given any money at all to comics publishers, because even though they put out a lot (and I mean a lot) of crap, they also publish people like Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis, whose work I might never have encountered at all without people posting excerpts and enthusing that if you think this is cool, just wait until you read the rest of it!

<3
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:38 AM on March 1, 2009


There are some good comments in that Peter David thread, including pretty clear evidence that PD seems to have had no idea of the richness of the community there. Check his comment in response to "I think most of the posters are upset about the loss of the community, not the scans themselves":

How was the community lost? If you have a tornado come through and reduce a town to splinters and the survivors scatter all over the map, then a community has been lost. Here a section of Live Journal was shut down due to copyright infringement. The individuals are still hale and whole and will, I suspect, have a new talking area set up within a week. And if they go back to doing what is my understanding that their original content was, they'll go about their business unharmed.

*whoosh* Talk about a complete lack of understanding of how online communities work. It's also worth noting that according to Booster Beetle, a Scans Daily regular, "the site has been doing the same thing for five years, with numerous industry insiders operating in the 'know' and even being members." It's ridiculous to claim folks at Marvel and DC didn't know about and tolerate the site, even as it posted extensive scans - the rule was "no more than half a comic," right?

Which makes PD's argument that he wasn't involved at all in the shutdown look like a ridiculous overreach, if not deliberate obfuscation:

I hadn't actually read any of the comments prior to informing Marvel of flagrant copyright violation. I clicked on the link from CBR, I saw a posting of scans that was far in excess of anything resembling fair use, and I informed the copyright holder...which ultimately had no impact since Photo Bucket had already taken the material down for copyright violation.

Again, Marvel was aware of Scans Daily before now; it seems perfectly possible that Peter David's sudden discovery of the site and "Are you aware this is happening?" to Marvel was the catalyst to get them to contact LiveJournal. But PD's next step, to claim his complaint "ultimately had no impact" is just crazy logic:

Did Marvel then shut them down? No. Because before Marvel legal had an opportunity to do anything, the scans had already been removed for being a violation of terms of service of Photobucket, the site that enabled the posters to put up pictures on line.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that Marvel then didn't decide to change its policy towards Scans Daily at LiveJournal based at least in part on PD's complaint. Not saying it happened that way, just pointing out that PD's claim that it *couldn't* have happened that way makes no sense, and is possibly deliberate obfuscation.

Anway, good stuff in that thread there.
posted by mediareport at 8:34 AM on March 1, 2009


Eh. Again, there seems to be a fundamental and significant difference between a library and something that lets an unlimited number of people immediately get their own copy with no wait and keep that copy indefinitely. Again, it just seems at best flawed to equate the two.

And incidentally, no, I am not aware of any frozen pizza libraries. I am, however, also not aware of any comic book libraries.
posted by Flunkie at 8:53 AM on March 1, 2009


I am, however, also not aware of any comic book libraries.

The Schulz Library at the Center for Cartoon Studies.
posted by 235w103 at 9:59 AM on March 1, 2009


I am, however, also not aware of any comic book libraries.

Comic books, as in Superman, maybe not so much. Graphic novels? Manga? Hells yes.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:43 AM on March 1, 2009


I am, however, also not aware of any comic book libraries.

Try regular libraries. My local library has an incredible selection of graphic novels and trade paperbacks, with still more available through inter-library loan.
posted by Legomancer at 11:04 AM on March 1, 2009


I loved scans_daily, even though I regularly got into arguments with some of the commenters. Not only did I get to see comics that my local comics shop either didn't stock or sold out of--they're kind of a marginal operation and can't afford to have a lot of unsold issues--which I would then seek out, they were also good about posting scans of old comics that will never be collected (the recent series of stories from Creepy were just wonderful). Even though there were some pretty negative posts and posters, the vast majority of community members were complimentary and appreciative.

And then comes Peter David, who, no matter whether you've had a nice personal relationship with him or not, comes off as someone who regularly alienates others without really understanding why. Some of his works I've certainly admired, others not so much, but without scans_daily to be able to preview books, I doubt that I'll be spending any of the fairly short time that I have between the crosstown drive to my LCS after work on a Wednesday night and its closing time on perusing his latest comics.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:51 PM on March 1, 2009


LiveJournal knows, apparently.

Regarding the ire towards LiveJournal, there's also a lot of history that people who aren't active users might not be aware of.

Most relevant is that LiveJournal is perceived, within fandom, of being prone to suspending people without warning for policy violations when policy isn't clear. For example, a bunch of users were suspended for listing interests like "incest," although for years that had been allowed; LiveJournal suddenly decided that listing something as an interest meant that you were promoting it, without informing users.

The decision was reversed after a major brouhaha, but it seriously damaged LiveJournal's credibility.

At around the same time, some prominent members of fandom and fandom communities were suspended for fictional portrayals of minors having sex. This was after LiveJournal staff implied that as long as it was legal, it was okay. This sparked a lot of controversy; LiveJournal never did clarify what violated the ToS and what didn't, despite multiple requests, and its credibility was damaged again.

Most people are probably shrugging right now, because LiveJournal does have the right to decide what's on its servers, but community involvement in the actual running of LiveJournal has always been very high. Originally, it billed itself as a community-run effort, and all of this has coincided with users' increasing feelings of alienation due to it being sold to companies less interested in the open-source, community-run aspect and more in profit.

So, fans are reacting to this not just as an individual incident, but as part of a larger pattern.

Many probably expected that scans_daily would be given a warning and a chance to modify their rules so they didn't break the ToS, but instead the entire community was suspended, regardless of the fact that many of its posts weren't infringing or, at least, had content that belonged to different rights holders who didn't care that it was infringing because they liked the discussion and the increased business. People in the comic industry sometimes commented there, and not to go, "you losers, take my stuff down!"
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:41 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Warren Ellis regularly commented in the community, and I believe even authored a post.
posted by WCityMike at 7:44 PM on March 1, 2009


The mod schmevil has mentioned a early February backup, which covers posts but not comments.

Warren Ellis posted about American Flagg, though I can't link it.
posted by Pronoiac at 8:14 PM on March 1, 2009


There are web sites that do something similar with fashion magazine editorial spreads.
posted by jfrancis at 8:57 AM on March 2, 2009


I'm really sorry S_D is gone. I lurked there many's the time, and as many others have pointed out, was exposed to comics I wouldn't otherwise have come across. A good many trades in my bookcase are directly thanks to S_D.
posted by LN at 10:58 AM on March 2, 2009


F-U-C-K Livejournal. That coming from someone who has been on it for nearly 10 years now, almost from the beginning.

They keep alienating and becoming increasingly hostile their degenerate userbase will only lead to its slow decline and eventual 'Friendster'-ization. They really never kept pace with its aging population of users to keep it as a platform they would take with them past their teens.


There are web sites that do something similar with fashion magazine editorial spreads.

Actually there's a community that does that too, I wonder how much longer other communities like it will last:
http://community.livejournal.com/foto_decadent/
posted by wcfields at 11:03 AM on March 2, 2009


On the subject of comic "libraries" there is an absolutely awesome International Museum of Manga in Kyoto where you can either pay for a day and check out as much as you like or buy a year membership and come and go as you please reading all the manga you like whenever you have spare time. I wish there was an American version.

Their English language section is bleak though. But three or four floors worth of Manga and some fun exhibits. If you're ever in Kyoto it is absolutely worth it.

Also, Livejournal is well known for being ban happy. Anyone who hosts anything of any worth via LJ deserves what they get.
posted by davros42 at 4:32 PM on March 2, 2009


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