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 problemâ€”they felt scans_daily was posting too much of their comicsâ€”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).