Online Piracy: Trusting the Good of the Community
I draw pictures in a notebook. The old-fashioned way. With paper and pencil, then I ink with a pen.
But that’s the end of the old-fashioned process.
Once I finish a drawing, I’ve gotten the idea out of my system. So then I like to send the drawings on their way. So I start the next phase -- scanning my drawings, cleaning them up, coloring them. Then I add words and post them on the internet.
I hand-drew a graphic novella several months ago. As I dipped my toe into the comic book / graphic novel world to figure out my next steps, I began talking to other comic book artists. One piece of advice was consistent: "You have to have a web presence -- that’s how people can find you."
So I scanned some drawings and set up a blog, plugged my nose, and cannonballed in.
Now, about four months later, I create drawing blog posts a couple times a month.
The graphic novella is still sitting as a paper copy.
My posterity as a web-published artist is scant. I don’t have dozens and dozens of posts. But now that I’ve begun posting on the web, I can’t see going back.
Community - What were my drawings are now out in the world. I can never predict which illustrated stories are going to hit a nerve, trigger a response. I hear from strangers, and see different sides of friends I already know. I have drawings in my notebook that no one’s ever seen. And without an audience, without community, they too are like friends I know in a very specific context. Who knows what new angles I'd see in them if they entered the online world?
Let the Number Crunching Begin - As soon as I post my drawings, I can immediately monitor traffic -- how many hits, where they're coming from. And then there’s the bonus of seeing the Facebook and Twitter numbers increment -- sometimes I know who’s sharing and tweeting but most often, I don’t.
Does it concern me that others may be linking to my drawings in other ways that I can't control? Once I kick the drawings out of the nest, I don't know where they'll end up. I personally find that gratifying, especially if they are out seeing the world, and not just staying close to home. Could this be my fresh-faced newbie stage, still flattered by the attention?
Amy Martin creates delightful comics -- as books and online. When asked about posting her art online and her thoughts about being linked without attribution: "My work has never been pirated, as far as I know. I do worry about people stealing images and such, but I have to weigh that against the necessity of sharing my work with a web audience. It's much faster to grow a reader base via the internet than by continually schlepping/mailing print books all over -- and cheaper, I might add."
You can watch TV on Hulu for free. You can read the New York Times online for free. We access more resources and services online, for free. We feel entitled -- what we can access is ours. I also believe that the online world and related business models are still evolving -- micropayments maybecome feasible. Let's face it, the online community is a real community. It'd be nice to earn some bank there, too.
Dan Bethel is one of the comic artists I've met in the last six months, co-creator and illustrator for the great webcomic Eben07. He and his co-creator Eben Burgoon publish a new webcomic weekly, for free. And they've been pirated. I like Dan's perspective: "For internet-based artists, I've come to believe that the property which is more valuable is your name more than the product you create. A webcomic –– whether the creator realizes it or not –– is more of a business card or, more accurately, a portfolio with which the artist can build an audience. Any move a creator makes on the internet is an expression and a reflection on that developing brand.
Do people link to my drawings without my knowledge? It's possible. Right now, I'm still evolving my voice and finding my audience. The more exposure I get, the better. When I do publish that graphic novella or write the next one, I'll hopefully have some open arms in the non-online world to embrace my efforts.