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Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Another program to read comics that fetches images directly from servers. The creator's FAQ acknowledges some of the tensions such programs create for the artists who create webcomics:

Q: Don't you rip off the artists when you view the strips, but not the ads?

A: Ad revenue on the web is so low these days, comic artists have already added (or completely switched to) many other support models. And I encourage everybody to make those models work for them. Please buy books or T-shirts, join their clubs, tip them money, do visit their homepages and click on some ads... I do regularly!

These programs appear to be here to stay - how will they impact the "free" model so many webcomics, even highly successful ones, continue to employ? Is bandwidth cheap enough that a program such as this that can "rip" an entire archive of image files will not cause financial problems for creators? What other issues surrounding distribution of webcomics are on your mind this week?

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

To webcomic authors: Exactly what do you find offensive about comic rippers, or, more specifically, under what circumstances would you have no problem with them?

The major complaint seems to be that they don't download ads; some people complained that their comics were removed from the context of the rest of the webpage; there were also complaints that the archive-downloading programs spiked bandwidth; others were upset that the programs gave false user-agents or ignored robots.txt.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

John Munsch is also writing a java reader for comics - this seems more aimed at scanned and zipped comics than the above ripped and bundled software but in the same general area of interest/concern.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Eric Burns's picture

I'm not a webcomic author, but I wrote an essay on this topic... oh, twenty minutes. It's here.

In brief: this doesn't just take the reader away from the advertisements. This takes the reader away from the tip jar, from the online stores. From the "hey -- buy this tee shirt" bits. This software archives comic strips that some artists don't provide free archives for, but instead require a subscription to archive, so that over time you can have for free what the artist wants you to pay for. This software consumes bandwidth and eliminates all the ways the artist or online syndicate uses to recoup those costs.

I have no problem at all with RSS readers that collect the feeds artists allow to be created for their strips. That acts within the boundaries the artist has created for viewing his art (unless someone creates a feed without permission, in which case I have a big problem with it). However, this goes one better, and just takes, dinging bandwidth costs, and dumping it onto a hard drive.

And that's just not cricket.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

As usual, Websnark.com gets it in one.

Other forms of stealing are also "here to stay" in the sense that people will continue to steal somewhere, somehow. But that doesn't mean the burden is upon *us* to "cope" with them.

The smugly hypocritical Q&A actually makes me more angry with this guy, not less. "Ad revenue is so low. I'm sure cartoonists won't even MISS it! And hey, buy their books, T-shirts, club memberships or tip jars on the SITES THAT MY PROGRAM WILL KEEP YOU AWAY FROM."

Jesus Christ.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Egh. Correct "buy" to "spend money on".

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

I have only one more thing to add to waht Websnark wrote: what seems to be also a big issue on these softwares is the fact that those authors ask no permission whatsoever, or even try to make deals with the webcartoonists BEFORE lauching them. So after those people put out their softwares, we're given no choice than to support them or work out deals with them.

Just to make a horrible metaphor (and I apologize for it, since I'm actually more supportive of comic-rippers now then I was when I first posted a message about them), it'd be just like a guy walking up to you, beating you to the ground, tying up your legs and hands and yelling "YOU'LL BE ASS-RAPED AND YOU'LL LIKE IT".

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Eric Burns's picture

Or even worse, "I don't see why you're not wriggling a bit more, to make this more enjoyable for me."

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

First, didn't Xereres post a link once to a site showing how, using php code, you could send different image files to seperate browsers through the same file address?

Just set up to send a low-resolution, copyright notice included, watermarked image ("Thanks for the interest, please see the original at www.example.xxx") to everyone who either rips or deep-links, and the nicer, high-resolution, cleaned up version to everyone who takes the time to come in to the origin site.

Second, now that I think about it, another possibility without the coding hocus-pocus is to just append an ad to the bottom of the image itself, so when it does get ripped or deep-linked they get the ad as well as the comic -- crass and comercial, but if it's the same comic-with-an-ad sent to everyone regardless of where they see it, then who can complain... its still free, right?

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

scarfman's picture

To webcomic authors: Exactly what do you find offensive about comic rippers, or, more specifically, under what circumstances would you have no problem with them?

The major complaint seems to be that they don't download ads; some people complained that their comics were removed from the context of the rest of the webpage; there were also complaints that the archive-downloading programs spiked bandwidth; others were upset that the programs gave false user-agents or ignored robots.txt.
Under no circumstances would I have no problem with them.

The major complaint is not that they don't download ads. The major complaint is that they rip the graphic file from its intended presentation environment. This includes not just the ads, nor just the merchandise promos, nor just any other site features which ennable certain cartoonists to make a living, or even just maintain the site, which the new program's FAQ dismisses so casually. Though this alone, mind you, is why rippers are of the same moral and legal turpitude as what Napster was taken to court for doing - and lost.

This also includes the site features which constitute the aesthetic environment intended by the webcartoonist. For instance, the panel borders of my cartoons are designed to blend in with the background color of the page. You rip my cartoon off my page and that effect's lost. Even though there's no ad or fundraising requests of any kind on my site, you do this and it pisses me off.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

scarfman's picture

First, didn't Xereres post a link once to a site showing how, using php code, you could send different image files to seperate browsers through the same file address?
The fatal flaw in your argument is it proceeds from the assumption that everyone who'd like to defeat rippers uses PHP.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

You know, most of the bigger webcomic artists don't even care about employing anti-hotlinkng measures. That's one of the things that made me change my mind about comic rippers.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Nah, I think it's more like a guy walking up to you, beating you to the ground, and telling you that, the web being what it is, ass-raping is an inevitable function of your profession and he thinks you should just lay back and think of England, but you can A) sell T-shirts (perhaps that say "I ass-raped a webcomic and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"!) and B) they'll be happy to check for polyps while they're up there.

*cough* Nah, it's not that bad, but I'm never one to pass up a horrible metaphor.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

>>To webcomic authors: Exactly what do you find offensive about comic rippers, or, more specifically, under what circumstances would you have no problem with them?

What I find most offensive about them is that they know that artists don't want it, but do it anyway and tell everybody that it's wrong of us to mind. I can't think of any other place in society where it's OK to decide for one individual, over another's objections, what they can do with something that is unquestionably the other's property.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

It's a small download, less than 11 KB. But what would happen to his bandwidth charges if a lot of people put a <img src="http://www.rowlff.de/comanche/comanche_1_07.tgz" width=1 height=1 alt="not an image"> in an unobtrusive spot on their web pages?

If I may weigh in...

Hi,
I'm Marc Rohlfing, the author of Comanche - yesterday I received several very interesting and well thought out emails from members of this community, that refered me to this forum. If I may, I'd like to weigh in with my side of the argument.
I realize this is not going to be easy for me, but I sincerely think that both sides of this argument have things going for and against them, and that we may be able to profit from one another:

Please let me address your arguments single file:
- Using Comanche keeps people from seeing your 'Donate'-Buttons and thus from donating! As I have written in responses to personal emails already: If somebody likes your strip and wants to donate, he will do so. If he does not, a button will not change the user's mind. It's always up to the reader to donate - a level of abstraction will not change anything here.
And for the argument that people will NEVER have seen the homepage and therefore don't even know they can donate... Comanche is based on the assumption that you use it as a personal tool to deliver to you (and only to you) the strips you like in a format you choose. You do know the homepages of your favorite strips, and how to support them.

- Not displaying the ads is stealing! That seems to be the most mentioned point: I work in web-development myself, and from the numbers I get myself and hear from clients, ad-revenue these days IS low. If I was wrong in this assumption in regards to web cartoons, I'd like to apologize (and will remove the offending part from my FAQ, that seemed to irk you the most).
This, I think, is the point where both our camps could probably start a careful approach, too: If ads are such an important stream of revenue for you, I would like to modify Comanche to download the ads as well when retrieving a comic strip. That way, both sides win: You get your hits, and Comanche users still can enjoy the strips in a (for them) convenient format.

- I want to show my strips in my context on my webpage only! Here I have to strongly disagree: The most important feature of the web (and one that will only gain in importance in the coming years) is the ability for me as a user to get imformation in a format I like. If I want to read the strips only - I should be able to do so.
Let's try an analogy here: If an author wrote the greatest novel ever. Critics hail it. You want to read it. But can't, because the author insists that his works can only be truly appreciated in handwritten copies, leather bound by himself? Or, a little closer to home, if you were offered syndication for your strip, would you refuse, unless you were guaranteed a separate page in the paper for your strip instead of being crammed on the funnies page?
Again, this is not a black and white issue: Just because somebody prefers to repackage your strips via Comanche and read them as an rss feed does not mean he will never visit your site. Or never donate.

Looking forward to your opinions

-Marc

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

>>If an author wrote the greatest novel ever. Critics hail it. You want to read it. But can't, because the author insists that his works can only be truly appreciated in handwritten copies, leather bound by himself?

That's tough luck. The author wrote it, and owns it, s/he calls the shots.

>> Or, a little closer to home, if you were offered syndication for your strip, would you refuse, unless you were guaranteed a separate page in the paper for your strip instead of being crammed on the funnies page?

That's my decision, not yours.

Your points are irrelevant. I can draw comics and insist they be used as kleenex. My economic decisions could be mindblowingly stupid. It's not your business. You don't own it.

Re: If I may weigh in...

Eric Burns's picture

You miss a crucial point:

You're using the artist's bandwidth to slurp down his cartoon (and archives), taking them away from all the different reminders of how a person can help to defray that bandwidth. You are, in effect, costing the artist money for the privilege of entertaining you on your terms.

And it's not just a donation link. It's tee shirts (which they'll not know are available unless they happen to go to the site after they come out). It's book collections. And yes, it's advertising. PvP makes a lot of money through their advertising model from all reports, as does Penny Arcade -- in fact, I think Penny Arcade gets most of their food for themselves, their wives and the new child via the advertising dollars that come in.

Finally, on this:

If an author wrote the greatest novel ever. Critics hail it. You want to read it. But can't, because the author insists that his works can only be truly appreciated in handwritten copies, leather bound by himself?

J.D. Salinger wrote "Catcher in the Rye." It continues to pay his bills. Because his bills are paid, the huge amount of writing he has done since then he has not chosen to publish. It's likely very very good writing, but he's not writing it for you. He's writing it for himself.

If your software broke into his house, smashed into his office, broke into his safe, stole his manuscripts, photocopied them, and tossed them out to the whole world, would you expect J.D. Salinger to kiss you for it?

Your argument boils down to "but I really want to do this. Why can't I?" The only possible answer is "basic human decency."

Think about it.

Re: If I may weigh in...

Heya Marc! :)

I changed my opinion on Comic Rippers after I spent some time as a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I came to realize that denying a technology that could improve the internet is pointless. I don't know if I could say I support your program, but at least it's safe to say I don't mind it anymore. Yours isn't the first one and it sure won't be the last. Even if webcartoonists were to work out deals with you, soon enough another program, to make things even more convenient, would make Comanche obsolet (which would be quite ironic, to see you in our position for once). That's what the internet is about, and as Joey Manley once put, one thing we can all be proud of is not cristalizing into a handful of business models. We're still experimenting, seeing what works and what doesn't, and maybe the time where people read comics on an html page has finally come to an end and we'll have to look for other ways to provide our content. Who knows?

But one thing, as you yourself guessed, is wrong about the way you put things:

"Not displaying the ads is stealing! That seems to be the most mentioned point: I work in web-development myself, and from the numbers I get myself and hear from clients, ad-revenue these days IS low. If I was wrong in this assumption in regards to web cartoons, I'd like to apologize (and will remove the offending part from my FAQ, that seemed to irk you the most)."

I don't know if ad revenue is down these days. I don't see any of the revenue my comic makes. But it pays for my host. It pays for my bandwidth. Some comics don't rely, at least not heavily on advertising. But others run solemnly on it, and the most important one that comes to mind now is KeenSpot. KeenSpot has an online store, and I'm sure it brings a pretty buck to the owners and the artists. But a large amount of the KeenSpot income comes from advertising. In case of Spot's free hosting, it's even more evident. KeenSpace has no other means of making money than ad sales.

In these cases, a product like yours can mean the end of these services. Maybe not for the artists, they can always have someone else to host their comics. But for the guys who started these companies it can be fatal.

I'm still wanting to see a comic-ripper author wanting to put his money where his mouth is. Tell you what, you're much welcome to host my comic in your own server for free and then distribute it with your comic viewing software, if you want. How does that sound?

Re: If I may weigh in...

Eric Burns's picture

As I said back on Websnark, I have contempt for this program.

You'll note, however, I'm not calling for its source code to be put to the fire. For one, I'm an EFF supporter too. For the other, there's this girl named Pandora who called about a box? She says hi.

But I think it's important to recognize that this does hurt the artists, as well as make them upset. And that those who use the software to circumvent their business models are directly making it harder for them. And that makes me a sad panda.

Re: If I may weigh in...

"But I think it's important to recognize that this does hurt the artists, as well as make them upset. And that those who use the software to circumvent their business models are directly making it harder for them. And that makes me a sad panda."

I used to think like that too. Back when the Comictastic issue was raised, I contacted a number of big webcartoonists trying to ask them if they'd be interested in dedicating a day to inform readers about the malefices of using a comic-ripper. Only very few of them actually took the time to answer me, and of the ones that did, none of them were interested in having an "anti comic-ripper day". They either said that they don't know how they feel about rippers or just plain said their main income doesn't come from advertising.

It really gets me wondering: where is Tatsuya when issues like these are brought up? Where are Gabe and Tycho? Where is Scott Kurtz? I don't know... Drawing comics, maybe...?

I ended up with this impression that only us underdogs are strongly against comic-rippers. The big guys just doesn't seem to care (with the exception of Hard, maybe). Which is sad, because I'm interested in hearing what they think. If those guys, who are the most affected by those softwares just don't care, why should we?

Anyways, I still completely agree with what you said. One thing it's important for our programmer there to realize is that we don't form a monolict opinion. Some are supportive of comic rippers, others are against, and others just doesn't care. You can't thrown away the opinions you don't wanna hear and just focus on the ones that agree with you.

A webcartoonist does not speak in behalf of all webcartoonists.

You don't have to be experienced in our community to know that there's actually nothing more true than this.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

I think you are mixing two different things here:
You own your comics? Sure you do - I can not make money off them, Neither can I pretend that I created them. That's what copyright law is for, and it's a good thing.
But as son as you publish your work for people to consume it - which surely is what you want, don't you? After all, you have a web page for everybody to read your strips - it's up to the consumers how they decide to do so (especially on a medium like the internet).
To get back to the author example: You can write on the back of your book "Not to be read in the bathroom" all you like - that will (and should) not stop anybody from doing so anyway. And if I want to cut out all the pages and glue them together as one long strip of paper to read, thats my prerogative, too.

Now, I agree that these analogies all fall flat when it comes to the economic difference - that is that I have paid for a book in the first place, whereas visiting your web site is free (or, rather, paid for by the ads, which brings us back to the main complaint you have about Comanche). That's why I was asking in my first post whether the webcomic artists and the authors of "Comic Rippers" should not get together and find a solution that benefits everybody.
The title of this article "Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software" clearly indicates that people want webcomic readers. You will argue that they want so because they are all greedy pirates out to steal your content, but bear with me here when I say that I am very sure that most people use comic readers for the convenience, not to rip you off.

As a new question and example, why don't all webcomic sites offer RSS feeds? Doing so would give your readers the convenience so many obviously desire - and you a way to have ad content in these feeds to help pay the bills! As long as you insist on providing the one, true format, people will find ways around it.

-Marc

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Um. Thanks, Ursula, now I'm gonna be walking funny all day...

Re: If I may weigh in...

I understand all of your concerns - and a lot better than I thought before (^_^)

I surely do not belong to the "information wants to be free"-camp that insists on getting everything for nothing, claiming that artists will continue to produce great works, just because they love doing it so much (now, I sure hope you all love what you're doing, it's just that I think you deserve to get paid, too).
On the other hand, I think the consumer has a right to choose (or, at least, influence) the way he consumes your art - like I can choose to see a movie in the theater or on DVD later, buy a hardcover or a flimsy paperback.
As you have stated realistically, by stubbornly insisting that people can only consume your comics by visiting your web sites, and accusing all others of piracy, you are not doing yourself a favor (because many, I dare say most, do so for the convenience, not to rip you off). And surely you're not halting or turning back the wheels of progress on the internet.

So I would love to find that mentioned middle ground that benefits both you as artists (allowing you to get paid) and me as a consumer (allowing me to choose the way content is displayed to me). One idea would be for you to offer RSS feeds on your sites, including ads in there. That would make programs like Comanche more or less obsolete - and I'd be fine with that.

Another way would be if Comanche did download the ads in addition to the strips. It defeats the purpose a little, but in the interest of that middle ground, I would agree and build that.

Yet another, way more utopic but still interesting, idea would be to agree on a set of standards to send ads or other content you deem important (tip jars, new t-shirts) to the users of "comic ripers". Imagine a <viewer> tag that contains information that's only visible if your content is viewed with a comic viewer...
Will every program adhere to these standards? No? But then you may start calling the users of THESE programs pirates as much as you like!

-Marc

Re: If I may weigh in...

- Using Comanche keeps people from seeing your 'Donate'-Buttons and thus from donating! As I have written in responses to personal emails already: If somebody likes your strip and wants to donate, he will do so. If he does not, a button will not change the user's mind. It's always up to the reader to donate - a level of abstraction will not change anything here.
It changes everything. Out of sight, out of mind. Most people, even dedicated fans, don't spend their every waking moment thinking "Boy, I'd really love to give the guy who draws such-and-such comic some money!" Donations are, by and large, an "impulse buy". You see the "tip jar" (or whatever) and think "You know, that's a good idea" and drop off a few bucks. Without that little reminder there, it just doesn't happen. And of course the occasional "I just lost my job and am flat broke" request for donations will never be seen.

Then there are the cartoonists who use the "if the donations for this week pass a certain threshold, you guys get something extra" model. With a comic ripper, they don't see the progress.

And then there's the case where the donation link is added to the page after somebody starts reading it through Comanche. They'll never even see that the artist takes donations.

I notice you completely ignore the point that readers will never see announcements of new merchandise. Hmm...I wonder why...?

- Not displaying the ads is stealing! That seems to be the most mentioned point: I work in web-development myself, and from the numbers I get myself and hear from clients, ad-revenue these days IS low.
That's a good point. Or it would be, if it wasn't completely f---ing irrelevant. "Low" is not zero. Taking some kid's lunch money is stealing, just like mugging somebody for their cash and credit cards is stealing, and just like breaking into a bank and emptying the vault is stealing.

"Free" webcomics are in a particularly precarious position. They need to get enough revenue, through ads or whatever, to cover their bandwidth costs. If their throughput goes up without an equivalent jump in income, the webcomic becomes a money-losing proposition. Narbonic almost died because of this: it became quite popular, and couldn't match the bandwidth costs with ad revenue; if it hadn't joined ModernTales when MT was founded, it probably wouldn't still be around.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Chris Cantrell's picture

I still have a hard time understanding why readers who use these programs assume they are entitled to anything regarding free comics. Just like all of these programs that promise free goodies if you do items 1,2, and 3, if you want free comics to read all we ask is you get off your lazy ass and visit our website to do so.

Why this is so hard I'll never understand. A few clicks of a mouse is not like digging a ditch. I have a list of comics I read daily and to do so I go to each respective page to read them. I read a funny comic, post a few messages on their forums and go to work.

I really can't stand the way these programs are pushed into the market under the blanket of "convenience for the reader" when it's just as easy to just bookmark the damn page in your browser and make a folder of comics to visit. No matter how you spin it, when the creator spends so much time producing a comic only to loose control of how it's presented, you're going to have artists getting upset. They've worked hard on their product and have earned the right to present it in a light that makes it look it's best.

That is on their website.

Haunted Pixel Studios www.hauntedpixelstudios.com

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Let me stress again: Neither Comanche (nor as far as I know any other comic reader) claims to let you get comics for free - at least not 'more free' for the user than visiting a web site, which doesn't cost the user money either.
Everybody (with the probable exception of a few compulsive freeloaders) by now will agree that putting content up on the web costs (albeit very little) money, and that the creators of said content deserve to be paid. If I like that content. And if I want that content to be produced in the future.

But, and I am not alone with that opinion, judging from the success that RSS has had in the past, more and more people DO prefer to get their content in a different, more convenient format. To quote myself as an example, I have pretty much stopped reading the dozens of bookmarked webpages of magazines, blogs, news, whatever every morning in favor of subscribing to their newsfeeds. That goes as far as having dumped pages that do not offer RSS feeds in favor of other sources that do.

That means that there is a whole bunch of people out there who might just read your comics (and, hopefully, decide to support you) if you only offered it to them in the way they desire. And desire it they do, that's why there are so many comic readers.

All you want is readership! So I don't get why you seem intent to bar parts of the internet population from belonging to that readership, only because they prefer another format. That drives these people into using comic readers, whereas they would probably be perfectly happy to subscribe to a newsfeed you offer - over which, other than with '3rd party tools', you had full control, allowing you to add ads, news, sponsorship drives whatever and making sure people get to see it!

And for the argument of people not finding your comics in the first place? The web pages are still up. Designed the way you like them. For all the users who want to view them. Can be found by googling, or through links from other strips - on their pages as well as their RSS feeds.

To sum it up: The more ways you allow for people to get at your content, the more readers you will have. Plain and simple!

-Marc

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Eric Burns's picture

You own your comics? Sure you do - I can not make money off them, Neither can I pretend that I created them. That's what copyright law is for, and it's a good thing.
But as son as you publish your work for people to consume it - which surely is what you want, don't you? After all, you have a web page for everybody to read your strips - it's up to the consumers how they decide to do so (especially on a medium like the internet)

Well, that's totally wrong. I mean, totally wrong. There's nothing in copyright law that lets you photocopy the books in the bookstore because you want to read the photocopies and not pay for the book.

As for "why webcomic sites don't all offer RSS feeds..."

I'm going to ask this as quietly and pleasantly as possible....

...where do you think the bandwidth for the RSS feed comes from?

By the way -- copyright law doesn't begin and end with you making money off of other peoples' work. Copyright law gives those people control over their work. Control you seem to think they don't deserve to have.

The title of this article "Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software" clearly indicates that people want webcomic readers. You will argue that they want so because they are all greedy pirates out to steal your content, but bear with me here when I say that I am very sure that most people use comic readers for the convenience, not to rip you off.
You don't get it, do you?

USING a ripper rips them off. They pay for the bandwidth you're consuming when you use it. They PAY. Cash. Money. For that bandwidth. You're not holding up your end of the bargain. You're taking what they're giving without giving them your eyes on their site. It's not an optional thing. It's not "oh, this is more convenient for me, and it's not hurting them." It TAKES THEIR STRIP WITHOUT YOU FOLLOWING THEIR BUSINESS MODEL.

Further, it archives the strip. Despite the fact that some of the strips require you to pay for access to their archives. That is innately a ripoff.

Why do you think that webcomic authors are in the position where they have to "find a solution that benefits everybody" anyhow? Webcomic authors' responsibility begins and ends with drawing their comics. If you don't like how they present those comics, don't read them. No one's forcing you to.

But if you're going to steal their bandwidth, don't try and cast the artists in a bad light for not liking what you're doing. You want to get people back on your side? Make your software explicitly opt-in, then let the artists decide whether or not to do so.

Otherwise, you're continuing to be selfish -- to want what you want because you want it, and if they don't like it (and actually have to pay for the privilege of your using your program), screw 'em.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Eric Burns's picture

"Most" explicitly excluding Something Positive, all of the Manleyverse sites, Keenspot and Keenspace, all of which do seem to care enough.

Re: If I may weigh in...

Eric Burns's picture

It really gets me wondering: where is Tatsuya when issues like these are brought up?

Like all Keen* strips, Sinfest is blocked from bandwidth-stealing measures. And it's Keen who pays his bandwidth bill, so I think right there we have official "we care" stamped across it.

And honestly, I don't think they're the ones "most affected by the software." I think the people who can barely scrape their money together for their bandwidth bill are the ones most affected. That being said, I think they're going to care quite a bit if these become prevalent and as a result their ad revenues, merchandise revenues and the like decline. Kurtz has a dog to feed and a wife to support, for example. He won't like his revenues going down at all.

I say again -- if Comanche were rewritten to allow people to opt-in explicitly, and otherwise not work, I'd be okay with it.

Of course... the source code is already out there, which means the burden of 'opting out' are now on the artists. Randy Millholland at Something Positive spent most of the day not drawing a comic or having a life. He spent it reworking his entire multiyear archive to block Comanche from being used on his strip.

It seems to me unfair he had to do that, all to avoid having his business model (which is dependent on ads) from being circumvented. But then, I'm cranky.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

I'm breaking my 'I will no longer access comixpedia due-to-porno-front-page-incident' to post.

I was one of the people who emailed him and brought up many of the same points then let him know where the discussion was. While he doesn't 'get' it, he's not malevolent about it. I just asked im not to include modules for my sites and he said that he won't. While I think it should be opt-in if people want to use it, I fall into the: Don't steal my bandwidth camp/don't prevent people from seeing the announcements on my main page.
(Lost train of thought... Fable in background.. Fable in background.)
As mentioned by the Narbonic thread, the 'big' guys don't HAVE to worry about it. They've already passed the mark of being able to make more from merchandise than from their advertising to offset the cost of rippers. The real danger is to those who are hitting the transition/death point of being popular enough to be widely visited, but not popular enough to afford to make merchandise or explore other avenues of printing. I pointed out to him that without the advertising money from Keenspot, there would NOT be any books, tshirts, etc. That money is substantial SEED money on top of paying for our hosting. It opens the door for bigger, better things.

In the end, if it ever truly gets out of hand, I'll just go (kicking and screaming) to pay-per-content. Even if not as many people see it, it's better than not having anyone at all to entertain.
(Fable in background. Fable in background.)

I'll go now.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Eric Burns's picture

Let me stress again: Neither Comanche (nor as far as I know any other comic reader) claims to let you get comics for free - at least not 'more free' for the user than visiting a web site, which doesn't cost the user money either.

Well, except when you archive Doonesbury, despite the 30 day limit on the 'free archive.' Or don't see the advertisements that support the site.

There's more business models out there than "give me money, now," you know.

But, and I am not alone with that opinion, judging from the success that RSS has had in the past, more and more people DO prefer to get their content in a different, more convenient format. To quote myself as an example, I have pretty much stopped reading the dozens of bookmarked webpages of magazines, blogs, news, whatever every morning in favor of subscribing to their newsfeeds. That goes as far as having dumped pages that do not offer RSS feeds in favor of other sources that do.
Good for you. If you only want to read RSS'd sites, I see nothing wrong with that.

If, on the other hand, you actually want to read webcomics that don't provide RSS, it seems to me you don't get to change the terms of the deal just because you wants your precious. You have a choice to make. That choice doesn't include "steal their bandwidth to get their strip without going to their site."

You know what? I read a lot of strips a day. I want convenience too. You know what I do? I use Safari (or Firefox, if you prefer) to do blocks of tabs. I hit one hotlink, and every last strip appears in one window over several tabs. Each tab shows the site in question, the ads in question, the donation jar in question. The cafepress store link in question. I hold up my end of the bargain.

I lay even odds my method is just as fast as yours. I lay even odds my method is just as convenient as yours. I lay you 10,000 to 1 odds the webcartoonists like my method better than yours. I lay you 1,000,000 to 1 odds my method beats yours all hollow in the legal department.

To sum it up: The more ways you allow for people to get at your content, the more readers you will have. Plain and simple!
As if that's the point of this.

Jesus Christ. If you want to read a webcomic, do it on the cartoonist's terms. If they're not acceptable to you, don't read it. What about this is hard for you to understand?

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

While your argument for the potential growth of comic reapers is valid, you offered webcomic artists no *choice* in the matter. You chose the comics yourself and placed them into your software. It is very hard to argue a point when you are taking an artist's bandwidth before their permission. =/

Also:
All you want is readership!

This isn't true. I can name at least a dozen strips on the Comanche list by artists who are trying to make a living from an already established readership. While new readers are still important, there's more to success than just enjoying popularity. The artists are paying for their sites. Their site includes a store with merchandise (usually self-funded), donation buttons, paid advertising, etc etc. Stuff they need and want very badly!

A better way to deliver your point that comic ripping is an effective method of drawing readers, would have been to ASK artists if they'd like to participate in the program, and worked out some kind of agreement with the interested parties. Right now - no matter what your intentions - you're not doing anyone any favors.

Re: If I may weigh in...

Eric Burns's picture

I understand all of your concerns - and a lot better than I thought before (^_^)
Well, I'm glad to hear that. ;)

On the other hand, I think the consumer has a right to choose (or, at least, influence) the way he consumes your art - like I can choose to see a movie in the theater or on DVD later, buy a hardcover or a flimsy paperback.
In every one of those cases, the publishers of the movie and book have provided those avenues. You're perfectly right. You have a right to consume them how you choose, based on the ways they have distributed them.

You don't have a right to tear the pages out of a hardcover book, photocopy those pages, and then leave without paying for the hardcover book just because you want to read photocopies. And you don't have a right to put an X10 camera in the back of a movie theater so that you can watch the movies without paying for them, just because you find it more convenient than going to the theater.

As you have stated realistically, by stubbornly insisting that people can only consume your comics by visiting your web sites, and accusing all others of piracy, you are not doing yourself a favor
I said no such thing. I implied no such thing.

I simply said that Pandora's box is open and wasn't closing any time soon.

(because many, I dare say most, do so for the convenience, not to rip you off).
"I stole the coke because I was thirsty, Officer, not because I wanted to rip off the convenience store."

So I would love to find that mentioned middle ground that benefits both you as artists (allowing you to get paid) and me as a consumer (allowing me to choose the way content is displayed to me). One idea would be for you to offer RSS feeds on your sites, including ads in there. That would make programs like Comanche more or less obsolete - and I'd be fine with that.
One note -- I'm not a webcartoonist. I'm a commenter. And my commentary is RSS-capable.

I think Comanche, if it's going to be a good citizen, should be completely opt-in on the part of the artists, and they should be able to decide what materials are downloaded.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

I believe that the standard way of stating which programs are allowed to read a webpage is the robots exclusionary file (robots.txt) and that any access not disallowed is permitted. There are HTTP headers related to caching that might be usable as indicating which files not to archive.

I just looked over the websites of all the artists who had posted here, and found that none of Boxjam's Doodle, Alien Dice, Fans, Skirting Danger, Arthur King of Time & Space, Narbonic, and Haunted Pixel Studios even had a robots.txt. (Alex & Ilia and Metal & Magic, do have such files that asks arbitrary robots not to download from the /d/ and /comics/ directories.)

And there has to be a good middle ground. There's nothing preventing a program that tracks multiple webcomics and loads only the ones that have updated from showing the page exactly as the author wrote it.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Just to adress some of your questions and some of the posts websnark wrote:

Keen industries indeedly worry about hotlinking. As I already said, ad sales pay for the most part of their income.

I can't say about KeenSpot (and for those thinking "naw, Keenspace doesn't have to worry about comic-rippers -no one reads space comics anyway, just ask Kisai about the number of people requesting files and not sending referrals [i.e. comic-rippers]), but Keenspace employs more than robots.txt to stop hotlinking and comic rippers. Right now the method includes blocking agents that doesn't send referrals, and that's why people using Norton Firewall have problems accessing our comics.

And that's sad, because the people that use their browsers genuinely to access comics end up paying for the consequences of those using comic-rippers. No matter what anti-circunvention method employed, comic-rippers find a way to defeat it. And as the systems become more and more uptight, it makes more difficult for the average readers to read them.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

In Keenspace's case (in most cases, actually), robots.txt is used to tell webcrawlers which files to download. Before Kisai implemented them, the crawlers from search engines would enter the directories where images and comics are stored and read one by one. Multiply that for the number of different sites on Keenspace and you'll see it's a lot of bandwidth going to waste.

That's why our robots file only tells crawlers not to download from /comics or /d

Summing up

Whoa! Too many new comments overnight to address them separately. Please allow me to sum some things up:

Randy Millholland at Something Positive spent most of the day not drawing a comic or having a life. He spent it reworking his entire multiyear archive to block Comanche from being used on his strip.
It seems to me unfair he had to do that, all to avoid having his business model (which is dependent on ads) from being circumvented. But then, I'm cranky.
I'm sorry to hear that. For two reasons:
First, Comanche is a good internet-citizen and has its own, proper HTTP user-agent. Blocking access therefore is straightforward, should you wish to do so.
Second, I really wish instead of continuing this arms-race (which nobody will win in the end, anyway) you as the artists and us authors of comic viewers would use our time and effort to find an agreement that benefits both.

I think Comanche, if it's going to be a good citizen, should be completely opt-in on the part of the artists, and they should be able to decide what materials are downloaded.
Like I said above, Comanche is a good citizen by having a distinct user-agent. Opting in to every site is neither feasible nor desirable. That's not what the free web was designed for. Or will you insist on an opt-in process for every new browser that's published as well?

I'm going to ask this as quietly and pleasantly as possible....
...where do you think the bandwidth for the RSS feed comes from?
In the context on an image rich comic site, bandwidth for a text-only RSS feed is negligible. Especially when considering that it extends your possible readership, the benefits far outweigh the 'investment'.

Further, it archives the strip. Despite the fact that some of the strips require you to pay for access to their archives. That is innately a ripoff.
Excuse me? "Officer, arrest this man! He keeps his newspaper clippings and rereads them for free, instead of paying for my archives!"
If I've been reading a strip for a while and keep an archive for myself, that's fine. For the inevitable argument of paying for it in the first place, please see below..

USING a ripper rips them off. They pay for the bandwidth you're consuming when you use it. They PAY. Cash. Money. For that bandwidth. You're not holding up your end of the bargain. You're taking what they're giving without giving them your eyes on their site. It's not an optional thing. It's not "oh, this is more convenient for me, and it's not hurting them." It TAKES THEIR STRIP WITHOUT YOU FOLLOWING THEIR BUSINESS MODEL.
I'll say one last time: I WANT YOU TO GET PAID! But I want the convenience of using Comanche as well. That's why in every post I've written here, I've proposed and asked for a solution that benefits both sides of this argument. But all I get from you is the stubborn "I want you to visit my site!"
The amount of comic rippers should give you a hint that there's people out there (and lots of them) that would like to consume your content (because they like what you do), and would want to pay you for it - if only you gave them the possibility to do so like they want. Other than me, you're probably all Americans and supposed to be the archetypical capitalists (^_^), so if a brick-and-mortar store went out of business , because it refused to offer its customers what they want, would you blame the customers - or rather the store because they didn't adapt?
Business models are not chiseled in stone! If you see that it doesn't fit any more, you change it!

Jesus Christ. If you want to read a webcomic, do it on the cartoonist's terms. If they're not acceptable to you, don't read it. What about this is hard for you to understand?
You know what? Using Comanche IS reading web cartoons on the cartoonists terms! You choose to put up your comics on the internet. A medium that, one, does not allow you full control over your presentation in the first place (visitors use different browsers that render your sites differently, employ adblockers, or don't have your preferred fonts installed). And, two, is a medium that allows people to consume the information you put up on a public server in any way the user sees fit!
If you want physical control over your content, publish a book! If you choose the internet as a medium, you have to abide by its rules! As websnark correctly remarks:
In every one of those cases, the publishers of the movie and book have provided those avenues. You're perfectly right. You have a right to consume them how you choose, based on the ways they have distributed them.

But let's be frank: We're running around in circles here, and neither side is presenting new arguments any more. I sincerely hope that both sides can move towards each other (and I'm more than willing to do my part here and change Comanche in a way that helps you make money from Comanche users - let me just hear ideas from you).
You can be assured that in a couple weeks time, the next comic viewer will show up. And like several times before, you will be having this discussion all over again. You will repeat the same arguments. You will be indignant about the 'pirates' that use the internet as it was intended. More people will start using the comic viewers. And still nobody wins...

-Marc

Re: Summing up

Eric Burns's picture

First, Comanche is a good internet-citizen and has its own, proper HTTP user-agent. Blocking access therefore is straightforward, should you wish to do so.
Second, I really wish instead of continuing this arms-race (which nobody will win in the end, anyway) you as the artists and us authors of comic viewers would use our time and effort to find an agreement that benefits both.
Putting the burden on the artists to block you -- especially when "straightforward" is a matter of perception (I know a number of web artists who wouldn't begin to know how to block user agents. They make art for the web. They don't code.) -- is not being a good internet citizen. It is the equivalent of claiming that since you found the door unlocked, you figured it would be okay to walk into their house and eat their food.

Second, the end-game of this "arms race" are comic artists not being able to afford to keep producing their strips because of spiraling bandwidth costs and the potential failure of their business models. Believe it or not, this isn't a game to them -- especially those who are trying to make a living off their art.
I'll say one last time: I WANT YOU TO GET PAID! But I want the convenience of using Comanche as well. That's why in every post I've written here, I've proposed and asked for a solution that benefits both sides of this argument. But all I get from you is the stubborn "I want you to visit my site!"
I've given you a solution. Opt-in on the artist's part. If they want Comanche to be used, let them be the ones to decide.

You seem to think that because you want to use Comanche to read their strips, you should be able to use Comanche to read their strips. The artists aren't under any burden to appease you, especially when you clearly don't give a damn what they do or don't want.

The strips you don't have to subscribe to are giving you entertainment, every day. What they're asking in return is a click, to see the opportunities to help defray the cost of giving you entertainment, every day. If you're not willing to give them that click, the idea you somehow deserve the entertainment is ridiculous and selfish.

If you want physical control over your content, publish a book! If you choose the internet as a medium, you have to abide by its rules!
As soon as you find the part of the HTML or IEEE specs that says it's okay to use other peoples' bandwidth for your own entertainment and circumvent any attempt to defray the cost of it, you forward that along to me, 'kay?

You realize that whatever your opinion of filesharing, Comanche is innately worse than it, don't you? Under Kazaa, the bandwidth costs belong to the person choosing to share. Under Comanche, the bandwidth costs belong to the artist or publisher directly.

But let's be frank: We're running around in circles here, and neither side is presenting new arguments any more. I sincerely hope that both sides can move towards each other (and I'm more than willing to do my part here and change Comanche in a way that helps you make money from Comanche users - let me just hear ideas from you).
You're frankly not interested. You want what you want. If it costs someone else money for you to get it, screw them. You deserve your entertainment, your way, period. They have no right to have expectations of you, period.

Enjoy it.

Re: Yet Another Webcomic Reading Piece of Software

Eric Burns's picture

The Stanford Law Copyright and Fair Use Library Web Site has some good relevant information, by the way, stepping away from issues of bandwidth and into questions of using an artist's imagry in ways not intended.

In the case of search engines who cache images for searching, test law has found it to be permissable in cases where the engines actually cache smaller, low quality thumbnails of the image and link back to the site for the original. (The very model Websnark operates under, I would add), because that does not directly infringe upon the artist's capacity to use and sell his own artwork in his own way.

Further, the New York Times and others have taken legal action against Google in particular for their method of caching content from NYT, especially since older content is available to Subscribers Only.

Right now, the burden of law seems to be on the side of the artists.

Re: Summing up

Eric Burns's picture

Oh, I can't believe I missed this the first time:
In the context on an image rich comic site, bandwidth for a text-only RSS feed is negligible.
Yeah. You enjoy that 'text-only' webcomic feed. I'm sure it's exactly what you're looking for.

(If, on the other hand, you've got a feed that provides, oh, the comic, then each and every image in that feed dings bandwidth. I know this to be true -- I provide RSS on websnark, and the number of hits for the thumbnails in my entries far exceed the number of hits on the .html files. It's part of the cost of me providing a free commentary site to folks and giving them options. If the day ever came where it was too expensive, I'd have to redo my RSS to do excerpts without images only.)

Re: Summing up

You seem to think that because you want to use Comanche to read their strips, you should be able to use Comanche to read their strips. The artists aren't under any burden to appease you, especially when you clearly don't give a damn what they do or don't want.

You're right - the artists are under no burden to appease me. However, I keep hearing from you that you want to get paid (which is understandable. We've all said that often enough). And now here's a growing number of people who like your content, but want to read it differently - note this does NOT imply they do not want to pay for it. Accusing every user of a comic reader of piracy is an assumption on your part! And I as an author of one of said comic readers would like to talk with you about finding a way that does get you paid. Yet instead of at least thinking about that, and acknowledging the realities of the internet, you basically say: "Screw you - either you read our content like we impose on you, or you don't read it at all!" (which you can't enforce anyway). For me, that doesn't sound very reasonable.

To use another 'real life' example: Many years ago I used to work in retail. Now, this was in Germany and so we accepted only cash. Yet more and more people kept coming and wanted to use credit cards for their purchases. So, like every savvy merchant did, we began offering this possibility.
What the web cartoonists (at least in this forum) are doing instead is sending those customers away: "Pay cash, or don't get my merchandise!"

-Marc

Re: Summing up

Eric Burns's picture

You're right - the artists are under no burden to appease me. However, I keep hearing from you that you want to get paid (which is understandable. We've all said that often enough)
For the third time: I am not a webartist. My site is free, has only the barest of google advertising, and is RSS capable. I don't have any expectation of having my site be paid for. I'm not arguing with you for my sake.
And now here's a growing number of people who like your content, but want to read it differently - note this does NOT imply they do not want to pay for it. Accusing every user of a comic reader of piracy is an assumption on your part!
Sigh. Marc? Every last user of Comanche is stealing bandwidth from the comic artists. Period. This isn't an accusation. This is a fact. That is bandwidth the artist is paying for that your program uses, without following their model to defray expenses. This isn't debatable. There is no way you can claim Comanche isn't using their bandwidth, and there is no way you can claim that when the artist signed the contract for their bandwidth they did it with the intent that your program would use it in this way.

I'm sorry you don't like being called a thief, but right now you're a thief. A self-righteous one, maybe, but a thief nonetheless.

If you want to read the comics they take the time and effort to produce and they provide the bandwidth to access, your declaration that you don't want to read them the way they want you too honestly doesn't matter. You're not doing them any favors with this program.

Let me say that again.

You're not doing them any favors with this program.

Any comic producer trying to feed his family by his comic is having that model sidestepped by your software. Frankly, they're not going to give a damn if you get to read it the way you want to. They have bills to pay and children to feed, and a thousand readers who aren't doing the minimum act of going to their website don't do a damn thing to pay those bills or feed those children. They just up the bandwidth bill, and make it more expensive to operate the site.

This is the economic reality of Comanche.

If you want to develop a comic reader that the webartists will like, you are free to develop a product and shop it around to those webartists. And they are free to sign on or say "no, sorry -- I don't want to use your service. I'm considering another one." Or "no, sorry. I have an exclusive contract with a game developer and part of that contract is no one gets to look at my strip without coming and seeing the ad for their game above it." Or "no, sorry. I have a contract with PV Comics that precludes me from alternate forms of distribution, but thanks for asking!"

One of the strip modules on your home page is Doonesbury. Doonesbury has a daily syndication contract with Slate Magazine and with Ucomics. Those sites have spent money to bring a service to their site -- Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury. They're specifically using Doonesbury to bring you to that site. Mycomicspage.com has an exclusive contract for the archives for Doonesbury. They expect people to pay a price to access the archives of Doonesbury after thirty days.

You're stealing their bandwidth and circumventing their core desire -- to get someone to come to Ucomics (and see their ads) or come to Slate (and see their ads), and giving people alternate automated methods to archive to boot. This isn't a situation of you, the consumer, wanting to pay by credit instead of cash. This is a situation where you, the consumer, want the free goodie without completing the transaction that gives it you you.

Now, neither Microsoft nor Ucomics nor Garry Trudeau are going to go out of business thanks to you (though Doonesbury's web presence -- which was independent for years until it became incapable of supporting itself -- thus the Slate contract -- might disappear.) But now let's look at Something Positive. Something Positive requires revenue from ads to survive, and pays a steep cost in bandwidth each month. Your software could potentially make it financially impossible for Randy Millholland to pay his bandwidth bills. At that point, Randy's choices are "find a sugar daddy to cover this bandwidth cost and cede control to him" or "pack the strip in and find some other way to spend my days." And if the latter happens, several hundred thousand Something Positive fans will want to see you boiled in oil.

For the record -- Something Positive fans are not one of the groups I would want angry at me. At all. They appreciate the aesthetics of violence way too much.

Re: Summing up

Yeah. You enjoy that 'text-only' webcomic feed. I'm sure it's exactly what you're looking for.
(If, on the other hand, you've got a feed that provides, oh, the comic, then each and every image in that feed dings bandwidth. I know this to be true -- I provide RSS on websnark, and the number of hits for the thumbnails in my entries far exceed the number of hits on the .html files.

Please! We're both technologically savvy enough to know that this is rhetorics: An RSS feed 'contains' images the same way an HTML page contains them - as references for other files to be fetched by the client. So if you offered a feed for people to subscribe to instead of having to visit your site, that would not mean higher bandwidth is necessary.

Your second argument on the other hand is very true: Unfortunately, many newsreaders are set by default to fetch feeds every couple minutes, and don't play by the rules and honor a 304 status code (respectively cache images themselves). Or your site does not generate the correct http response in the first place. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, and already is - as it's not limited to webcomics!

-Marc

Re: Summing up

Eric Burns's picture

Your second argument on the other hand is very true: Unfortunately, many newsreaders are set by default to fetch feeds every couple minutes, and don't play by the rules and honor a 304 status code (respectively cache images themselves). Or your site does not generate the correct http response in the first place. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, and already is - as it's not limited to webcomics!
Mm.

In this, you're right. And I apologize for my snarky tone in that comment.

Re: Summing up

For the third time: I am not a webartist. My site is free, has only the barest of google advertising, and is RSS capable. I don't have any expectation of having my site be paid for. I'm not arguing with you for my sake.

You're very good at it, though (^_^)

Sigh. Marc? Every last user of Comanche is stealing bandwidth from the comic artists. Period. This isn't an accusation. This is a fact. That is bandwidth the artist is paying for that your program uses, without following their model to defray expenses. This isn't debatable. There is no way you can claim Comanche isn't using their bandwidth, and there is no way you can claim that when the artist signed the contract for their bandwidth they did it with the intent that your program would use it in this way.
I'm sorry you don't like being called a thief, but right now you're a thief. A self-righteous one, maybe, but a thief nonetheless.

You are completely right, and I have conceded to that before - in its current incarnation, Comanche (as every other comic viewer of the many that are available), is using bandwidth from artists websites without paying for them by displaying the ads! We need a new business model that allows the web artists to get their money when people use the alternative viewers they prefer. This model is nowhere to be seen (and not too many seem to be looking for it).
I have, therefore, made a decision: Until a viable solution is found, I will pull the program from the web! As of now, Comanche isn't available anymore!

Yet I don't think you have any reason to be happy about that! There are other comic readers out there, and there will be new ones in the future! Eventually webartists (as well as providers like Keenspot) will have to find a way to incorporate alternative viewing methods into their business model.

Let me quote somebody you surely know:
"I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."
That's Jack Valenti, head of the MPAA, agitating against the VCR. A new technology he was only capable of perceiving as a threat. Fortunately, all the lobbying could not make the VCR outlawed - and now the movie industry regularly gets the majority of its revenue from home releases. Apart from the fact that none of you probably would like to live in a world without VCRs or the technologies that came after it.

The webcartoonists in this forum, to me, seem a lot like the MPAA in 1983. A bunch of Doom- and Naysayers that try to demonize a new technology (which is, as you have said yourself, going to stay) instead of jumping on the bandwagon and trying to capitalize on it!
You know what? Comic viewers WILL probably force some web cartoonists out of business. Exactly those that refuse to acknowledge the new technologies!

Anyway... I'd like to thank everybody here for a good, lively and above all civic discussion. I was skeptical at first what flames would await me, but you have proven a very well spoken (if stubborn) bunch indeed!
I'll keep following this thread, maybe I will add a little more in the future. And I fully intend to contact web cartoonists and syndicates on the possibility of working together... I'll keep you posted!

-Marc

Re: Summing up

Eric Burns's picture

First off, good show. That can't have been fun for you to do. I respect your doing it, and acknowledge both your reasons and that you don't specifically concede your points as you do so. That is being a good internet citizen, and you deserve credit for it.

As to the rest of your post...

...well, you're right. I go into more detail over on Websnark, but yes. Pandora's box has been opened and this is something that the entire medium is going to have to come to terms with.

I did my best to raise the pertinent objections in this thread. What I don't have are the answers. And that's going to be interesting working out, moving forward.

Software itself is neiter good nor evil.

Speaking as a webcomic creator (and I'll probably be taking as much flak for this as I usually do when I voice this viewpoint), the mentioned piece of software is just that. It's a piece of software. It's a tool... like a VCR, a Tivo, a gun, a hammer, a pen and pencil, etc. It is not, and nor does it deserve to be criticized as being, evil.

The software functions in a way that allows it to be used for illegal things, but every single object in this world can be used to commit illegal acts (i.e. pick up any random object and chuck it at someone and you can be charged with assault)... yet, people would be laughed at if they declared that hammers, screwdrivers and rocks were evil and illegal.

Also, there are a number of legitimate uses that I can think of for programs such as this (as well as hammers and screwdrivers and rocks). For example, people who still sign on using modems may want to stay signed on overnight to grab my archive and read it.

Next, on the access and bandwidth usage, I don't see why people have such a strong response to this. If someone goes through my archives using a web browser, they are using pretty much the same amount of bandwidth if they pointed one of these things (assuming it wasn't poorly written) at the site and downloaded the archives, they would be using just as much of my bandwitdh, if not less (if it were really well written).

My take on posting stuff on the web is that content is posted to be accessed. If you don't want it accessed, then don't post it. Whether it's done with a web browser with or without ad/pop-up blockers, or by some other program with ah HTTP stack, the basic method is still the same. Some program will connect to your server and download the information and store it somewhere. That's the way computers and the internet works.

Like the creator of this program, I'm not sure why so many people have such strong reactions to the program (unless it was so poorly written that it did something stupid like not cache repeated things like button images). From the perspective of the HTTP server, it doesn't do anything that a standard web-browser can't do already. As it stands now, someone could use a standard web browser and click to save every image/page of any comic archive to disk already. The real people that creators should be annoyed with are the people who want to abuse the use of the content.

Moving on to the complaints of legality, I can think of no law which the act of using such a program to download a site is illegal. If you then decide to redistribute or re-post the site, or abuse usage rights of the content, then sure that's illegal, but what does that have to do with the legality of the program? nothing. On the business/support model side of things, if your model does not take into account the existance and use of such pieces of software, then the model is flawed.

The point I want to get across is that trying to limit methods of access is futile and pointless since doing so would go against the fundamental operational methods of the internet. This program does not allow for any illegal or even undesirable activities that do not already exist without this program.

Of course, as a comic creator, I have opinions on whether or not I like or dislike such programs, but in this discussion, they're irrelevant. The bottom line is that it's a piece of software, and being such, it is neither good nor evil. IMHO, a piece of software shouldn't be labled as illegal either (which actually is possible under the absurdity that is the DMCA, but that's a whole different debate) since it is never the tool or object that is illegal, but how it is ultimately used that is legal or illegal.

-FD
writer for Eidolic Fringe

Re: Software itself is neiter good nor evil.

"Moving on to the complaints of legality, I can think of no law which the act of using such a program to download a site is illegal."

I'm in desesperate need of some lawyer to clear this up for us. Some say what these softwares do violates copyrights, others don't... But none of us have enough legitimacy to speak for the truth.

There are, although, some interesting excerpts I found while researching on this subject a while ago:

"First, if one directly links to content that would normally be framed elsewhere, its owners are apt to object. There is little law directly on point because the few parties involved in such disputes have settled. Still, if a linking page surrounds other's material with its own ads, cuts out another's ads or makes it appear that the linking site is the source of the linked material, trouble is likely. It is difficult to argue that otherwise implied permission to link could be reasonably expected under such circumstances."

Taken from The Pierce Law Center.

As you can guess, this is still speculation. Let's try a more official approach, the WIPO Treaty:

Article 8

Right of Communication to the Public

Without prejudice to the provisions of Articles 11(1)(ii), 11bis(1)(i) and (ii), 11ter(1)(ii), 14(1)(ii) and 14bis(1) of the Berne Convention, authors of literary and artistic works shall enjoy the exclusive right of authorizing any communication to the public of their works, by wire or wireless means, including the making available to the public of their works in such a way that members of the public may access these works from a place and at a time individually chosen by them.

Or, taking a look at the DMCA itself:

Sec. 1201. - Circumvention of copyright protection systems

No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title. The prohibition contained in the preceding sentence shall take effect at the end of the 2-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this chapter.

(As you may guess, the 2-year period this article talks about expired long ago)

One more thing:

"If you then decide to redistribute or re-post the site, or abuse usage rights of the content, then sure that's illegal, but what does that have to do with the legality of the program?"

There's currently a very controversial law trying to be approved in the US congress, the "Induce Act", which will file for copyright violation any technology that provides/induces the public to infringe copyright. If this law passes, our dear comic-ripper creators will be in deep shit.

As will the I-Pods, CD Burners, File Sharing Networks, etc...

Re: Software itself is neiter good nor evil.

Ugh... I messed up the code.

As I was saying, let's take a look on the DMCA itself:

Sec. 1201. - Circumvention of copyright protection systems

No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title. The prohibition contained in the preceding sentence shall take effect at the end of the 2-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this chapter.

(As you may guess, the 2-year period this article talks about expired long ago)

Re: Software itself is neiter good nor evil.

None of these cases applies. The first cases involves republishing content and linking to content, not the act of downloading the content.

The second case is shakey because if one post it on the net, then it can be viewed as they are choosing to make it availible at that time at that vitrual place. Whether you access that content using a web-browser or any other program is irrelevalnt since they are both making the same HTTP accesses.

The last case (even though I think the DMCA is absurd and unenforcable) would also fall under the same argument. The site downloading software does nothing to "circumvent" any mechanisms. It sends requests for files, and the web server sends the requested file back... just like a web browser would. I know there are some arguments and views that don't agree, but from a technology standpoint, an access is an access. To restrict a basic access would be to restrict the fundamental way the net works.

-FD
Writer for Eidolic Fringe