Thursday, June 14, 2012

FAQ: Piracy and DRM

I really like the idea of the Double Barrel's format, but I was wondering if you're planning on a DRM-free edition? I just can't bring myself to support Comixology's proprietary format, and my Android phone won't work with iBooks, obviously. It comes down to this: I would like to own a file and not the right to access a document for as long as Comixology sticks around.

Paul Constant
Seattle, WA

Z: Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is very much a concern for us, and we had some long discussions both with each other and with Top Shelf in the months leading up to Double Barrel's digital launch. The short answer for us is that we are simply creators, and the avenues for distributing the comics in the numbers we are hoping for are only through avenues that are -- at the moment -- protected proprietary formats.

Need a longer, better answer? OK.
We are very much in favor of a DRM-free edition for the following reasons:
1) Double Barrel is intended mainly as a loss-leader and promotional tool for the final books, and pirated copies floating around the web, if people enthusiastically want them, actually help us in the long run. For that reason, it's counterproductive to annoy people with DRM just to slow down that piracy.
2) Double Barrel is very fairly priced at $2, so if there were a competition between no effort + $2 and a bunch of internet searching + $0 + a small pang of guilt to get the same unrestricted file, we feel like the legitimate route would at least have a fighting chance.
3) DRM is irritating and limiting, and for the people who can't stand it, the only way to get around that irritation and limitation is to pirate the book. If people are going to pirate the book, we'd like it to be for their complete and utter contempt for how much money we make*, not because our product is unintentionally irritating.

*We currently do not make a lot of money.

So such is our intention, but the likelihood is that things will remain as they are for the time being. I will reiterate my earlier point that we are cartoonists, not technologists, or even publishers, and so we kind of have to go with whatever is happening if we want to get things out there to a significant number of people. Our hearts are behind a shift toward a DRM-free future, but the actual crusade is for someone else to head up.

Now, in our own defense, I will point out some of the things that, I feel, mitigate the problem somewhat:
1) It's only $2 per issue. If Comixology gets flattened by an asteroid or something and somehow you can't access Double Barrel, you're not out a whole bunch of cash. And in the ensuing nuclear winter, you may have other, more pressing problems.
2) Along with the low price, Double Barrel's format is intended to be a magazine in the most classic sense; it is meant to allow you to read new material assembled around a central idea, get interested in some of it, and then seek out more permanent manifestations of the best stuff. The permanence of the magazine itself is a low priority. And finally:
3) If there indeed is a shift to DRM-free versions in the vendors we go through, we will make every effort to ensure that future issues will be in that format, and that DRM-free versions of back issues can be had with a minimum of additional effort or cost.

Hopefully this is at least moderately satisfying. The life of a freelance cartoonist is one of constant compromise, and we feel that the current compromise level on Double Barrel is manageable-to-good, which, let me tell you, is saying quite a bit.

Paul sent us this email separately from his duties as a writer at Seattle's The Stranger, and then posted this review of Double Barrel #1. Thanks, Paul!

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