Legal Online Comics

By | Tuesday, December 05, 2006 1 comment
I caught an article that flew by on Newsarama that interviews Josh Blaylock about his recent venture: Pullbox Online. It's certainly an interesting idea, and not dissimilar to what's kept Apple doing so well for the past several years. Their current limitation, of course, is content. They do have the advantage of some known properties like Family Guy and Voltron, but obviously getting something at the level of Superman or Astonishing X-Men would help enormously. That's part of how Steve Jobs got iTunes to work: he got a lot of big name labels on board first and THEN started going after the smaller folks.

Now, as I see it, both Marvel and DC have huge libraries of material to work from. If they were concerned about people not buying current issues because they knew they could download them legally in six months (or whatever), then they still have tons of old material to work with. Indeed, Marvel's even got several 1960s books on their own site already! If either of them teamed with someone like Pullbox Online, they'd get revenues off of books that have already earned them as much revenue as they thought they were ever going to get out of them. And the digital comics wouldn't be in competition with their Archives and Masterworks lines because the audiences of those books don't overlap very much with the group that would be downloading comics off the web.

And what would it cost? Virtually nothing! Both Marvel and DC have gone through many of their old comics, scanning them for the Archives and Masterworks already, so it'd only be a matter of sending the files to the other company. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes of an intern's time finding the files and another five to send them? It'd cost them all of maybe two or three bucks in someone's salary.

If Josh Blaylock hasn't already contacted the big guys, he should. And if he has and they refused, they need to reconsider.

Unless, of course, they're working on their own internal distribution methods for more online materials...
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Richard said...

This reminds me of my own similar post on the same topic.

Like the record labels, the big comics publishers presumably want an ironclad digital rights management system in place to protect their short term revenue stream rather than expanding their long term audience with a DRM-free approach like this. And like the record labels, they'd rather treat their prospective readers as criminals who need to be supervised than as an audience to be courted. Sane people know that easy downloads, free or inexpensive, increase sales of the product overall...but try telling corporations that!

In launching their iPod/iTunes competitor Zune, Microsoft has cut Universal Music in for a share of each unit sold...and now Universal wants to extract the same "piracy tax" from Apple. And on the movie front, only Disney and its subsidiaries allow their films to be distributed on iTunes. So clearly, it takes more than proven success in the marketplace to get the big boys on board, and they'll go on looking for an opportunity to stab the distributor in the back. In fact, Steve Jobs was only able to get the major labels to sign on with iTunes because they thought it wouldn't work. Now they know better. Josh Blaylock would have his work cut out for him if he tried to recruit Marvel or DC...