Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

November 26, 2007

More on Marvel DC Team-Up Vs. Content Uploads +  Related Shenanigans

News began to seep out over the Thanksgiving weekend that Marvel and DC had attempted to dissuade two well-known actors in the chain of how people get free comics downloads: the site Z-Cult FM, and a prominent up-loader of comics to Usenet that goes by the handle "Oroboros." This article suggests that Oroboros decided he was done, and this post followed by this post suggests that Z-Cult FM took their torrent/download stuff down and then put it back up again after they decided a) they're overseas, and therefore the legal threat doesn't apply, b) Marvel and DC didn't ask nicely and c) the people that traffic their site demanded it.

This is one of those stories that is bigger than it initially seems, and not just because it's in the early stage of development. Take a nickel and scrape off the silver coating on just about any aspect of this story and you'll see a world of thoughts and ideas on a range of subjects: how content should be treated on the Internet, whether or not artistic creations should be treated the same as other forms of content, the notion that actions are justified because they're good for a company's bottom line no matter how that company feels about it, the PR quandary of looking like a giant and oppressive dickweed to a group of natural, potential customers when asserting rights of ownership, how much any of these beliefs are truly held and how many are simply convenient justifications for actions by which people profit in a number of ways, and so on.

I've always been pretty firm on one aspect of this. I think that individuals and companies assigned those rights by individuals should be allowed to control the stuff that they own, no matter if they're the best stewards or not, no matter if they're impolite, no matter if it inconveniences me. In fact, I see the respect for someone else's stewardship as an important extension of creators rights. While I'm sympathetic to the idea of circumvention on the basis of unfair, exploitative contracts, it doesn't change what that circumvention is, it doesn't change that most of it has its basis in entitlement and a desire for gratification rather than morality, and it doesn't change the fact that I've never read a hint of convincing explanation that justifies the vast majority of arguments for assuming control over the dissemination of someone else's property when it's technologically possible for one to do so. I think Chris Butcher agrees with me.

Here's a wrap-up of a related instance about some confusing back-and-forth between SLG's Dan Vado and Z-Cult FM, now apparently rectified to everyone's satisfaction.

Go here to read a really depressing interview with Marvel's Dan Buckley, in which 1) he declares creators will be compensated for their work on Marvel's new digital as soon as they make sure the site is profitable, which isn't the way that should work, and 2) allows for leeway as to what Marvel can be expected to put up on their DCU that seems to me to work directly against the kind of certainty in terms of expectation of return that are usually the linchpin of subscription models. It's not quite, "subscribe now; we'll figure out what you're going to get later and that might change if we decide it changes" -- but it's close.
posted 1:14 am PST | Permalink

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