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Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Jan Van Tol is the author of the software program Comictastic mentioned in an earlier news post this week. Van Tol posted an open letter to cartoonists this past Wednesday.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Jamie Robertson's picture

This guy’s program is for mac only, so for the time being it’s no real threat. However, someone will eventually develop a PC version and then trouble may loom. The smart thing to do is for the Webcomics community as a whole to be the ones who develop this program. Head them off at the pass and be smarter than the RIAA was. We can have our cake and eat it too. We just need someone to step forward and develop it. I know this is all easier said than done, :\ but as someone wrote earlier, I'm a webcomic artist, not a techie. ;)

Just my 2 cents.

Jamie
http://clanofthecats.com

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Jamie Robertson's picture

You’re right. Working with this guy may be the best solution. We won’t know until someone talks w/ him. When I said "Head them off at the pass" I was speaking of future programers like this guy, not him specifically. It’s just that there seemed to be an overabundance of argument on the principle of this, but no real solutions being discussed.

Jamie

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Jamie Robertson's picture

Melquiades, You make great comments that need to be heard by everyone here!

Jamie

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Jamie Robertson's picture

That this is our property isn’t an issue. It is our property. That we are already giving the readers a great source to view our FREE comics isn’t an issue either. We are giving them a great source to view our free comics. The issue is what the readers will do. We may all be jumping the gun and this type of “ripping” will fold. Still, do we want to end up like the RIAA and miss the boat of a possible alternative outlet for our stuff? I’m not saying anything has to be done now, just that we should, as a community, discuss it … which we are doing.

I’m a big advocate for choice in just about any matter, but whose choice is right? Is the choice of the web artist to have their comic distrusted a certain way more important that the choice of the reader to have the easiest access to our comics possible? It seems to me that if the bottom line is to get as many people as possible to read our stuff, then a compromise is more in order than any cease and desist order.

Take care,

jamie

Re: Lawyers? Toxic development? Artists, wake the heck up!

Joey Manley's picture

We're not technical idiots here, bub.

That images and HTML are separate computer files has no legal bearing on the issue. Yes, you can point to an individual file URL. That doesn't mean that you have the right to. Comictastic is like someone dropping twenty-five cents in a corner newspaper vending machine, taking all the papers there then handing the newspapers out for free. Just because twenty-five cents gets you into the corner newspaper vending machine, you don't have the right to take all the newspapers you find in there. Likewise, just because somebody gave you free access to his/her website, you don't have the right to do anything you want with that access, just because it's technically possible.

I'd like to see more webcomics creators offer a specific and deliberate set of material for scrapers and syndicators to use (as we have at Modern Tales), and to spell out exactly what rights they are willing to grant to scrapers and syndicators. And I'd like to see programmers gain more respect for the work of artists, and a). stop talking down to artists who have concerns about the fruit of their labors being used in ways they didn't intend, and b). realize that just because the technology allows for something to be done easily, doesn't mean that doing this thing is an inalienable right -- it isn't.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Re: Oh, for...

On a like note, considering that the "content" you'd be pushing via RSS would be, well, the content of the page (as in the big, freaking 100K+ graphic) it's kinda hard to build a low-bandwidth teaser that works for that.

Heck, penny arcade only posts up that there is a new comic, not the actual graphic in their RSS feed.

There's a perfectly good, poll-oriented mechanism for retrieving graphical content. It's called HTTP.

nit

Having a gun held to our heads and being told "I'm going to rape your content wether you like it or not so you'd better find some way to enjoy it" isn't exactly what I call "working together".

The analogy is, at best, disrespectful. Intellectual property violations are hardly so traumatic.

Re: Lawyers? Toxic development? Artists, wake the heck up!

Joey Manley's picture

While other browsers can block ads (at the specific request of the consumer who is viewing the pages for his/her own entertainment) -- those browsers are also capable of displaying the page as the artist intended it. Comictastic is not capable of displaying the page as the artist intended it. If/when this ever went to court, you can count on that being a significant part of the case.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Re: Lawyers? Toxic development? Artists, wake the heck up!

Joey Manley's picture

It is clearly not illegal to download a webpage as many times as I wish to, in order to view it.

And yet, Distributed Denial of Service Attacks, where webpages are deliberately downloaded over and over again in order to shut down someone's server, are illegal.

Each individual discrete act of downloading is not illegal -- but the overall intent of the action is taken into account, as well as its effect.

A similar argument could be made for a piece of software which deliberately and at great length goes out of its way to deny many webcomics creators their source of income. I'm not saying that the case would be won. But it's likely enough to be won that I wouldn't want to be in the business of defending against it. A similar case was won in the mid-nineties against a website that was hotlinking Dilbert files.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Fight! Fight!

Townie's picture

Something seems funny here - aren't there already a bunch of programs and scripts like this people can get FOR FREE? I think it's kinda pompous for everyone to be bickering, "You're stealing views from my site!" "You're just jealous people are paying me and you're not getting any of it!" I'm sure some stupid people are going to pay for this program, and other people are going to bother visiting the actual sites. But lots of people are just going to get the better of both deals and download a free program and never know either side said anything. As much as we try to decide what is free and what is at cost, those without the money or the bandwidth will find a way to get what they want. Just because Napster lost doesn't mean I can't get a free mp3 if I want it. Mac has a similar program for viewing webcomics and I've seen a number of webcartoonists support it. Maybe we should just focus our attention on getting the comics to the viewers and then maybe they'll bother to visit our sites once in awhile. I'm more inerested in getting stuff to my audience than starting some stupid fight.

- Ben

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Ok, so after thinking about this a bit more, here are a few extra thoughts I've had.

Bandwidth vs Vision
One of the complaints raised was that folks on low bandwidth connections (wrong end of a 56K modem) don't want to deal with image heavy pages, and are therefore looking for "just the meat". Most comic creators want to give the most professional looking page they possibly can and don't want to put a lot of work into doing extra effort for what they see as only a fraction of their audience. Comictastic attempts to solve the problem from the point of view of the low speed audience. It may just be that folks might want to consider putting together a very light weight page that doesn't use as many 32K color JPG images and let folks pick that "view" if they want it.

Techie vs. Artiste
Most webcomic folks aren't Geeks. They don't know HTML from an over-ripe mango, nor do they really care. They're more focused on providing content. What's more, they use any tool that's sufficiently free and does the job. Asking them to radically modify their site to support some random bit of jargon is like asking your cat to perform neurosurgery.

Trying to create a solution that provides content creators with a way to publish things out is nearly impossible because of the sorts of limitations that exist. (e.g. Keenspace and GeoCities provides *no* interface other than HTML, where as setting things up on your own server gives you nearly unlimited access to do anything.)

Reinventing the Wheel
Something has been kind of nagging at me about this whole thing. Artists want to be able to distribute their comic, links, and info as a bundle. Slow folks want just the basics. Folks have bandied around RSS as a solution, but there already is one out there. It's called HTTP and it's what every site already uses to display their content. The only problem is that most sites aren't structured in such a manner so that their easy to pull apart.

There Will Always Be A Next Time
Even if, by some stroke of luck, law, or lot, everyone now sets things up to use Mystical New Technology, what happens when enough Clueless Noobs show up and the cycle repeats again?

For now (and if possible) I'd suggest folks create a "light-weight version" where the entire page size is under 150K. That will still take around three seconds or so to load, but that's probably forgivable.

Granted, I really would love to run a survey of folks and find out if they have programming access to their site; if they use PHP, perl, or MySQL; and if they want a tool that allows them to distribute in multiple formats.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I can't help but wonder if this might not be something the CBLDF might not be interested in. It does defend our rights as comic artists.

I'm certainly up for donating to a fund to send a message about these comic-rippers.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

The numbers I've seen state that 40% of most US housholds have DSL or Cable modems. That means that 60% don't.

Likewise most webcomic pages clock in well over 300K by the time you factor in all the graphics and javascript. That means some poor slug is waiting anywhere from 6 to 20 seconds (depending on the quality of line) before the page renders.

That said, I also agree that HTTP is a perfectly well structured delivery mechanism for web comic content, provided the pages are structured to be as light-weight as you can make them and still have them look good. I'd say that Sexy Losers definitely does a good job of making the page lighter weight than the comic.

Can you absolutely prevent anyone from stealing images and bandwidth ever? No.
Can you sue everyone that writes a program that does it? No.
Can you remove the appeal of such programs by providing fast loading versions of your content? Yes.

Re: Oh, for...

Well, actually, you could simply include the url to the image.

Yes, I'm fully aware of the fact that RSS is simply XML over HTTP, but the specifications of RSS don't really fit. RSS is more designed for text content, not graphic content. If nothing else, delivering content via RSS could use more bandwidth than the actual top page.

Look, if the difference between RSS and HTML is basically markup, and if there's absolutely no difference in bandwidth, there's no incentive for a comic author to use it. In effect, they're doing a lot of out-of-band work to support a fraction of a nano-audience.

Heck, I view webcomics as tabs in Mozilla. That gets the full page from the content provider, can be scripted to occur at any time, and doesn't involve any extra work on the part of the comic provider. I've got the comics grouped into Daily, MWF, and TTH groups.

How would RSS improve my lot better than that?

Re: Lawyers? Toxic development? Artists, wake the heck up!

The problem is that the owner of Comictastic has not shown himself as willing to work with CARTOONISTS.

He talks a good game for a while, but the business about "clinging to antiquated advertising models"-- antiquated models which made Keenspot over $150,000 last year-- shows his true colors, as far as I can tell at present.

No, banner ads did not account for all that dough, but Comictastic's system also removes a strip's ability to promote its own merchandise or to sell said merchandise using its site. It removes everything from the equation but the strip itself. Essentially, it gives comic strips all the DISadvantages of appearing in a newspaper with none of the advantages. I really don't want to have to start sneaking my URL and e-mail address into the borders of every installment, the way comic strip artists have been forced to do for years.

Modern Tales-like models are untouched for now, but a modified version of this software could bring trouble for them, too.

Melquiades, I would argue that what Comictastic does is the very definition of "redistribution." I really don't see how you can feel otherwise.

The problem with the music industry (which doesn't begin and end with the RIAA) is not that it didn't just roll over and accept piracy, it's that it took so long to come up with a POSITIVE response to a changing marketplace. There IS a market for a legitimate "comic-sampler" program, but this program does not strike me as in any way legitimate.

Re: Arrogance in the extreme? Indeed.

FWIW, I have gotten in touch with him and tried to spell out some of my concerns reasonably. And his response will be the test. If he learns from this furor and comes up with something that doesn't cause more, then I'll reconsider my position on Comictastic. If, however, he continues to write as if his critics are dull-witted dinosaurs or "RIAA suits"... however uncivilly they might address him... then he'll never get my support.

Re: Distibution vs. Duplication

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Comictastic is a hotlinker. It pulls content off a webpage and displays it somewhere else. That's redistribution. Try to rationalize it anyway you want it doesn't change the fact that it's screwing the artists.

Re: Sorry, but this quote misses the issue.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

A-fricken-men, brother!

It's this sense of entitlement people seem to have reguarding our content that pisses me off. Like all the hard work we put into creating a webcomic and a site to host it means nothing compaired to their selfish need for instant gratification.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

I'm starting to think that this kind of fight is not going to be solved by artists and programmers. Both sides have drawn their lines.

The more I think about it, the more I believe a lawyer is necessary. A "cease and desist" letter carries a lot more weight than any BBS message does. Perhaps if cartoonists got together and started a fund for legal representation, like the CBLDF, we could work problems out a lot faster than any rhetoric could.

I know I would certainly be willing to donate to a lawyer that would represent online comic artist interests.

Just an idea.

Re: Disturbing

I agree with you.

However, that's not going to be the future of webcomics. It's not going to be decided by a theif, it will be decided by people who actually draw webcomics.

Re: Fight! Fight!

Greg Stephens's picture

In many of your posts on this topic- including twice in the one above- you say something like this:

I also object to being forced, against my will, to be part of a distribution system I want no part of.

This is not entirely correct. You are already participating in the "distribution system" which is the web-- It's HTTP. What you are objecting to is the ability of HTTP to serve up any file (the image containing your comic) outside of the context of a specific HTML document (your webpage). The proper name for what Comictastic is isn't "distribution system" but "HTTP image viewer."

This sort of practice has been going on for as long as there has been a web and there are ways to defeat such direct image viewing and deep-linking. However, we know that each time somebody comes up with one way to do so, there are other ways invented to circumvent it and so the cycle continues.

At some point, anyone who puts content up on the web has to come to terms with the fact that HTTP is a system that is quite open to be accessed in many ways and there is a tradeoff between allowing a lot of users to access the content and protecting that content from being accessed in ways the author did not originally intend. To not reconcile this in one's own mind is to deny the nature of the web.

What Comictastic does isn't unusual, shouldn't come as a surprise and certainly isn't the first or last one of its kind.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

I don't believe that there are THAT many people on dialup anymore.

There are, but they all live in Britain. (DSL penetration has been slow because of poor business decisions on BT's part, and cable is still a bit on the patchy side.) That might be exaggeration; I'm led to believe that many Americans outside urban areas are in the same boat. But I'm *still* seeing dialup plans being pushed as aggressively here as they were two or three years ago, many of them still metered to boot.

Also, a poorly administered cable modem network can be worse than dialup. Way worse. Way.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Folks have bandied around RSS as a solution, but there already is one out there. It's called HTTP

RSS feeds, and ditto Atom ones, are typically served over HTTP. I'm not getting your point; do you mean HTML?

The only problem is that most sites aren't structured in such a manner so that their easy to pull apart.

Most sites aren't created with structure and hierarchy in mind. If you can't "pull them apart," bluntly, that's a symptom of poor design.

Just keeping your pages under 150k (150k!?) isn't going to cut it. You can write an awful lot of poor, presentationally-geared HTML in that space which browsers on slower machines will struggle to render; user-end bandwidth isn't the sole concern here. (Never mind the days when those spaghetti pages and their associated chrome are spat haltingly from overloaded servers.) I'm on the back of a dsl connection here, and I still have to go and *make coffee* for a few poorly authored comics sites.

Disclaimer: I bandy RSS about (here, even, though I don't pretend to speak for anyone else), and I have a really hard time buying the idea that most webcomics are so dependent on being read in a particular context that separating them out is artistically destructive (I'm leaving revenue considerations aside for the moment here). I'd hate to read the print versions.

Oh, for...

Goodness me. I do wish he wasn't dragging RSS into it (fella, if you want to write an RSS aggregator, go join the queue), because I think he's just done more damage than good to something with strong potential for the field.

Once again: full content distribution is not the be-all, end-all of syndication's potential within webcomics. It's just an option.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

"In conclusion, the choice is yours. Either you can spend your time and money fighting people like me and my users, or you can embrace what I believe to be the future of webcomics(...)"

Somehow I find this sentence to be awkwardly disturbing.

Re: Lawyers? Toxic development? Artists, wake the heck up!

I simply don't know what's the deal with people comparing this software to ad-blockers.

Ad-blockers are like the remote controls of our television, they give us the option of viewing an advertising or not. Comictastic DOES NOT give that option.

Re: Sorry, but this quote misses the issue.

It's this sense of entitlement people seem to have reguarding our content that pisses me off. Like all the hard work we put into creating a webcomic and a site to host it means nothing compaired to their selfish need for instant gratification.

Luckily, they seem to be the minority. But I think it's better to take care of this problem while it's still small.

Re: Oh, for...

See above. RSS is served via HTTP, because it's only a markup language. It's not a server protocol!

And, actually, this is bogus. There's nothing to stop anyone from mocking up a low-res, single-panel teaser for the RSS feed. I'm reminded of the thing josh l. had (has?) going at Slipshine: the free users see lineart-only comics, the pay users get fully shaded ones. Slice out a sub-10k, 100x100pixel chunk of a panel which looks interesting, slap it up with a one-line description and a link to the day's archive page.

I feel like I just threw a feature article into a black pit.

(someone has totally gotta add cite tag support here)

Yes, I'm fully aware of the fact that RSS is simply XML over HTTP

But that's not what you're saying. So please say something else.

If nothing else, delivering content via RSS could use more bandwidth than the actual top page.

It's the kind of thing you have to call case-by-case. For strips where the chrome runs heavier than even the ad content, or the underlying markup is heavy for whatever reason, RSS is inevitably going to be lighter. If your users are banging shift-refresh every ten minutes, sending them to an automated, lighter-weight notification method has to improve your lot. Uh, I have to go finish writing an article about this, so you'll forgive me, I hope, for being tacky and referring you back here in about two weeks?

Heck, I view webcomics as tabs in Mozilla. That gets the full page from the content provider, can be scripted to occur at any time, and doesn't involve any extra work on the part of the comic provider. I've got the comics grouped into Daily, MWF, and TTH groups.

How would RSS improve my lot better than that?

I do the same thing (except with Safari). AND I use RSS via LJ -- which spreads one hit's worth of feed-retrieval over several users -- with placeholders on. Grouping the comics per day doesn't work when creators run chronically late or unpredictable, and rendering a single page's worth of notifications generates far less system load than a bundle of tabs churning all at once. Plus, feeds won't force you to fetch, render and churn through all the chrome and tag soup endemic in comics manned by creators for whom the frame is more important than the picture.

I ask myself how I can improve my lot every time I leave a dedicated browser process alone for ten minutes of breakfast and teamaking to grab one of a half dozen gaming comics whose server is struggling to assemble 350k of components, less than half of which qualify as primary content, let alone getting round to sending them to me so I can give up and read the source partway through. Fortunately for everyone, I like reading source markup. If you can write an RSS feed which sensibly uses 100k+ of markup to deliver one comic and one ad -- and let's make it easy, let's make the version cutoff 1.0 at the bottom end -- then I'm so totally going to be in awe of you.

Re: Before Everybody Goes Nuclear...

Scott McCloud's picture

Ah! Okay, on the 5 Card Nancy quote, I see what you meant. I did actually mean that "permission" comment humorously. There are paranoid universities and copy shops that may disagree and require waivers, but in fact, the use I described should indeed be fair use. My parenthetical was pure *wink-wink-nudge-nudge* in that context.

"Toxic" = hostile? Reasonable assumption I suppose. He did kind of lose points with the whole asking for donations thing (obvious rejoinder being to ask him if we could give away his program, using his bandwidth, while stripping his donations request! Hmm), but no, I'd say the jury is still out on the guy personally. As I said in the blog post, there's no need to personally condemn him, and every reason to try to understand where he's coming from in preparation for what is likely to be a growing trend.

Re: Sorry, but this quote misses the issue.

All that said, I trust Joey Manley's judgement. I'd rather wait to see the outcome of his negotiations before saying anything else.

I don't believe those guys are comic fans any more than just people trying to make money out of someone else's work, but let us all pray I'm proven wrong.

Seriously.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

I don't know about CBLDF...
They tend to only take the anti-censorship side of arguements...
And I'm sure Comictastic's author would be the one claiming his "freedom of speech" is being censored.

Not that *I* personally think ripping webcomics and stealing cable falls under freedom of speech...

Re: Arrogance in the extreme.

: The only justification for comic-ripper is "I'm a lazy, selfish bastard who only cares about myself
: and want what I want when I want it and I don't give a crap about what the consequences are for
: anyone else."

He's not a lazy, selfish bastard.
He's just wrong.
He just doesn't understand that his program is violating our rights.
That doesn't make it OK, but it is an excuse.

Re: Arrogance in the extreme? Indeed.

Thanks for the breath of reason.

I think that, though his dander is clearly up, if Jan Van Tol gets some respectful and realistic suggestions from comic authors, the name-calling will die down and something really exciting might even come out of the exchange.

The test will, as you say, be whether he learns from this furor ... and also whether artists do. If either side walk in with eyes or mind shut, it will go nowhere.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Thanks. And thanks for your level-headedness. (And also for your comic.)

Before Everybody Goes Nuclear...

Scott McCloud's picture

Here's the full text of my blog post that melquiades is quoting (yeah, I know he linked to the original, but most people don't bother to click out):

"Irony abounds in Comictastic creator Jan Van Tol's Open Letter to Web Cartoonists , and yeah, on balance, I think it's a toxic development, but it is worth our while to try to understand the guy's point of view before condemning him. Programs like Tol's have little relevence to weirdly formatted experiments like mine (not to mention gated content like The Right Number ), but it's easy to see how this trend could affect us all in the long run. Here's a Comixpedia Thread on the guy if you want to help 'em untangle it all. Me, I'm still mulling it over."

THAT'S IT. My entire comments to date.

Now, for the Record:

1: I haven't even started to discuss the reasons I think it's a toxic development. (It was just a BLOG POST for pity's sake). It'll take a full length essay to discuss why I think ripping comics out of their original context does more harm than good in the long run. Until then, please don't assume that you can characterize my arguments beyond "doesn't like it", because that's all I've said so far.

2: The "Irony" is, of course, the plea for financial support for the programmer's hard work. I just thought it was funny in context and I suspect I'm not alone.

3: "Five Card Nancy?!" Oh, great... Thanks. Now I have to spend the next 20 minutes of my life explaining THAT comment to the 99% of Comixpedia readers who haven't heard of it. Okay, here goes... Five Card Nancy is a card game using Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy panels, rearranged to make weird new sequences. If I ever sold it, I'd obviously need permission, but it's just a party game played by some friends and me so it stayed in the realm of public domain. When putting the rules on my website, however, so others could do it, I wanted to post a lot of the resulting sequences so my readers could get a laugh. Unfortunately, because the resultant combos were basically New Complete Comics Starring Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy I figured that I'd need to contact United Media for clearance—legal gray area and all. They made it clear that they'd make the process needlessly difficult and expensive, so I figured Hell, I'll just replace Nancy with pictures of Fish. I thought it was funny and still do. But yeah, I might well have needed permission to do it the other way.

4: Don't lump me in with those calling for lawsuits! I've done no such thing and I've long been publicly critical of those who take that path (especially the RIAA).

5: I SAID I'm still "mulling it over". I SAID we should try to understand the guy's point of view. I specifically SAID that we should NOT prematurely condemn him. Short of jumping up and down cheering him on, what do want from me?!

6: Calling the development "Toxic" does NOT mean that it's illegal (it's probably not) or even unethical (maybe not). It just means that I think the end result will be a net loss for creative control, industry evolution, and the ability of certain strip artists to support their work. (Doesn't affect me personally, but I figure I have a responsibility to comment if it affects others adversely).

The funny thing is, I don't even disagree with a lot of what you're saying! (Teevo might be an even more convincing example, by the way; Napster has too much baggage). I just think you're glossing over the very real impact this sort of thing may have on artists and some of the unique challenges of comics on the web which Comictastic's One-Size-Fits-All approach is bound to clash with.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

Erik Melander's picture

I dont think it would work, regardless if its an attempt att cooperation with comictastic or an attempt to create an "inhouse" comicripper. The reason is simple, in order for it to actually be an app everyone would stand behind it would have to have either an opt-in or opt-out mechanism. The creator of comictastic wont add an opt-out mechanism and if it was developed by the webcomic community it should (at least in my opinion) have an opt-in method which is inefficient. This because the really big players which would have to be necessary to get on board has nothing to gain by grouping with the smaller webcomics.
The only way I see a community webcomic ripper as likely is if Keen industries themselves created it and demanded that everyone on their sites were part of it.

A few brief thoughts:

1) Keen is not synonomous with web comics; they would face the same problems as everybody else.

2) Good standards build support remarkably quickly, even in the face of these "opt-in / opt-out" questions. And a good standard for syndication is what's necessary here -- readers are actually willing to pay money just for a jerry-rigged simulation of one!

3) You should never presume negotiation won't work until you've tried.

New readers for comics

How's Comictastic going to affect a comic's chances of getting known about? Visiting the genuine comic websites, you get a bit of exposure to other comics through banner ads, link buttons and the Keenspot newsboxes. If I'm understanding it right, Comictastic cuts all that out.

Comics Browser? Let's see if the developer will play ball!

I think that a browser developed specifically to view webcomics is an awesome idea, and I think that we should foster an open and friendly conversation with this developer.

As far as I can tell, the leading criticism is the lack of publisher controll over content. Has anyone brought this up with Jan and asked for more support on this?

If Jan is really interested in creating "new sources of revenue" let's ask if we get support for additional markup that will allow publishers to add text, links (to the cartoonists stores, blogs or anywhere), and even low-bandwidth banners.

Maybe we'll get a friendly response.

I signed up specifically to post this

I think that I've come up with a good analogy for this particular situation. I'll use Ghastly for example since he seems to be a very vocal opponent.

Let's look at it like this: Ghastly has some money (comic) which he keeps in his wallet (website). When he wants to, he takes out his money (comic) and gives it to a store (audience) in exchange for goods and services (adviews). What Van Tol is doing is taking Ghastly's money (comic), putting it in his own wallet (comictastic) and giving it to a store (audience) in exchange for different goods and services (the money he gets when people buy his program). Ghastly gets nothing, while Van Tol gets everything. That just isn't right.

Re: A few brief thoughts:

Erik Melander's picture

1) True, but if a ripper was to use opt-in it would have to be able to accumulate webcomics that freely would join fast to be an alternative to those rippers who simply add comics regardless of what the author thinks. I think Keen would be the only who could do this effectively, heck it might even be a good idea for them to do it. They could save bandwidth and the user could save bandwidth. They could even build in a system to still display ads in the app.

2) Maybe, but Im not convinced. The problem is that the app would essentially have to be better than the existing alternatives, something which is tricky when you give creators the option to refuse to participate.

3) True, but I dont entire share your opinion of the willingness of the comictastic creator to cooperate with the webcomiccreators. And ofcourse a lot of comiccreators dont want to cooperate with him because they simply want to have control over whether they participate or not.
Besides, any attempt at a "sanctioned" app should probably be directed (at first at least) towards the Windows platform. I love my mac, but I have no delusions about how big the userbase is.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

You know, I admit that comic rippers help no one, but I feel that we artists can help ourselves...

By hiring a detective with questionable morals and finding out where the authors of these programs live and paying them a visit. I'm a big supporter of the idea that you can't hide behind a keyboard forever and punishment can, should and will come your way eventually.

It's not immature, it's justice. As old as the sun itself.

Re: Comictastic Program Author Writes Open Letter to Cartoonists

You know, I admit that comic rippers help no one, but I feel that we artists can help ourselves...

By hiring a detective with questionable morals and finding out where the authors of these programs live and paying them a visit. I'm a big supporter of the idea that you can't hide behind a keyboard forever and punishment can, should and will come your way eventually.

It's not an immature power fantasy, it's justice. As old as the sun itself.

Re: Lawyers? Toxic development? Artists, wake the heck up!

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Once again we see just how little respect some people have for webcomic artists.

Having a gun held to our heads and being told "I'm going to rape your content wether you like it or not so you'd better find some way to enjoy it" isn't exactly what I call "working together".

I don't want my comic viewed outside the context of my website. PERIOD. If you can't repect my rights as an artist to have my comic viewed within the context of my website then I don't particularily want, or need you as a reader. PERIOD. If I didn't want my comics viewed within the context of my website I'd just post them to Usenet.

There is no dream situation here. Some guy has arbitrarily decided that his software is going to be "the future of webcomics" and the rights of the artists, the people who create the webcomics, to decide for themselves how they want their work viewed is being violated.

If it's not worth it to you to read the artists comics within the context they wish them to be displayed then don't read them. Webcomic artists are under no obligation to provide you with entertainment custom tailored to your desires. We make our comics the way we want to make them. We display them the way we want to display them. For those people who find our work is worth the time and effort it takes to view them then great, welcome aboard, I'm thrilled you like my work. For those readers who don't feel our comics are worth the time and effort it takes to read them, well so long, sorry you couldn't find what you were looking for, best of luck out there on the internet finding a comic that more suits your tastes.

Re: Sorry, but this quote misses the issue.

What comictastic does is downloads our files off our webpages then redistributes it to the programer user on a new custom webpage...

Nope. Sorry. Wrong. Your thinking it looks this way does not make it true.

violates the contextual distribution rights of the webcomic author

I saw you post about these before. WTF are these "contextual distribution right"? I mean, like, not your own little rant about them, but can you find the actual law for us, or some legal description of them online? A quick Google turned up nothing for me.

Re: Disturbing

Now that you mention it, that sentence does sound like Micro$oft, but he does have a point. People can either work with him and work towards a mutally beneficial arrangment, or not. I think it's amazing a Mac Comic Viewer has become so popular that he is getting "hassled" :)

Looking at his features, I do understand cartoonists being concerned about the lack of views on advertisements.

Re: Disturbing

Now that you mention it, that sentence does sound like Micro$oft, but he does have a point. People can either work with him and work towards a mutally beneficial arrangment, or not. I think it's amazing a Mac Comic Viewer has become so popular that he is getting "hassled" :)

Looking at his features, I do understand cartoonists being concerned about the lack of views on advertisements.

Re: Just one thing about copyright

RPin said that.

Arrogance in the extreme.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I can't believe just how arrogant this guy is. What gives him the right to dictate to webcomic artists what revinue model they should and should not use. We'll use what revinue model we feel is best suited for our work wether it's subscription, adviews, or merchandising. It's our legal right as artists to control the access to the content we provide and to employ our own business models.

We don't have to work with any programmer at all to determine "the future of webcomics". Believe me if comic-rippers become the future of webcomics then the future is pretty bleak because a lot of webcomics will simply go under.

I've created a website for my comic, the website, as a whole, is representitive of my comic, apart from the fact that the adviews on my website cover the bandwidth costs of hosting my comic, I do not wish for my comic to be viewed outside the context of the website I have created for it. It is my right as an artist not to have my work picked apart.

Saying that this is just technology that people want does not justify violating the rights of artists. There are a lot of people who want to have sex with children, that doesn't make it right.

This guy claims he loves comics and yet he shows absolutely no respect what-so-ever for the artists who create these comics. You can try to euphamise your software as a nothing more than a "special image browser" but that doesn't change the fact that what it is is a program that rips comics off of the artist's sites and displays them out of the context that the artist wishes them to be displayed in. To make it worse this guy is profiting from our labour. Is he paying royalties to each comic artist being violated by his software? I seriously doubt it.

Trying to justify this in terms of "sticking it to the man" is rediculous. There is no "man" here to stick it to. Over 90% of webcomics are independent artists creating these comics for the love of creation. We're not a big, faceless corporate conglomerate looking to rip you off. We're artists who love to create comics. Most of us have dayjobs and create these comics in our spare time. Most of us are providing these comics free for readers to view. All we ask is that you view them on our websites. I don't think that's asking too much. It's not like we're the RIAA trying to sell you a six song CD for $25 that only has one song on it you want.

The only justification for comic-ripper is "I'm a lazy, selfish bastard who only cares about myself and want what I want when I want it and I don't give a crap about what the consequences are for anyone else." Well I'm sorry but that isn't justification enought.

If I didn't care about the context within which my comic was viewed I wouldn't bother with all this annoying HTML and webhosting nonsense. I'd just post my comics to Usenet. That would certainly be quicker, easier, and cheaper on my end. I've taken time and effort to build a home for my comics and I don't appreciate them being ripped from that home.

If your modem is so slow that reading my comic on its website is too much of a chore (and considering my comics are about 150K to 200K each, you're not saving a lot of time by just ripping the comic) then don't read my comic. If it's not worth the time and effort for you to read it within the context that I have expended the time and effort to place it then don't read it. Read another comic that you feel is worth your time and effort. Fans who violate my rights as an artist are not fans I need. I'm letting you view my work for free, there is simply no valid justification for violating my work by ripping it from the context I want it to be viewed in.