After delivering his keynote speech, in which he discussed the issues of copyright and ownership versus contributing to the greater culture, Mark Waid attempted to return to his seat. But he never made it. Because cartoonist Sergio Aragones confronted Waid face to face, right there during the award ceremony, to argue the point.
obviously the main point of this is not to call attention to the arguement between Waid and Aragones, both men that i have respect for, but to the larger picture: the notion of copywrite and its place in society. And the comic industry's refusal to embrace new forms of payment or potential business models.
Any anyone who has been reading this blog knows, I've been a proponent of the different busienss model for the longest time, in a large part because the old one isn't working. Much. At all.
How not working? Let me count the ways. Artists operating under feudal system that robbed them of the ability to profit off of their creations in the manner that artist under almost every other system are able to. Sales on pamphlets so low that the general malaise under which the book industry is suffering cannot be to blame for them. A business that simply eats its young and never gives back to more than a few individuals. Stan Lee will retire well. Jack Kirby did not. How is that equitable?
Waid's assertion that eventually copyright should wane, and that creations should open up to the general public, given taht he's a businessman is an interesting and bold one. His main idea of the file sharing genie being out of the bottle is right on the mark.
Look, the recording industry and movie industry haven't been able to stop file sharing with all their money and lawyers and resources, how the hell is the comic community going to do so? Just as i want to castigate the BBC for being stupid enough to not take my money so that i can watch Doctor Who when its been broadcast over in the UK, I want to thank them for making it available in America with only a 14 day delay. Just as the manga industry is getting tough on unlicensed scanlations, they also have to thank those scanlators for making a built in audience for them.
you can't go back. Marvel can't stop the kids from putting the Avengers comics on the scanners and uploading them. Perhaps it would be smart, life saving-ly smart, in fact, to embrace any new business model that would allow for revenue. Especially when new authors are bypassing the Direct Market in pretty much every possible way. Scholastic is marketing Bone and Amulet directly to the kids, kids that don't even know that comic shops exists. kids that don't have the monthly comic habit that those of us older folks do, and they're not missing a thing except our nostalgia.
Embrace micropayments, embrace original graphic novels, embrace marketing everywhere, and using new format to do so. Embrace digital markets as well with different platforms such as cell phones and tablets.
Do something. Because Waid is right. You can't stop it. And like holding back the tide from washing up on the beach, you'll die trying.
Edited to add: Mark has posted the text of his speech, albeit a bit better organized in his opinion, here!