Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stardoll 1: Secrets & Dreams

Hello, Dolly!

The first ever Stardoll graphic novel is on sale today.  Available physically and electronically.

If you don’t know, Stardoll is, according to their website: “The world’s largest online fashion and dress up games community for girls!”  It has 200 million users worldwide.  It’s “paperdoll heaven.”

Even I knew that, and I’m decades older and the opposite sex from their target audience, which is “…girls who love fashion, making friends, shopping, decorating and being creative.”  Hmm.  Reminds me of a certain Blog Elf I know.

And if you’re wondering, no, I did not sign up.  I do not have my own “MeDoll.”  If I did, my lack of fashion sense would probably get me thrown offline.  

The GN, entitled “Secrets and Dreams,” features five amazing high school girls with style, grand dreams and a passion for fashion—each of whom has a closely guarded, shocking secret.  Here’s a hint: one of them is a Were-fox.  It isn’t all about trips to the mall.  It’s dramatic and funny and full of intrigue with stylish outfits, to-die-for shoes and carefully coordinated accessories.     

“Secrets and Dreams” was written, drawn and everything-elsed by JayJay Jackson, who is a Renaissance woman if ever there was one.  I kibitzed a little.

I read it today.  It’s a fun ride.  If I had a daughter of appropriate age I would buy a copy for her.  I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it.

So, please have a look at the first graphic novel by our own star doll, JayJay.  Blog Elf.  Renaissance woman.  Stealth girly-girl.

P.S.  Sorry I haven’t been blogging for a while.  Life sometimes interferes with your plans.  I’ll be back, for whatever that’s worth, when I can.

Be well.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays


To anyone reading this and all ships at sea,

Merry Christmas or happy whichever holiday(s) may apply.

Thanks for the mostly kind attention and support you graciously gave me back when I had time to blog.  And, thank you to the justifiably cranky folks who chimed in when the occasion called for it.  Blogging was fun and I'll do it again someday if I can ever get my ducks lined up.

The Year of Storms is almost over.  May next year bring comfort and joy for all.

Whatever your conception of the gestalt of existence, I mean this sincerely, to each in his or her own way: God bless us every one.

Be well,

Jim Shooter


PS.  JayJay here. I'd like to add my holiday wishes to you all and thank you very much for everything!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Inkwell Awards Voting

JayJay here. I just wanted to let everyone know the Inkwell Awards annual ballot is live and voting is in effect now! From May 1 - May 15 at http://www.inkwellawards.com


Vote for your favorite inkers and vote for two of the industries most outstanding talents to win the Joe Sinnott lifetime achievement award!



Friday, March 30, 2012

The Dramatic Conclusion of the New Business Model Rant

First This

Cory Doctorow sent me a couple of nice e-mails recently. He said he liked the last three posts, which discussed issues he raised about copyright, DRM and SOPA.

You probably noticed from the dates on Cory’s articles and essays I cited (if you followed the links) that some were written a while ago. Cory said that he’s currently working on an updated, comprehensive book on the “big, synthesized whole” of intellectual property in the digital age. He sent me a sneak peek at the work in progress and gloriosky, it’s great. It’s not just for people in the biz or those fascinated by legal issues. Draconian digital copyright protection measures currently in use or being contemplated can affect ordinary, innocuous communications and be used in nefarious—make that really evil ways—that never occurred to me. Some of the things Cory brings to light are deeply disturbing.

Can’t wait to see the final product. When it’s published, I’ll give you a heads up.

I provided links to some of Cory’s work, but I forgot this:

THE TOMORROW PROJECT ANTHOLOGY


The Tomorrow Project is an Intel Corporation initiative run by super-smart Futurist Brian David Johnson. (His whole title, by the way, is Futurist - Principal Engineer and Director, Future Casting, Interactions and Experience Research.  It’s better than being Lord High Plenipotentiary of Tunis.) The project is all about getting imaginative types to envision the future and create a vision of same. The book linked to above contains one of Cory’s visions, “Knights of the Rainbow Table.”

I’m working on a contribution to the Tomorrow Project, too. Brian picked me to do their first comics offering. Go figure. More on that later.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that Cory, Brian and I, along with SyFy Channel exec Craig Engler did a panel discussion about the future at the 2011 New York Comic-Con, video of which can be seen here:

http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/10/nycc-panel-screen-future-gaming-comics.html

Thanks, Cory, thanks Brian, thanks Intel, and thank you all for your kind attention.


Regarding My Modest Proposal 

I need to clarify and emphasize a few things….

In my modest proposal for a new business model for comic book publishing, I talked about the current, totally unfair Work-Made-for-Hire practices standard at the majors in the biz. I said:
Here’s a big key: COMPANY OWNED, W4H AND THEREFORE “UNIVERSE” TITLES MUST ALL BE CREATED BY EMPLOYEES ON STAFF. SHARED UNIVERSE WORK INHERENTLY MUST BE CREATED BY AN “ORCHESTRA” OF CREATORS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF A “CONDUCTOR,” OR EDITOR (WHO IS A WORLD-CLASS VISIONARY).
MAKE ANYONE WHO WORKS ON YOUR UNIVERSE TITLES A WELL-PAID, SALARIED EMPLOYEE WITH BENEFITS AND PERKS WHO WORKS ON YOUR PREMISES.
And, by the way, these employees MUST BE GIVEN COMPELLING INCENTIVES TO CREATE, AND REAL PARTICIPATIONS IN THE SUCCESS OF THEIR WORKS.
Ahem. That solves the Gerber, Kirby, Friedrich-type lawsuit problem. 
In my fantasy, the law would be changed to make it so for everyone.
Several people misunderstood. David said:
“By I would agree with commenters who wish you could have let go of one more geek millstone, the shared universe.”
I replied:
You misunderstand, though I didn't explain my point well. My point was about WORK MADE FOR HIRE. That is, if there is going to be a company universe, or for that matter, company owned characters, then they ought to be made under true staff employee conditions, not the current, nebulous, totally unfair deal under which freelancers sign a paper agreeing that for the purpose of copyright they will be treated as employees, but in no other way have the rights and benefits employees have (unemployment insurance, workman's comp, etc. plus whatever the company offers). A shared universe might or might not be part of the new business model. It isn't necessary at all, though I suspect Marvel and DC would want to keep theirs in some form.  
Craig said:
RE: ""Publish all non-Universe work under normal publishing industry terms. Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors."
Hmmm.
Let's see.
I think modern Marvel (and even DC) kind of do this already.
e.g., "Superstar" creators like Brian Michael Bendis can do whatever they want, get the majority of the promotional efforts of the company, etc.

And newbies, if they are even let in the door at all anymore, as shuffled off to titles on the verge of dying, backup features, etc.

So... how would your proposal be different than the current "Marvel only hires Axel Alonso's Hollywood friends and insiders" dynamic... at all?"

And newbies, if they are even let in the door at all anymore, as shuffled off to titles on the verge of dying, backup features, etc.
So... how would your proposal be different than the current "Marvel only hires Axel Alonso's Hollywood friends and insiders" dynamic... at all?" 
I replied:
You missed the point entirely, though I didn't explain it well enough. My proposal suggests that company-owned properties be created by employees, on staff, on premises. As I said, no prima donnas need apply. Bendis and Johns wouldn't make the cut. Only the best of the best would qualify. I would think that it would be rare that a newbie would be good enough. Just as Disney and Pixar artists and writers work (on staff, on premises) under the direction of creative supervisors, the comics W4H/staff people would. When Disney's creative supervisor was Walt, and he had tremendous talents like Ub Iwerks on staff, amazing things were created, and that would be what one would hope for. Since lesser lights have become creative honchos at Disney, well, few truly great things have been done. If the company wants to own outright some creative work, then it would behoove them to hire a reallyreally good, visionary supervisor and reallyreally good artists and writers who, like great creators in other commercial fields (advertising, TV, animation, etc.) do the job required with rare excellence.

For non-W4H works, "Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors." That is, if the company was to publish something by someone of the stature of the late Jean Giraud (which he would own, as Grisham owns his works) that creator would be at the top of the royalties scale and receive star-type promo, perks and support. If the company was to publish a new creator's work, they'd be at the bottom of the scale. "Mid-list" creators, as Cory says he is, would be in the middle. Clear? 

A few didn’t grasp the scope of my proposal.  Jim Baird said:
I think you are mostly right, Jim, with one exception. I don't think what you propose can be led by a large investor. Crossgen tried something very similar to what you propose. I don't understand all of the issues that caused Crossgen's collapse, but maybe it was just too soon. I just don't think there is enough money available to buy enough interest to ever make something like that profitable.
My reply: Sorry, CrossGen didn’t try anything like what I am proposing. CrossGen was a weakly capitalized small fry. The creative work they produced was as hit and miss—mostly miss—as is the norm in this industry and it certainly wasn’t anywhere near the quality and level of accessibility that I’m talking about. Merely having a roomful of the usual suspects working together accomplishes nothing. It would absolutely take a “large investor” to accomplish the new business model I suggest. You’re thinking way too small and way too old-school, same-old-same-old if you cite CrossGen. The deal is this—revolutionize and rebuild this industry in sweeping, dramatic fashion, including distribution, or forget it. I think it would take a huge investment, insightful business minds and a lot of great talent to pull it off. And, as I said, it’s unlikely to happen. 

Jim Baird continued:
I think that what you are saying can work with a small enthusiastic group working together at first. It has to build readership, then add creators. The audience needs to grow organically, based on actual story interest. Expansion needs to match demand to avoid the financial pressures of expanding too slowly or too quickly and I think that will only happen if there is a very non-human low capital investment. The creators have to have direct, but group ownership. It has to be a labor of love. The principals have to believe in eventual success and devoted enough to give success a reasonable chance, but it cannot realistically be their only source of income. Web publishing is probably the way to go. I don't believe there are currently any web-based shared universes. A group can publish far more regularly than a single creator or creator team and that makes a print version of a shared universe anthology possible very quickly. After you have a product ready to sell, pre-order may be able to finance the initial print run.
I could not disagree more vehemently. Who would be in this enthusiastic group of people with day jobs? Any writers who realistically could choose to work in TV, film or as successful novelists? Any artists who could realistically choose instead to be a film designer like Doug Chiang, a world-class illustrator or commercial artist? If comics cannot compete for top creative talent, we cannot compete against other entertainment.

What if Alex Ross was a middle-of-the-pack guy? What if Jean Giraud-level creators were the norm?  What if Mark Waid was happy to work in the office writing Work-Made-for-Hire stories for company-owned characters under the direction of a visionary creative leader on a par with Spielberg—because it paid so damn well? And the job had such good bennies.

It takes a great deal of money to attract the best. No one would entrust that much money to a half-assed organization. It’s going to take a big player and a solid organization. And enlightened. Again, that makes it unlikely. Especially the enlightened part.

Ahem.

Then, diogensclub said:
Jim, I have to disagree with you on at least one point : Universe titles.
Universe titles are not the way to go.
You can’t enter the markter trying to create a new universe. It’s been tried, again and again … with poor results.

Marvel and DC universes were not created as universes but as independent series …
The future lies with independant series and, eventually, for the most successfulls, one spin-off … Imaginary Universes are an exception, proceeding only from the trop of the crop.. 
The way to go, IMHO, is to create independent series. 
One thing you don’t address here is the format and periodicity. 
Should we keep floppies or should we do OGNs (one-shots, limited series, ongoing), published one or twice a year, beautiful books to bestow on people as birthday of Christmas gifts. 
You may want to have a look at the french market when thinking about the future.
In that market, we had it all : independent series with top notch talent. 
Now, overproduction begins to become a problem, with spin-offs, low quality books, series with different artists to keep an accelarated schedule, …
I replied:
You misunderstand me, though I see why. Poor wording. I have since clarified the point a little. What I was referring to by "universe titles" were work-made-for-hire/company owned titles. It doesn't matter whether they're in a universe or not, and I don't necessarily recommend launching a universe as part of a new business model company. But, what if Marvel or DC took my advice? They already have universes, and I assume they'd want to keep at least part of them. The real issue I was talking about, again, is W4H.
To that, I will add that I wasn’t proposing a publishing plan or a business plan, so format, periodicity and all that were not at issue. If someone ever undertakes a plan such as I propose, those things will have to be considered.

Craig made a number of observations, to which I replied:
Craig:  RE: "The one (of my points) that I think is least tenable, however, is the centralized office where all "common universe titles" are created.

To succeed in the coming digital era of comics, cutting unwieldy overhead will be a primary concern. If a company had to house offices not only for administrative and editorial staff, but creative types as well, the offices such as Marvel and DC currently own or rent would need to be... much larger."


Me:  The creative people need not be in New York office space. Cheap space is available not far away. Also, there might be several "bullpen" locations -- in the L.A., Chicago, Seattle areas, wherever. Part of my point, albeit laid between the lines, is that it should be expensive for the companies to have W4H done. The companies, in my view, have it both ways now. They use freelance talent, to whom they give few benefits, but they own everything just as if they were providing the benefits of full employment. Make them provide all materials, all necessities including footing the electric bill and other housekeeping expenses, make them provide benefits consistent with management types and then, fine, it's W4H, no problem. Incentives for successful work would be good, too.

Craig:  RE: "Also, such a requirement would almost necessitate that some of the "best, world-class" creators you talk about would be unavailable to those "common universe" titles. 
Like it or not, the trend in business in general, and in creative fields especially, has been a shift toward home offices, and work-from-home environments. 
Can you imagine telling Stephen King, for example, "Hey, we'd love you to do a 12-issue run on MAN-THING or GHOST RIDER, but it's an in-house title. Do you mind moving from Bangor to New York?Otherwise, pitch us something else."

Me:  The best, world-class creators are already unavailable for W4H work. I don't care what the trend is, making W4H on staff, on premises only draws a distinct line. Stephen King or anyone of that stature and position would refuse to move, yes. Exactly. That's the point. He'd also refuse to do W4H for a Ghost Rider series. However, he could write such a series in the comfort of his own office under non-W4H terms, if Marvel would be inclined to give him an independent contractor deal worth his while.

Craig:  RE: " How many people outside of comics would agree that Roger S! Stern was a "world-class" writer who deserved attention comparable to J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, James Patterson and William Goldman? 
Me:  Who said anything about Roger Stern? He might not make the cut. I might not make the cut. Sal Buscema wouldn't make it for sure, not even when he was in his prime. Most comic book "names" wouldn't make the cut. Some, because they couldn't do what was required, some because their egos wouldn't let them.

Craig:  RE: "...it just seems that your vision of huge offices (and thus huge overhead) might not gel with current trends in business and work environments. 
Or the preferred working style of the truly "world-class" content creators." 
Me:  You said huge offices and huge overhead, I didn't. The cost of W4H should be high, and the benefits and security would have to be good enough so that it was a legitimate alternative to doing your own thing. All I'm saying is that if a company wants to be the "author" of your work, that is, treat you like an employee for purposes of ownership, they ought to treat you like an employee period. Being on company premises deals with the issues of the artist having to provide any resources and working independently, both of which muddy W4H. Ideally, the requirement I propose would lead to LESS W4H. and what there is of it being created by people who have reallyreally good jobs -- good enough to choose the security of such over the risks and struggles of independent creative work.  
Craig:  RE: "Can anyone imagine telling J.J. Abrams, "Hey, we'd love to have you write an X-Men arc... but you need to be in the Marvel Bullpen in New York 9-5, five days a week, and forget about FRINGE, PERSON OF INTEREST, ALCATRAZ and all that Hollywood stuff, if you're gonna work on X-MEN." 
And without folks like that, working on the "common universe" titles, the "world class" banner might not take hold." 
Me:  J.J Abrams may have better things to do. However, if the companies pay enough, some amazingly talented people can be attracted. Disney never seemed to have trouble finding good people to work on their premises. Other creative organizations have done so too. Can be done. So many creators would give their non-drawing arm for an opportunity like that, and perhaps the chance to become known and become a J.J. Abrams someday. Miller did it. 
There are many, many people now doing W4H in their own homes or offices, on crummy terms. There are zillions more who would love to step into their shoes! The streets of L.A. and New York are awash with wannabes. Some of them are oughta-be's and some of them are will-be's. No reason we couldn't put together a brilliant staff.

Craig:  RE: " Tough questions." 
Me:  Nah. Not at all.


Big Guns You Can’t Aim

In my proposed new business model rant I said:

“…the Capitalist Enablers must hire brilliant, progressive, insightful business people as well as creative leaders who are visionary. Who are the greatest creative visionaries of our time? Spielberg? Cameron? Creative leaders who belongs in that company. Oh, by the way, no current Big Two creative honchos need apply.

“The visionary creative leaders must see to it that world-class entertainment is created.

“That means bringing in a lot of new, truly great talent, re-training some of the current crop and saying good-bye to many—including a lot of those who are “stars” currently. Stay objective now—they’re stars only to us geeks. They get away with self-indulgent crap because some of us tolerate it, and yes, some of us like it. They are emboldened to do so because they’re playing to people predisposed to love the stuff no matter what, just like local, amateur theater actors hamming it up in front of a house full of friends and family.”  

I must emphasize the above.

The comic book biz is full of Big Guns You Can’t Aim. 

I’ll name names.

Mike Kaluta. I love Mike Kaluta. Great guy. Brilliant, amazing, world-class artist. One time, back in my Marvel days, we needed a special cover for something—one of Larry Hama’s books, I think. Mike was available. We gave him the assignment, carefully explained what we wanted. Mike agreed. Man, we could just picture the cover image we’d all agreed upon drawn by amazing Mike. When he brought the finished cover in, however, it was nothing like what we had proposed and he had agreed to execute.  Completely different. Brilliantly drawn, yes, but way off-spec and not nearly as effective as what was intended.

So, what do you do? Demand that it be done over (royally pissing him off)? Pay Mike a kill fee and get someone else who will do what you want? Assuming no other geniuses are available on short notice, the someone else would almost certainly a lesser light than amazing Mike. And his off spec cover is, after all, not terrible. Not bad at all. A superb illustration, however off-target. Use it and you have the advantage of his name on the solicitation…. Sigh. 

Bill Sienkiewicz. I love Bill. Great guy. Brilliant, amazing, world-class artist. One time, back in my Marvel days, we needed a New Mutants poster. Bill was the obvious choice. We described to him what we wanted, a classic group shot, the definitive, iconic image of the New Mutants. Man, we could just picture the poster image we’d all agreed upon painted by the amazing Bill. When he brought the finished painting in, however, it was nothing like what we had proposed and he had agreed to execute. Completely different. Brilliantly painted, yes. Actually, it was a collage.  It had some radio parts glued onto it. Not what we had intended.
Publisher Mike Hobson’s reaction was “I’d love to have this hanging in my office, but it isn’t what we commissioned.”

Still a pretty good poster, though. We went with it. Sigh.


(JayJay here. An aside. When I was working as the art director of advertising for Marvel my first choice to do promotional paintings was Bill. I'm a huge fan of his work and I'm awed all over again every time I see something new of his. I love the way his work feels unconstrained and wild, but is executed with an incredibly high level of skill. Truthfully, I didn't think I could get him to do the paintings for our department, but he agreed. I was ecstatic. Bill painted the Spider-Man wedding poster and when he brought it in, it was the most beautiful, creative thing I'd seen. It's still one of my favorite posters of all time. When we needed a poster for the New Universe, of course I asked Bill. I lucked out again, he agreed to paint it, too. Bill came in to meet with Jim and I and he worked up a rough sketch on the spot. Late one evening or maybe over the weekend, I only remember I was alone, I got a call from Bill and he sounded upset. He said he had decided to change the layout, had started the painting, that Jim was going to hate it and he didn't want to do the job. As I struggled to hide the heart attack I thought I was having, I asked him to describe the changes, reassured him that it would be fine and said I was sure Jim would love it. I was pretty sure. I mean, it's Bill. A couple of days later, when my fingernails were almost bitten down the bone, Bill brought in the painting. When I saw it, I couldn't even remember the sketch. It was incredible. Exciting. It made me want to know who these characters were. And Jim loved it. Who wouldn't?


Now, back to Jim...)

Walt Simonson. I love Walt. Great guy. Brilliant, amazing, world-class artist. One time, back in my Marvel days, Mattel needed a design for a Secret Wars playset and commissioned us to do concept drawings. Walt leaped to mind immediately. Who is more creative than Walt? Mattel’s instructions to me were clear—they wanted a high-tech look. As intricate as the ships and machinery in Star Wars, but distinctively different. A new take on the Kirby machinery/electronics look. Complex, futuristic, super-scientific, highly detailed technology. Kids, said Mattel, loved detailed machinery. I conveyed Mattel’s instructions clearly, I thought. When Walt brought in the finished designs, however…well…he’d drawn thatch-roofed huts. A simple, rustic-looking setting. Walt explained that he’d thought about it and concluded that futuristic, super-scientific technology would probably appear to be simple. Rude and primitive, even.

Ay-yi-yi.

Maybe I should have asked Bill Sienkiewicz to do that design. He might have glued on some radio parts, at least.

I chose these three gentlemen not because I have any ill will toward them, but precisely because I don’t.

And, as far as I know, that goes both ways. We’re friends, or friendly, anyway.

Mike Kaluta and I never worked together much. He was pretty busy doing Starstruck with the talented Elaine Lee for our EPIC imprint. Maybe he’s the type who has to do his own thing, period. In my proposed new business model, I suspect he’d be doing only non-company-owned properties, ones he owned. He’d succeed, like a John Grisham or a Cory Doctorow, by dint of his own creative vision and talent—or possibly fail—rather than work on, say, Superman, and enjoy all the security, fat salary checks and benefits given to staff, Work-Made-for-Hire employees under the direction of a Cameron/Spielberg/Walt Disney-level boss. Luckily, Mike’s a genius. Why, then, did I throw in “possibly fail?” Because there are more ingredients to success than just genius, and it could happen.  There’s more risk doing your own thing, but potentially greater rewards. 

Bill Sienkiewicz and I worked together for a long time on many things. Aside from that New Mutants poster, Bill almost always delivered what we expected, better than we deserved. The exceptions, of course, are the projects where we encouraged Bill to do his own thing, explore, invent, experiment and revolutionize comics—the New Mutants comic book series comes to mind. We never knew what to expect, but we enjoyed the surprises. Maybe Bill was confused and thought the poster fell under the same swing-for-the-fences parameters that the comic book did. Whatever. I know that Bill has done some commercial art since those days, and therefore, must still be able to take direction when required. You don’t survive in the commercial art field ignoring the client’s instructions. When he was working on the Arrow Collar account, I’ll guarantee you that J.C. Leyendecker didn’t deliver illos of wingtips because one day he decided he wanted to draw shoes.

So, genius Bill could go either way. I’d give him a high likelihood of success as an independent author/creator under the new business model. But, if for some reason he chose to work on staff on Spider-Man—let’s say the company made it worth his while—I have no doubt he would do well. 
Walt Simonson, in my opinion, just doesn’t like being directed or constrained in any way. He is the classic Big Gun You Can’t Aim. But here’s the thing—he’s almost always pointed the right direction anyway. The trick with Walt is to get him on something right for his style and his approach, which is more or less anything he is interested in doing, and stand back. He’ll hit the target. The eight covers for the second month of UNITY at VALIANT come to mind. He took the job on the condition that he could do his idea, his way. Fine by me. And, yes, he hit the target.
By the way his other demand was that he get paid a nickel more than Frank Miller did for the first eight covers, so he could tell people he got paid more than Frank. I handed him a shiny nickel myself. Sorry, Frank.  : )

Walt could do the W4H thing if he chose, if he and the Jim-Cameron-of-comics in charge were simpatico and Walt was more or less left alone. Or Walt could take the risk and do his own thing. He’s got game, just like the other two. 

Anyway, the comic book biz these days is rife with Big Guns You Can’t Aim. What’s really pathetic is that a lot of the supposed “Big Guns” are really BB Guns.

It’s not so bad that the legitimate Big Guns can’t be aimed, because, frankly, most of those in creative management who would be doing the aiming are clueless. Off target. Range-finder challenged. Blind.  Which is why so many BB-Guns enjoy Big Gun-status. The editors and their bosses can’t tell the difference. Guys who have one tiny piece of the puzzle and chutzpah, or a crony in the right place get Big Gun treatment.

In the new business model, besides a creative visionary leader, there would have to be excellent, skilled, talented editors. Two types:  Editors and creative management to govern and direct the house-owned properties and editors and creative management to work with the independent author/creators—not to govern and direct them, but to A) choose the best of the best, B) help them, guide them a little, if necessary to enable them to realize their vision. 

All the work published under the new business model would have to be world-class professional quality, effortlessly understandable by anyone.

Ever had any trouble understanding what was going on in a Michael Crichton novel? Ever watched a few minutes of Law and Order and thrown your hands up in disgust because you can’t make heads or tails of it? Been to any major movies that might as well have been shown backwards in Swahili?  
We have to be as accessible as other major entertainments.

Way more accessible than Starstruck. Sorry, Mike. If you actually tell the story that I know about from talking with you and Elaine on the pages so that anyone can get involved as easily as they can with, say, NCIS, The Lord of the Rings novels or The Hunger Games, then, I think, you win. I know you have the technology, being a genius and whatnot.

Now, I hear somebody out there thinking, “Oh, sure, all the great creators will become independent author/creators and only the drones and punters will do W4H work on the company-owned characters, which sucks for those of us who love Spider-Man, Superman and the rest.”

Nah. Doesn’t have to be that way. Free your mind. Imagine that the W4H/staff deal is reallyreally good.

Seems to me that George Lucas managed to put together a pretty good W4H team for Star Wars. They weren’t owners, but Lucas was generous with points and they all made a lot of money.

Hey, there’s a clue!

Designer Doug Chiang worked for Lucasfilms. He eventually moved on to other gigs and is, last I heard, working on his own property, Robota. I suspect it would often work that way—start out W4H (albeit startlingly well-paid) then move on to author/creator work. 

Cameron managed to scrape together some talent for T2 and the rest.

And Walt Disney found seven old men who weren’t too bad.

Our medium is too magnificent to languish. Too wonderful to be left to the benighted.

Here’s hoping for the future.



NEXT:  Finally, Really, No, REALLY…Evolution: John Byrne Then, Then and Now

Sunday, March 18, 2012

VCS Seven Project



JayJay here. The VALIANT Collector's Society asked me to make an announcement...

They have organized a special project of 100 Seven issue 1 comics signed by Jim Shooter, and several other creators who worked on the books, combined with a signed printout of issue 2, a CD with issue 2 in PDF format, a plot overview, character dossiers and much more extra stuff. And a COA from the VALIANT Collector's Society.

This special package is a benefit to help support this blog and to finance the Unity 2000 project. I'm helping organize and finalize the project and I'm also working on coloring the unpublished Unity 2000 issues. It should be a very interesting and fun thing.

Here are the details for the Seven Project on the VCS forum:

http://valiantcollectorssociety.websitetoolbox.com/post/SEVEN-Project-Final-Sign-Up-and-Payment-info.-5752157

I've got a list a few posts down on the forum of everyone who has signed up. Message me or email me if you have questions.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Doctorow Doctrine and Other Techno-Tectonic Upheavals – Part 3

Creative Commons

Cory Doctorow opposes technology that limits what one can do with digital content and laws that criminalize people for alleged copyright infringements that he believes are harmless, or even beneficial.  I think that’s an accurate assessment. If not, I hope Cory will correct me.

In any case, don’t take my word for it. Check out his position statements for yourself. They’re entertaining reads. The guy writes like the Silver Surfer surfs. Here are the links again:



And this:

Cory’s book, CONTENT - Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future, which includes some of the material available at the links above and much more, can be found here:

CONTENT - PDF Download

CONTENT on Amazon

Though Cory is a “copyfighter,” that doesn’t mean he’s against copyright.

According to the international Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, to which the U.S. became a signatory in 1989, anything anyone creates in “fixed” form, that is, written down, recorded, whatever, is copyrighted to them from the moment of creation.

(ASIDE: In the U.S., if you choose to register your copyright with the Library of Congress, your copyright protection is enhanced. In case of litigation against an infringer, it comes in handy to have the Feds as, essentially, a witness on your side. Also, if you prevail, you are entitled to statutory damages as opposed to actual damages. Statutory damages are usually a multiple of the price you’d ordinarily get for allowing the use of your copyrighted material. Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine actual damages. Statutory damages are easily calculated and generally greater.)

So, all of Cory’s books and other works are copyrighted automatically, like everyone else’s, when “fixed.” However, all of Cory’s books have been released under Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons licenses legitimize what Cory says most people do anyway—copy and share creative works. All Creative Commons licenses allow non-commercial sharing of the work covered, and all require “attribution.” You have to say whose work you’re sharing.

Hundreds of millions of CC licenses have been provided free since Creative Commons released their first licenses in late 2002. Over 200 million photos on Flickr bear CC licenses.

Creative Commons, headquartered in Mountain View, California, has over 100 affiliates worldwide and countless advocates, none, IMHO, more outspoken or well-spoken than Cory.

Creative Commons receives enthusiastic support from its hordes of individual users….

Users…Creative Commoners? That doesn’t sound quite right. Creative Commies? Nah. Too Cold War. CC supporters? Yeah, let’s go with that….  : )

Anyway, besides individual CC supporters, the non-profit organization has some big business supporters as well. Here’s a list of such contributors from Wikipedia: 

Sustainer Level (Committed for 5 years):
The Beal Fund of Triangle Community Foundation, on behalf of Lulu.com:

Investor Level ($25,000 and up):
Best Buy
Digital Garage
Duke University
eBay
Microsoft Corporation
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Nike

There are six different types of Creative Commons licenses, plus a “No Rights Reserved” license, “CC0” as they call it, which effectively makes your work public domain. The licenses between copy-and-share-with-attribution only and CC0 allow various degrees of modification and commercial exploitation.

Wikipedia, which operates under a Creative Commons license, has a very good article about CC:


Here’s a short article Cory wrote about it:


And here’s the Creative Commons site:


As far as I know, Cory’s CC licenses have allowed copying and sharing, and on some, even the right to make modifications and use his works as the basis for derivative works—fanfic, essentially—but he doesn’t allow commercial uses of his work by others. Only he is allowed to make money from his creative works, or works derived from them.

Presumably, Cory would defend his copyrights against illegal commercial use. Therefore, I suspect that he has no problem with Disney, Sony, Apple, Microsoft, AOL Marvel, DC and other big companies defending their copyrighted intellectual properties just as he would his. Remember, due to the wonders of the Work Made for Hire provisions of the copyright law, those big companies are the “authors” of much of what they are defending, just as Cory is the author of his books. If I understand him correctly, he objects to the way some of them go about it, with Draconian DRM technologies and by pushing for harsh measures like SOPA—plus the fact that they attempt to defend against the kind of copying Cory believes to be benign and inevitable.

I wonder what Cory thinks about Work Made for Hire.

I have some ideas on the subject, outlined below.

But I digress.

Cory says that the purpose of copyright is: “…to decentralize who gets to make art. Before copyright, we had patronage: you could make art if the Pope or the king liked the sound of it. That produced some damned pretty ceilings and frescos, but it wasn't until control of art was given over to the market — by giving publishers a monopoly over the works they printed, starting with the Statute of Anne in 1710 — that we saw the explosion of creativity that investment-based art could create. Industrialists weren't great arbiters of who could and couldn't make art, but they were better than the Pope.

(…)

“The Internet is enabling a further decentralization in who gets to make art, and like each of the technological shifts in cultural production, it's good for some artists and bad for others. The important question is: will it let more people participate in cultural production? Will it further decentralize decision-making for artists?”

Well, the Internet sure has decentralized the living Hell out of comic book and comics creation. It seems like there are more comic books and comic strips, more indies, home-mades and web comics than ever. Everybody and anybody with the least bit of inclination can make comics and get them published, at least online.

Cory speaks of the same sort of decentralization in the music industry:

“Technology giveth and technology taketh away. As bands on MySpace — who can fill houses and sell hundreds of thousands of discs without a record deal, by connecting individually with fans — have shown, there's a new market aborning on the Internet for music, one with fewer gatekeepers to creativity than ever before.”

But the results have been less beneficial in the comic book business. Very few comic book publishers endeavors, from the smallest, one person ink-and-pixel operation in a garret somewhere to the Big Two, ever sell hundreds of thousands of physical copies of a given issue. Very few make money. Garret-haunters usually do it for love of comics. The Big Two seem to be in it for the movies and other media and merchandise licensing. They each have some publications above the Mendoza Line, but the profits from their relatively few winners don’t make up for total expenses—legal, accounting, all SG&A and other operating expenses—if properly allocated. Do you have any idea how much DC’s very large, fancy Midtown Manhattan office space costs? Or how many comic books have to be sold to pay Diane Nelson’s salary, plus her top-heavy staff’s salaries?

The publishing operations, on a stand-alone basis, couldn’t support themselves from their publishing revenues only.

What if the recording industry seldom made money selling the actual music, and the only profitable business they had was licensing songs for use in TV commercials? That would be sort of like where we are in the comic book biz.

“But, Jim, the publishing operations are not stand-alone,” I hear someone thinking. “You have to take everything as a whole.” No, I don’t, and besides, the point is that the publishing operations are the stubby tails and the Important Other Things comprise the very big dogs. And the publishing operations aren’t really necessary. Lots of properties that don’t have comic books are licensed.

How about the mini-majors and indies? If they’re making any money, it’s probably because the creators aren’t. Some just don’t pay very well. Some indies require that creators deliver print-production-ready files, produced at the creators’ own expense. The publishers handle the business of soliciting and publishing the comics. They take their costs and their cut off the top, then, if there is any money left, they split that with the creators. There often isn’t any left. Often, the creators lose money on the deal. But, hey, it’s a living for the publishers. And, I suppose, a shot at glory for the creators. Fair? Maybe. I don’t know. Sigh.

So…now what?


The Fate That Awaits

I want to underscore the fact that it’s me, not Cory, spewing all this doom and gloom. Cory’s take on the prospects of the comic book and comics business is quite optimistic.

Regarding the techno-tectonic upheavals changing everything, Cory says: “And for SF writers and fans, the further question is, ‘Will it be any good to our chosen medium?’ Like I said, science fiction is the only literature people care enough about to steal on the Internet. It's the only literature that regularly shows up, scanned and run through optical character recognition software and lovingly hand-edited on darknet newsgroups, Russian websites, IRC channels and elsewhere (yes, there's also a brisk trade in comics and technical books, but I'm talking about prose fiction here — though this is clearly a sign of hope for our friends in tech publishing and funnybooks).”

Cory thinks that the fact that comic books are heavily pirated is a good sign! A lot of people find our form and our content interesting enough to steal it!

Well…that makes sense, actually. If nobody is bothering to pirate westerns, romance novels, political thrillers and historical whodunits, then, in a way, it is an honor full of promise to be so…appealing.

Cory goes on: “Some writers are using the Internet's affinity for SF to great effect. I've released every one of my novels under Creative Commons licenses that encourage fans to share them freely and widely — even, in some cases, to remix them and to make new editions of them for use in the developing world.

(…)

“I've discovered what many authors have also discovered: releasing electronic texts of books drives sales of the print editions. An SF writer's biggest problem is obscurity, not piracy. Of all the people who chose not to spend their discretionary time and cash on our works today, the great bulk of them did so because they didn't know they existed, not because someone handed them a free e-book version.”

There it is again, Cory’s “dandelion’ marketing theory—spread your seeds around randomly in abundance and maybe some will take root and grow into physical copy sales. As I pointed out last post, that theory hasn’t worked well for comic book publishers, whose output has been “dandelioned” by pirates whether the pubs liked it or not.

But, then, something else Cory said in his remarks about DRM took root and grew in my mind. He was discussing the fight between Hollywood and Sony, which had introduced the first VCR in 1976. Cory’s paraphrasing of the Court’s decision in Sony’s favor handed down to the Hollywood plantiffs, hit home with me: 

“…if your business model can't survive…it's time to get another business-model or go broke.”

Well, there you have it.

Thank you, Cory. Sincerely.

We, the comic book industry, need a new business model.

I have thought about this obvious fact, perfectly clear since Cory whacked me in the face with it. And now I think I know what to do.

I have suggestions. Some of them may seem harsh. Or impossible. Or unlikely to happen. Those of you that think the following is pie in the sky, I’m with you. It’d take a miracle…but here’s what I think we have to do:

FIRST, UNDERSTAND that we, those who gather here regularly, are geeks. Put that aside. Get over yourself for a moment and think about the big picture, not you. You and I forgive many failings of the comic books we read because we are steeped in the lore and we love the characters no matter what. Read the comments following my critiques. Many people enthusiastically defend nonsensical offerings unintelligible to the average person because they can fill in the blanks, they can come up with explanations for any absurdity or contradiction—as can I—and we all worship at the altars of Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Catwoman, et al. Please, now, put that aside, as I do in my critiques, screw your objectivity to the sticking-place and think along with me.

SECOND, UNDERSTAND that this will take a sincere commitment and a great deal of money, if it is to happen soon. It could happen on its own, glacially, but it might not, and we all might wind up bereft. Some major player has to step up and realize the opportunity. Could be one of the Big Two, could be another media giant, or Paul Allen, maybe.

So…the new business model I propose:

1.  A company, existing or newly formed, must spend the money and take the time to produce absolutely superb comics entertainment. Comic books and other comics packages as good and enjoyable as the best movies, the best TV shows, the best novels. Comics that can be understood effortlessly by anyone. Clear at a glance, created by excellent, expert storytellers. Comics that welcome everyone in so skillfully that those already in don’t even notice that the “geeks only” signs are down.

That means the Capitalist Enablers, whoever they might be, must believe in the vision and commit to go the distance.

That also means that the Capitalist Enablers must hire brilliant, progressive, insightful business people as well as creative leaders who are visionary. Who are the greatest creative visionaries of our time? Spielberg? Cameron? Creative leaders who belongs in that company. Oh, by the way, no current Big Two creative honchos need apply.

The visionary creative leaders must see to it that world-class entertainment is created.

That means bringing in a lot of new, truly great talent, re-training some of the current crop and saying good-bye to many—including a lot of those who are “stars” currently. Stay objective now—they’re stars only to us geeks. They get away with self-indulgent crap because some of us tolerate it, and yes, some of us like it. They are emboldened to do so because they’re playing to people predisposed to love the stuff no matter what, just like local, amateur theater actors hamming it up in front of a house full of friends and family. Yes, a few of them have some good things to offer.

Back in my amateur theater days in Pittsburgh, there was Robert, an amazing baritone and Susan, a dance teacher who could tap dance like crazy. Good Lord, the legs on that woman! Maybe Robert had good legs, too, but he always wore pants, so who knows. Anyway, the locals loved them. So? That’s not enough for prime time on the world stage.

The big-ego, self-indulgent, prima donna “stars” in our little corner of the world are insignificant in the wide world, and many who will not cooperate, learn, develop and grow will have to go away.

If the comic book industry is going to move from our small pond to the ocean of entertainment and compete, we need world class, killer whale creators, not the minnows we’ve been feeding.

2.  Here’s a big key: COMPANY OWNED,W4H AND THEREFORE “UNIVERSE” TITLES MUST ALL BE CREATED BY EMPLOYEES ON STAFF. SHARED UNIVERSE WORK INHERENTLY MUST BE CREATED BY AN “ORCHESTRA” OF CREATORS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF A “CONDUCTOR,” OR EDITOR (WHO IS A WORLD-CLASS VISIONARY).

MAKE ANYONE WHO WORKS ON YOUR UNIVERSE TITLES A WELL-PAID, SALARIED EMPLOYEE WITH BENEFITS AND PERKS WHO WORKS ON YOUR PREMISES.

And, by the way, these employees MUST BE GIVEN COMPELLING INCENTIVES TO CREATE, AND REAL PARTICIPATIONS IN THE SUCCESS OF THEIR WORKS.

Ahem. That solves the Gerber, Kirby, Friedrich-type lawsuit problem.

In my fantasy, the law would be changed to make it so for everyone.

Now, then….

Publish all non-Universe work under normal publishing industry terms. Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors. If there is more than one creator involved, i.e., a writer and an artist, let them make their deal between themselves first. Help them. Provide legal support.

Moving right along…. 

3.  The comics products—comic books, graphic novels, whatever—must be available online and physically simultaneously. Online, the products should be offered at very low price points. And, Cory, you’ve convinced me. Dandelioning should be policy, or at least tolerated. Offer a license to every “pirate” for a dollar or something.

The price points of the physical products almost don’t matter (within reason) as long as the physical products are well worth the price and competitive with other great entertainment in terms of value for money.

The physical comics products should be enhanced, if possible, with features not easily pirated online. I’m out of my depth here…maybe one of you smarter guys out there could throw me a rope. All I can think of are 3-D spiffs, cards, coupons and event passes/invitations. With holograms or whatever can’t be stolen online.

Similarly, the experience of obtaining the very low price-point digital versions from the company site should be enhanced. Make it so much easier and more rewarding to buy the digital version than to settle for a dandelioned copy that most people will spring for it.

4.  Fight hard against physical copy piracy.

5.  No more Direct Market as we know it. No more Diamond Comic Distributors. At least in its current incarnation. Distribution without Diamond is easily doable these days. Publish terms and catalogues online. Ship to whoever meets the trade terms. The Diamond/Direct Market 62.5% discount is a cost-plus anachronism. It has to go. Sorry, Steve Geppi, my friend. To quote a lyric from Bells Are Ringing, “…no matter how you pretend, you knew it would end this way.” Told you I was in amateur theater. 

6.  Stop supporting the brick and mortar comic book shops (but support them in a new way more and better than ever).

I have been to many, many comic book shops in the last few years. Not one, to my knowledge relied on sales of new comics as their main source of revenue. Every one sold toys, games, collectibles…you know. The neighborhood comic book shop I frequent, FUNNY BUSINESS in Nyack—a great store—doesn’t carry new comics at all!  They sell old comics, LEGOS, toys, vintage toys, collectibles of various sorts—I bought a Lost in Space lunchbox and a CD set of Superman radio shows there recently.

I say open the business up. Make comics so good and so easily available on terms attractive to any retailer that they’re everywhere, as they used to be. Perhaps give specialists, like comic book shops a small extra discount for limited returns and a slightly larger one for firm sale. Sorry, comics shops. But not really. All our business models must change.

7.  Last major point, and perhaps most important: Relationship Marketing. I have always said that the comic book business had more in common with the single malt scotch business than the magazine business. Scotch drinkers tend to become loyal to their favorites, unlike wine drinkers who tend to play the field. Single malt scotches win devotees. It’s like being in a club. Like it was in the 1960’s with Marvel Comics.

Heed the wise words of Cory Doctorow:

“But what kind of artist thrives on the Internet? Those who can establish a personal relationship with their readers — something science fiction has been doing for as long as pros have been hanging out in the con suite instead of the green room. These conversational artists come from all fields, and they combine the best aspects of charisma and virtuosity with charm — the ability to conduct their online selves as part of a friendly salon that establishes a non-substitutable relationship with their audiences. You might find a film, a game, and a book to be equally useful diversions on a slow afternoon, but if the novel's author is a pal of yours, that's the one you'll pick. It's a competitive advantage that can't be beat.

“See Neil Gaiman's blog, where he manages the trick of carrying on a conversation with millions. Or Charlie Stross's Usenet posts. Scalzi's blogs. J. Michael Straczynski's presence on Usenet — while in production on Babylon 5, no less — breeding an army of rabid fans ready to fax-bomb recalcitrant TV execs into submission and syndication. See also the MySpace bands selling a million units of their CDs by adding each buyer to their "friends lists." Watch Eric Flint manage the Baen Bar, and Warren Ellis's good-natured growling on his sites, lists, and so forth.
“Not all artists have in them to conduct an online salon with their audiences. Not all Vaudevillians had it in them to transition to radio. Technology giveth and technology taketh away. SF writers are supposed to be soaked in the future, ready to come to grips with it. The future is conversational: when there's more good stuff that you know about that's one click away or closer than you will ever click on, it's not enough to know that some book is good. The least substitutable good in the Internet era is the personal relationship.
“Conversation, not content, is king. If you were stranded on a desert island and you opted to bring your records instead of your friends, we'd call you a sociopath. Science fiction writers who can insert themselves into their readers' conversations will be set for life.”

Amen.

We must rebuild and deepen our relationship with the audience. Not so hard. We have met the audience and they is us.

That’s one area, by the way, where we can support comic shops in a new way. Comic shops are the front line soldiers in our Relationship Marketing campaign. We can work with them, encourage people to come to them, include them in our promotions.  Comic shop owners and employees are our ambassadors by default. Let’s help them be great ones.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

We need a revolution in distribution, whether you agree with my ideas above or not.

Technology may come to our rescue or at least assistance in terms of distribution and especially in the labor-intensive, time consuming art creation process. Hurry the %$#@ up, technology!

Technology may offer us appealing collaborative features. Comic books have always been the most collaborative mass medium. See Spielberg in a restaurant, walk over to his table to offer a few comments about his latest and his bodyguards will escort you upside down to the curb.

Pretty much every comic book creator is accessible, reachable. Even the ones who “hate” fans, are fans. Howard Chaykin, who has, in my presence, disdained fans and wouldn’t talk to them would talk all day with Walt Simonson, a fan, about comics, because Howard is a fan no matter what he claims. And, from Walt, me and others, Howard got the fan skinny.

What if there were Elseworlds and What If…? type publications that we all made together?

All right, all right. Enough. It’s late.You get the drift.

Thank you, Cory. If by some miracle the comic book publishing world gains enlightenment any time soon, they owe a debt to you (in spite of my meanderings).

Here are the usual Cory links:

Cory Doctorow's Web Site - Craphound

BoingBoing - A Blog Cory Doctorow co-edits



Good night.



NEXT:  Evolution: John Byrne Then, Then and Now

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Doctorow Doctrine and Other Techno-Tectonic Upheavals – Part 2

First This

Yesterday, I took issue with Cory Doctorow’s “dandelion” theory. Cory says: “Dandelions and artists have a lot in common in the age of the Internet.” He believes that spreading your digital content for free across the Internet like zillions of dandelion seeds scattered by the winds helps sales of physical products. It seems to work for him. However, I said: “Now, about how Cory’s marketing advice applies to most creative people and the comic book business—it doesn’t. Or I don’t see how. Maybe he’ll set me straight….”

Maybe he already has.

Check out these passages from his book CONTENT – Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future:

“Technology giveth and technology taketh away.”

Here’s one of his examples:

“When radio and records were invented, they were pretty bad news for the performers of the day. Live performance demanded charisma, the ability to really put on a magnetic show in front of a crowd. It didn't matter how technically accomplished you were: if you stood like a statue on stage, no one wanted to see you do your thing. On the other hand, you succeeded as a mediocre player, provided you attacked your performance with a lot of brio.
“Radio was clearly good news for musicians — lots more musicians were able to make lots more music, reaching lots more people and making lots more money. It turned performance into an industry, which is what happens when you add technology to art. But it was terrible news for charismatics. It put them out on the street, stuck them with flipping burgers and driving taxis. They knew it, too. Performers lobbied to have the Marconi radio banned, to send Marconi back to the drawing board, charged with inventing a radio they could charge admission to. ‘We're charismatics, we do something as old and holy as the first story told before the first fire in the first cave. What right have you to insist that we should become mere clerks, working in an obscure back-room, leaving you to commune with our audiences on our behalf?’ 
“Technology giveth and technology taketh away. Seventy years later, Napster showed us that, as William Gibson noted, ‘We may be at the end of the brief period during which it is possible to charge for recorded music.’ Surely we're at the end of the period where it's possible to exclude those who don't wish to pay. Every song released can be downloaded gratis from a peer-to-peer network (and will shortly get easier to download, as hard-drive price/performance curves take us to a place where all the music ever recorded will fit on a disposable pocket-drive that you can just walk over to a friend's place and copy).”

So…maybe we comic book creators are the new vaudevillians. Technology hath taken away from us.  Other media, more suited to the Digital Age have eclipsed us, left us in the dust. It seems difficult to impossible to exclude those who don’t wish to pay. So, we’re going to be out on the street, flipping burgers and driving taxis.

Or not.

There are ways we might yet pull survival from the jaws of technology.

But first, some other, relevant techno-tectonic upheavals.


DRM and SOPA

Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is explained thus by Wikipedia:

“Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale. DRM is any technology that inhibits uses of digital content that are not desired or intended by the content provider. Copy protection which can be circumvented without modifying the file or device, such as serial numbers or keyfiles are not generally considered to be DRM. DRM also includes specific instances of digital works or devices. Companies such as Amazon, AOL, Apple Inc., the BBC, Microsoft and Sony use digital rights management. In 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the United States to impose criminal penalties on those who make available technologies whose primary purpose and function is to circumvent content protection technologies.[1]The use of digital rights management is controversial. Content providers claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement online and that it can help the copyright holder maintain artistic control[2] or ensure continued revenue streams.[3] Those opposed to DRM contend there is no evidence that DRM helps prevent copyright infringement, arguing instead that it serves only to inconvenience legitimate customers, and that DRM helps big business stifle innovation and competition.[4] Further, works can become permanently inaccessible if the DRM scheme changes or if the service is discontinued.[5] Proponents argue that digital locks should be considered necessary to prevent "intellectual property" from being copied freely, just as physical locks are needed to prevent personal property from being stolen.[6]Digital locks placed in accordance with DRM policies can also restrict users from doing something perfectly legal, such as making backup copies of CDs or DVDs, lending materials out through a library, accessing works in the public domain, or using copyrighted materials for research and education under fair use laws.[6] Some opponents, such as the Free Software Foundation (FSF) through its Defective by Design campaign, maintain that the use of the word "rights" is misleading and suggest that people instead use the term "digital restrictions management".[7] Their position is that copyright holders are restricting the use of material in ways that are beyond the scope of existing copyright laws, and should not be covered by future laws.[8] The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the FSF consider the use of DRM systems to be anti-competitive practice.[9][10]

DRM? Cory is ag’in it.

Cory explains his position in CONTENT, in which he publishes the text of a talk given to Microsoft’s Research Group in 2004 and a few subsequent essays. Start on page eight.  He says:

1. That DRM systems don't work 
(They’re easily thwarted or circumvented.)

2. That DRM systems are bad for society
(Honest content buyers trying to make legitimate use of content, like personal back-up copies, are the only ones thwarted by DRM, which bad guys easily circumvent.  So, honest users eventually go to the bad guys for their needs.) 

3. That DRM systems are bad for business
(It engenders “closed hardware interfaces,” i.e. copyright holders’ content can only be accessed on their, or approved devices like their proprietary DVD players or audio devices.  The costs of anti-competition drive up prices tremendously.) 

4. That DRM systems are bad for artists
(They’re good for big companies not individuals so much, he says, but I don’t really get why he thinks they’re not good for individuals.  I’m guessing here—but it seems that he’s saying that no DRM will cause big media to develop new business models and individual creators will be better off because in an unrestricted digital environment there will be “wider reach” and “bigger pies.”

5. That DRM is a bad business-move for MSFT (Microsoft)
(Microsoft should forsake DRM, ignore current copyright law and make capable devices that can “play everyone’s records.”)

The above parentheticals are all my nutshell summaries of the thoughtful and well-explained positions Cory takes.  I apologize if I have mischaracterized them.  Please read what he says. 

CONTENT PDF Download

CONTENT on Amazon

I am not educated enough on the subject of DRM to pontificate.  I will say this, though. Cory’s descriptions of the Draconian measures being taken (or proposed) by Amazon, AOL, Apple, the BBC, Microsoft, Sony and others, and the consequences thereof, is chilling.

The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is a law under consideration by the U.S. Congress that is intended to help law enforcement fight online intellectual property theft.

SOPA? Cory is ag’in it.

His position is well-explained here:


Says Cory, SOPA is censorship, simple as that. And it puts power and control not in the hands of the government, but in the hands of media giants like Disney, Viacom, the Motion Picture Association of America, the American Association of Publishers and the Recording Industry Association of America, any one or any member of which could, with a complaint, shut down any infringer “without due process” and with it any site that so much as had a link to an infringing site.

Sounds scary. This blog would be toast for sure. 
Cory Doctorow. photo by Jonathan Worth, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Cory Doctorow's Web Site - Craphound

BoingBoing - A Blog Cory Doctorow co-edits




NEXT:  The Fate That Awaits