The untimely death (and speedy resurrection) of scans_daily

I alluded to this in yesterday’s post, but as the internets have swelled up in indignation and outrage, I feel it deserves a bit more ink. (If you’re missing scans_daily and just want your fix back, go to the end of the post for the links.)

Scans_daily, in case you just got internet this week, is (was) a LiveJournal community where the members posted scans of sections of comic books and commented on them. I was an infrequent visitor, myself. It was slightly better organized than MySpace Comics but still suffered from that thing where you have to sit and wait for each image to download. My biggest problem with it, actually, was that they didn’t put whole issues or story arcs online, so I would see just the sample and not know how it ended.

Some copyright holder somewhere had just the opposite problem—they felt scans_daily was posting too much of their comics—and they complained to LJ, and now the whole site is gone, because it does, in fact, flagrantly violate LJ’s terms of service, and the fact that they have been doing so for five years doesn’t really exonerate them.

The exact sequence of events is a bit sketchy. Comics creator Peter David happened to see a link on a Comic Book Resources forum to a scan of his work (where, to be fair, apparently he was told by a commenter to DIAF, which is Bad Behavior Indeed). He promptly informed Marvel Comics, which held the copyright on said work. But that, he says on his site, is NOT why scans_daily was shut down. Because, before Marvel could get around to doing anything, PhotoBucket pulled the scans as a violation of its terms of service. Two days later, LiveJournal shut down the site entirely. Mr. David suggests that maybe being linked on CBR was the problem, but that seems unlikely, given that Dirk Deppey links to it every day on Journalista, one of the most widely read comics blogs, and creators Warren Ellis and Gail Simone have been known to stop by. It’s not like being linked on the CBR forums dragged scans_daily out of obscurity; everyone knew it was there all along.

Now, there are two schools of thought on this whole affair. The first, expressed to its fullest extent by Kevin Church, is that the scans_daily folks are pirates with an inflated sense of entitlement, who are stealing copyrighted content and costing the creators legitimate sales.

The other point of view, which seems to be much more widespread, is that scans_daily is a site where people find out about comics and end up buying them. Johanna Draper Carlson and Merlin Missy express it rather eloquently on their sites, without some of the entitlement drama that was displayed in the comments to Mr. David’s post. If nothing else, all these comments and accounts (as well as this comments thread) provide anecdotal backup to the notion that free samples do indeed sell comics.

I’d like to express solidarity with that second point of view. There is a section of comics culture that is all caught up with comics stores and Wednesdays and pull lists and stuff, and if you’re inside that culture you may not realize this, but the vast majority of people have absolutely no idea that this subculture even exists. And you can’t sell something that no one knows is there.

The internet, on the other hand, is everywhere, and from what goes on in my own home, I can tell you with certainty that young people troll LiveJournal looking for stuff to do all the time. And when they find a place like scans_daily, they don’t say “Oh great, now I can find the latest plot twists in the Horned Ant saga without going to the comics store and paying $4,” because they don’t know what a comics store is. Instead, they look at it, and it’s cool, and then they realize that you can buy these things in stores and they seek them out. This is sort of like marketing, except that marketing is done by big companies and scans_daily is pretty grass roots.

And in case you are wondering, this is indeed different from Marvel or DC putting previews on their sites, because no one goes to those sites except people who are already Marvel and DC readers. To get new readers, you put your previews somewhere else, which is why MySpace Comics has been such a success, despite its abominable interface. They went where the kids are.

As a writer, I understand quite well the value of intellectual property, and as an editor, I know that the fair use rules are difficult for even the experts to understand. I’ll leave it to the lawyers to argue over whether the scans on scans_daily constituted fair use or not. (FWIW, the scans_daily rules prohibited posting more than half a comic, and the mods were about to cut that down even further.) However, it’s a big internet out there, and the wise creator or publisher would do well to tolerate a bit of bootlegging. The scans_daily crowd had more than their share of attitude, it’s true, but they also cared passionately about the comics, and they posted the scans to talk about them, not just to provide free comics to passers-by.

Furthermore, for the most part, scans_daily didn’t put entire issues up. For those, you have to go to the pirate sites, which we will always have with us.

Anyway, the good news is that the internet is self-healing. Peter David’s Wikipedia entry has already been vandalized and restored, and scans_daily has set up in a new place and has its archives available for download. Most of the info is here, where someone called schmevil, who actually sounds like an adult, is collecting links and giving out directions. Some pertinent links:

Scans_daily lives, somewhat truncated, in its new home on InsaneJournal.
NoScans_Daily is a discussion site with, you guessed it, no scans. However, there are some interesting conversations about the comics people bought because they saw them first on scans_daily.

An unaffiliated site that can provide your comics fix is comics_scans, which has escaped the purge (for now).

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20 thoughts on “The untimely death (and speedy resurrection) of scans_daily

  1. The other point of view, which seems to be much more widespread, is that scans_daily is a site where people find out about comics and end up buying them. Johanna Draper Carlson and Merlin Missy express it rather eloquently on their sites, without some of the entitlement drama that was displayed in the comments to Mr. David’s post. If nothing else, all these comments and accounts (as well as this comments thread) provide anecdotal backup to the notion that free samples do indeed sell comics.

    There is a lot of this anecdotal evidence that some members of the community tried out new books because of it. But as I said in my post, is anyone really going to raise their hand and say “Nope, didn’t buy something because I read what I needed on Scans_Daily?” I find it interesting that everyone who uses that defense ignores the issue of copyright as well. I recall a post that recounted the entirety of The Killing Joke using scans of about half the book that, when combined with text, basically did a Marvel Saga-type job on the text. How is that defensible? How is taking 50% of the content of a book and putting it on the internet defensible? It was a community built around scans of comic books, not the discussion of comics, hence the name. I can legitimately understand two to three pages of scans and discussion of a work, but why would any publisher be OK with the entirety of an issue being available over the course of two or three posts?

    I sold 5 copies of the first volume of Superman: Camelot Falls through my Amazon referral links the other day after I posted about it, and I didn’t use a single scan from the interior. That’s why I have no sympathy for the people saying that a bunch of people scanning page after page of comics and posting them was some sort of marketing device.

  2. http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?p=8492091#post8492091

    I’m pretty vocal about my dislike for piracy, and it’s often something difficult to put into exact words. Kurt Busiek’s posts on Gail’s forums encapsulate it better then I ever could. It’s nice to have your work read and promoted, but all the appreciation in the world kind of makes it a hollow void when it does so in mangling your rights as a creator.

    I like seeing fans empowered, but it blows severely if it’s at the cost of creator rights. This is also my main dislike of scanlations and fansubs.

    Scans_Daily probably wouldn’t of gotten in trouble if they had better limitations on what can be posted- fewer pages, limit 1 post per issue/volume of a given series to avoid posting too many pages, maybe some additional context in the initial posts. From what I recall, they did sometimes exceed some boundaries.

    I do think publishers should continue to engage with fans online, but fans shouldn’t take the inititative out of their hands – it’s something that also draws attention away from official efforts [I imagine VIZ'ld be making a lot more money off their Naruto Shippuden streaming if a gazillion other pirate websites weren't doing it too], and creates an atmopshere that is sometimes hostile towards publishers, creators, and fans who don’t engage in piracy.

  3. The idea that DC and Marvel should have more effective marketing on the internet for their books is right. The idea that an unregulated cesspool of wankery like scans_daily is the place to do such marketing is wrong.
    One thing I find amusing: monthly, a handful of users would post/hotlink previews and solicited covers from Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, and publisher websites. So right there: a group of people who will still be able to preview comics without the existence of scans_daily.
    What did scans_daily offer that Newsarama and CBR did not? Why, a community of uninformed, unprofessional, and entitled fans telling one another how wrong DC and Marvel are, and how much better livejournal users can do things. A home for people like bluefall to post a few paragraphs about how much you should personally hate Gail Simone in between each page of Wonder Woman she posts. A place where users like filkertom can write screeds about how he is totally done with DC for real after each posting of Final Crisis pages and be taken seriously. If these people are marketers, then they are the types who would slap a NOT BUY on anything offered by DC and Marvel by instinct. They are not the type of people who can sell, nor are they the type of people who are positive associations with a brand. I know I’ve avoided purchases because I didn’t want to give something scans_daily loved a chance (Hey Blue Beetle! Hey Booster Gold!)
    And you know what else? How so many users on scans_daily just knew the right characterization for these corporate superheroes? I bet that indicates that scans_daily wasn’t a place where new readers were going! Again, another way they fail at marketing! God forbid a new reader did accidentally wander in and approve of the current “wrong” characterization; they’d be flamed to high heaven. Good thing, that scans_daily did not succeed at getting new readers.
    If you’re looking for a place where a wide variety of comics can be introduced in a professional, thoughtful, and new-reader-friendly format, scans_daily is not what you should be looking for. The only thing Marvel and DC should take away from this all is that online discussions of comics will need heavy moderation.

  4. Kevin, you make a good point about anecdotal evidence. It’s entirely possible that there were people who found what they needed on scans_daily and didn’t buy the book. The question is do those people outnumber the new customers who found these comics through scans_daily. There does seem to be some empirical evidence that putting content online increases sales, at least for certain properties—Girl Genius, Hexed, and Fruits Basket, to name three rather disparate examples.

    With regard to copyright, again, fair use is a minefield, and if people were abusing it as you say, those posts should have been taken down. Pulling down an entire community in which fans of your work are having active discussions seems like overkill to me.

    (Parenthetically, some asshole was scraping my posts from MangaBlog and putting them up whole, alongside hard-core porn and torrents of recently released movies, on spammy Blogger sites and Google insisted on having me send them a written DMCA complaint for every single post, rather than just taking the whole damn splogs down. So I know how it feels to have your creator’s rights abused, but I don’t think s_d was doing that. But like I said, I didn’t spend much time there because I could never get a satisfying chunk of story, which I think proves my point, actually.)

    With regard to selling five copies of a Superman comic from your site, I don’t doubt you did, but the people coming to your site are already comics readers. LJ is a very organic community, with lots of people linking to lots of other people, and it’s very likely that someone would get their first exposure to comics by stumbling on scans_daily, and those people would have no idea what anyone was talking about without seeing the actual comics.

    Andre, I’m not defending piracy here. Scans_daily was on the borderline, but from what I saw, it was not comparable to a pirate site like onemanga.com. The comics were not presented in their entirety, and they were posted with commentary as part of a larger discussion.

    As for fans taking the initiative out of the publishers’ hands, I think that’s a healthy thing. One of the most interesting things about fandom, to me, is the way people make things their own, by writing fanfic or drawing their own comics or creating communities where people can have intense discussions about the content. We’re not just consumer-bots, buying whatever the marketing folks tell us to; it’s human nature to want to twist things around, and ultimately it can benefit a publisher by building loyalty to the brand.

  5. Bridgid, I indeed had heard of Scans daily before this week, but had never been there. Having not been there, I can only use information from other places to make my judgment about the site. From that information, I surmise that Scans Daily was much loved by its members, but that there may have been too many pages of each posted comic. No further comment about the site.

    Do the comics companies do a relatively poor job of promoting their products? Without a doubt.
    ==========
    When making an argument and trying to influence the opinions of others, perhaps it would be wise to avoid any phrases that could be taken as demeaning by the reader, such as: “in case you just got internet this week,”. I’ve been online for 8 years, and have never been to Scans Daily. There are also undoubtedly dozens of sites I have never heard of.

  6. Sorry, Alan, I didn’t mean to sound snarky. Your point is well taken, and I’ll be more careful in future.

    And I think you summed up the situation quite nicely.

  7. Brigid, I have no issues with fanart/fanfic. I make fanart, though I don’t read fanfic, and think both are a great ways to supplement what the publishers/creators output, and to spread news on what you love. Likewise, posting reviews, parody comics, and other stuff of that sort is something that’s been around since long before the internet.

    By “iniative”, I mostly meant people who scan issues of this week’s new comics, post them on bittorrent, and think they’re doing something helpful, when it’s somethingelse entirely. It’s not constructive fandom [like fanart/fanfic/reviews/columns/etc are], and doesn’t really encourage people to buy comics or to go through official channels for them. Things like fanfic and fanart and written reviews are more likely to draw people to check out the original work, while this activity just gives it to them, and teaches them that free downloading is the way to go [so many people who watch anime on Youtube have no clue that a given show is out on DVD, and some of them might even want it]. There’s no context to direct them towards supporting the market [ie-- and hey, you can buy this book on Amazon, or this publisher is putting it out here's their website, or even that a library might have it], and little to no actual creative activity involved [sticking monikers onto scans or fansubs to boost egos doesn't consistute creativity to me]. It’s something that teaches laziness [is it that hard to ask permission?] and poor ethics, and it’s a shame that kids are being instructed that it’s how to go about things. If any industry is dependent on fan support, it’s comics.

    Even with stuff like webcomics, which are free and online, it’s important that fans be directed to the right resource. I know that if someone put my stuff on bittorrent without me knowing, a lot of people might end up reading my work, but it’s moot if I don’t know that they are, and certainly doesn’t help me keep making the comic. Piracy takes away the interaction between creator and reader that’s important to the work, and helps continue the growth of new works.

  8. Hi Brigid! I’m one of the scans_daily mods. I think it’s probably best if I stay out of this discussion, since anything I say is going to reflect, rightly or wrongly, on the community as a whole, but I just wanted to clarify a possible misconception: the [name]_daily construction is a very old livejournal community naming trope that means, more or less, that there’s going to be new content daily on the subject of [name]. Depp_daily is about Johnny Depp, scans_daily used to post scans, toons_daily is about cartoons, so on and so forth. Yaoi_daily is a perfectly worthwhile community for fans of the genre, I’m sure, but it doesn’t have anything to do with scans_daily and never has. If you could edit your post accordingly, that would be appreciated.

  9. Thanks for dropping by, rabican. I knew the yaoi_daily site wasn’t affiliated, I was just looking to collect some other comics sites. Looking at it again, I don’t feel that I know enough about it to be comfortable linking to it so I took that link out altogether.

  10. “I know I’ve avoided purchases because I didn’t want to give something scans_daily loved a chance”

    Really, Mr Sotak? You’re gonna actively avoid something you might well enjoy — and actively avoid supporting the entire industry — just to spite a community of people who you don’t know, and have nothing to do with? That’s the high ground you’re taking? No offense meant, but seriously?

    The fact you spend the rest of the post extolling the virtues of supporting actual print-and-paper comics, yet admit to *not* supporting said comics for flimsy and hateful reasons, makes you a bit of a hypocrite doesn’t it?

    People are reacting as though this is the death of online internet piracy. Hurray, scans_daily is gone, there’s no more pirates. Well, actually, there’s a million more, who nobody really knows about — and like Gail so rightly pointed out, they’re a damn-side worse. And if it can’t be stopped — and doing so would require, what, killing the entire internet? — then at the very least, scans_daily was the least of a whole number of evils.

    As for your complaints about the community — yes, some of the posters there were a little to obnoxious for their own good. Have you been to CBR or Newsrama or ANYWHERE ON THE INTERNET lately? Finally…

    “Good thing, that scans_daily did not succeed at getting new readers.”

    Which is interesting because I am one. Apparently I don’t exist. Nifty! :)

  11. **The idea that DC and Marvel should have more effective marketing on the internet for their books is right.**

    Maybe–but it’s the copyright holder’s right to use or misuse their property as they see fit. Most piracy advocates I’ve encountered cite “if only they’d give us exactly what we want, exactly how I want it, and for free, I wouldn’t have to resort to pirating their comics/CDs/movies/books.”

  12. One of the things that I find interesting about this post and Kevin’s on his site is that while I was aware of scans_daily (having visited the site maybe twice) it would never have been an avenue I would have used in order to decide on a purchase. The internet makes it way too easy for people to steal and then hide behind a persona or behind a hill of moral high ground they’ve constructed around their argument. Do comic fans think the companies are big, faceless and evil? Maybe. Not a reason to steal. Call it “fair use” all you like (and too many people do), but just because the internet is so large that the copyright holders may not find you doesn’t make it any less illegal.

    If I need a reason to buy a comic book I’ll flip through it at the comic book store…just like I do at a traditional book store when deciding if a new book looks interesting. Sometimes it feels like if you’re a comics fan you absolutely must frequent the company sites or Newsarama or blogs or whatever to find the latest news, but outside of maybe 2 or 3 comics blogs I check on a regular basis I don’t want to do those things. I’m able to make a decision on my own at the actual store displaying the things I want to buy or I can take an informed opinion (like an online review), whether I agree with the opinion or not, and use that to help in any decision I might make.

  13. I’ve been posting this around– just my two cents about what mad scans_daily great:

    No one is saying that S_D was the only place to learn about new comics, but for my money it was the best.

    -LJ is one of the largest social networking sites on the net. Furthermore, plenty of non-comics readers are on LJ, so not only did it seem welcoming to n00bs who might have been curious, but it also lacked the “secret treehouse” atmosphere that a lot of other comics boards have.

    -The interface is prime for sharing images and, unlike other forums, it is possible to hold multiple conversations on the same post without getting bogged down with quote boxes and having other conversations mixed in.

    -Unlike Newsarama and CBR, who have their content fed to them by the publishers, S_D could be far more democratic. If only one person thought a comic was worth looking at (be it from the Big 2, small press, or webcomic), it could get face time.

    -S_D was also frequently used to share comics that were out of print, especially ones that had never been collected into trades.

    I agree it had its problems and should have had stricter rules and been better moderated, but it’s sad to think that such a vibrant community was shut down without warning and without a chance to fix itself.

  14. Why is there any controversy here!? If these people honestly feel that this is a valid way to promote comics, then re-post the scans that Marvel/DC release and then talk about the content with spoiler warnings. If you scan and post content that the copyright owner has expressly asked not be released THEN YOU ARE STEALING. Why is this being discussed as if it has merits? It is not a valid argument that because there are worse sites that it gives these people some sort of rights. It is not a valid argument that because these people believe they “love” comics that they should be allowed to do this. It is absolutely not a valid argument that anyone who believes they understand the property’s marketing nuances better than the owner should be allowed to diddle in the mix. Does Coke allow this? Does Disney? DO YOU?

    The copyright holders have asked you not to, therefore if you post these scans YOU ARE THIEVES. And you are not stealing to feed your family, so PLEASE do not try for any moral high ground here. YOU ARE THIEVES, you are DELIBERATELY stealing from a copyright holder that believes you are damaging their product. Start the conversation there.

  15. Jeffrey, there is a controversy because a number of people feel that the scans were fair use. It’s fair game to post a portion of copyrighted material as part of a discussion of that material. Publishers want you to think that’s a very limited amount, such as just the cover, while the scanners like to believe that anything short of the full work is fair use. In fact, copyright law sets out a four-part test, and it seems like any one of those parts could be argued in this case:

    1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

    2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

    3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

    4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    Furthermore, the creator does not have full control over whether someone else can reproduce the work—remember, lots of musicians objected to the use of their songs by politicians in last year’s presidential campaign, but as long as the candidates paid the fees they were allowed to use them. If it’s fair use, the creator can ask you not to reproduce the work but he or she can’t compel you not to. Of course, the only way you can prove fair use is in court.

    So it’s not that cut-and-dried. If it was, there would be no argument.

  16. Personally, I think it was shut down by Geoff Johns after I pointed out too many times how often he has characters’ arms ripped off. But that’s only a theory.

  17. I find it interesting that despite the *obvious* theft of IP that goes on wholesale on the Internet, the people who support the existence of scans are often the people who do actually pay for what they want. I rarely see people who really don’t care about creators’ rights writing in and saying, “Yeah, I don’t give a shit about you, I just want to get stuff for free.” Which leads me to believe that the people who actually think that aren’t aware of these conversations, any more than bored teenagers on Livejournal are aware of comic stores.

    As a publisher, I have to disagree with the idea that publishers aren’t doing enough to get the word out. We are all doing as much as we can, with limited resources and skills. Most publishers have at least one or two social media sites. It’s true that we could all be doing more, but there are limits to what we can do. It’s not terribly realistic to imagine Marvel – or even ALC Publishing – posting half of a story on scans_daily just to stimulate interests. (This aside from the fact that in some cases, publishers might not have the rights to digital reproduction at all.) Of course, there are a million places where fandom congregates online and maybe an independent creator can go ahead and promote their work in those places. A publisher doing so gets a bit more complicated.

    Overall, I agree with this completely – I think that something like scans_daily is completely fair use (aside from ocsasional abuses) and would not object to seeing a few scans of a story from ALC on the site. I would and do object to the digital reproduction of whole stories or books. And if I could track down people who search for my books with “free online” attached, so I could personally slap them, I would.

    Cheers,

    Erica Friedman

    Hungry for Yuri? Have some Okazu!
    http://okazu.blogspot.com

  18. Kevin Church comes off as nothing more than butthurt, it’s no wonder his blog is closed to commenting

  19. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way Ill be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly. eeggcbaefgdbddeg

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