In the Land of the Free, Who Controls the Content?
At this past weekend’s Harvey Awards at the Baltimore Comic Con, Mark Waid delivered a heartfelt wake-up call to the print comics industry. Now since this is third, fourth, fifth hand since I wasn’t at the show, I can only base my assumptions of Waid’s main point from the various reports online. If I understand correctly, Waid intimated that protecting your ideas is not as important as profiting from them. It doesn’t sound like he was advocating piracy, but since this age of internet has made everything free, time would be better spent figuring out how to make money off of rather than jealously guarding our ideas.
I can imagine the gasps in the room from traditional publishers who depend on their copyrighted characters for licensing revenue and such. But for us webcomic folks, this is old news.
It is absolutely essential for artists to use the internet to promote their work. The catch is that as soon as you put something online, someone is going to steal it. You could spend ages trying to find new ways to prevent digital piracy, but you’ll never really deter the practice nor really stop it. That’s not to say that there’s no value in copyright. But it’s time to start thinking differently about our ideas. Creative Commons is a forward thinking licensing standard that responds well to the digital download era and it has benefited many artists. It gives would-be pirates a legal means to download and remix content while protecting the rights of the content creator.
Creative Commons is a good start. And it’s groups like these who provide these forward thinking tools that will help ween us off traditional notions of copyright protection that may be too antiquated to respond to a modern sensibility. I think Mark Waid was incredibly brave for sounding the call and I think once the dust settles a bit, the print comic industry might actually start moving forward along with the rest of us.