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Rise of comic book piracy ‘a real problem’

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Cover, The Only Living Girl, art by Steve EllisImage copyright
Steve Ellis / Bottled Lightning

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Comics such as The Only Living Girl have been made free online to counteract piracy

A comic book writer’s claim that the proliferation of piracy is “a real problem” has encouraged others in the industry to share their concerns.

Jim Zub, who writes for Marvel and IDW, tweeted that 20 times as many people read comics illegally shared online, than pay for digital or physical works.

Many other comic creators replied with their own experiences of pirated work.

For some, piracy brought personal and professional costs, while others suggested radical distribution changes.

In the thread, Zub said having work spread without being paid for initially created a “visibility boost” for the creators, but has now become the norm for an audience of “rapid consumption”.

“I don’t want pirate readers to think it’s no big deal or victimless,” he tweeted. “Content worth reading is content worth supporting.”

While some writers responded with stories of their work being replicated without credit on social media, the main worry for some is having digital comics – or scans of physical copies – wholesale re-hosted on other sites.

These sites, said Canada-based Zub, are hosted on foreign servers which “ignore legal attempts to shut them down”.

Dave Gallaher, co-author of comic series The Only Living Girl and co-founder of comic studio Bottled Lightning, was one of many in the industry to agree with Zub’s analysis.

Gallaher said readers are drawn to pirated material due to ease of access, compared with a comic store – plus the status of being “in the know”, and the delay between physical and online copies of big titles being available from publishers such as Marvel and DC.

Gallaher, who’s also co-host of podcast For the Love of Comics, estimates there are 30 million views of pirated comic books per month, a number which “far overshadows actual customers,” and has hit legitimate purchases.

“In the US,” he explains, “digital sales have gone stale for their sixth year, while print comics have declined for two.”

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Eric Carroll

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Gallaher’s Bottled Lightning studio has seen huge growth through making work available for free

Gallaher’s response has been to make the Bottled Lightning website direct readers to legal downloading sites Paste and Tapas, where the studio’s work is available free, in exchange for fans’ email addresses.

“When we debuted on Paste, we grew our reach from 427 to 10,110 fans within six weeks. People think we’re crazy giving a lot of our stories away for free, but we have also been able to partner with advertisers who want to get their products in front of that kind of audience.

“The success we had putting our work online gave us the momentum to get a literary agent and a series of book deals,” says Gallaher. He also says it’s a way of informing fans about book tours and conventions.

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Sina Grace

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Joe Glass says piracy is a “stumbling block” to further work

Joe Glass is an independent comics writer from South Wales whose titles are sold through Comixology, a distribution site for comics, and has sales figures “the publisher is happy with”.

However, on one pirate site alone, Glass found that his LGBTQ+ superhero series The Pride and The Pride Adventures had been viewed a total of 16,843 times illegally.

This level of piracy hurts him and many other independent writers and artists, for whom money is “pretty tight”.

“Often I have to consider if I can make it to the events where I sell my work.

“The majority of creators in the industry, even the big names, are working side jobs, sometimes multiple other jobs.”

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Comixology / Luciano Vecchio

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Glass’s series The Pride focuses on LGBTQ+ super-heroes

For a comics creator at the start of their career, working to the scale he is, Glass says piracy is a “stumbling block” to getting further work published, rather than giving him exposure.

“I tried to consider the benefits, but now I ultimately can’t see it as anything other than stealing.”

If every person to pirate his work had bought an issue instead, “it would mean enough payment to me and my whole creative team in full for the series, and a good step of the way into the next project.”

“Instead, the next project is entirely reliant on getting picked up by a publisher who will help fund its creation.”



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Disney culls ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox in rebrand

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The 20th Century Fox logo will lose a word but retain the same look, according to reports

Disney executives have cut the word “Fox” from their 20th Century Fox film studio in an apparent bid to distance it from operations of the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch.

US media suggests Disney does not want to be associated with the media mogul’s highly partisan, right-wing Fox News network.

However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.

It bought the studio, with other media operations, in a $71bn deal last March.

20th Century Fox is known for producing some of the biggest films of all-time, including Avatar and Titanic.

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Variety magazine, which broke the news about the name change, said it had spoken to an unnamed Disney source, who said: “I think the Fox name means Murdoch, and that is toxic.”

Hollywood is known for being liberal, unlike the Australian tycoon.

Disney has also renamed Fox Searchlight Pictures, the arthouse arm, as simply Searchlight Pictures.

Staff emails were changed on Friday, from @fox.com to @20thcenturystudios.com or @searchlight.com.

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Reuters

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Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has been a cheerleader for Donald Trump

The original 20th Century Fox company was formed in 1935 following a merger.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought it in the mid-1980s, and the Fox News channel was created in 1996, growing to become most-watched in the US.

News Corporation was later split into News Corp and 21st Century Fox – which Disney acquired as the parent company of various film and television studios, including the renowned 20th Century Fox.

The Murdoch family retained the news outlets in a spin-off company, Fox Corporation, which is run by Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachland.

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Variety says the 20th Century Fox studio’s well-known fanfare theme and searchlight logo will be retained.

Disney also runs 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios. Any changes to their names have not been announced.

Disney is already a dominant force in US news, as the owner of the ABC network. It is also hoping to challenge Netflix with its own streaming service Disney+, which launched in the US last year.



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Jack Reacher author Lee Child passes writing baton to brother

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Lee Child has written 24 Jack Reacher novels

The author of the best-selling Jack Reacher novels is handing over the writing duties to his younger brother.

Lee Child, 65, reportedly considered killing off the 6ft 5ins vigilante hero, who is played by actor Tom Cruise in film adaptations.

But the writer said: “I love my readers and know they want many, many more Reacher stories in the future.”

His brother Andrew Grant, 51, who will write under the pen name Andrew Child, is already an established author.

Child, whose real name is James Grant, said he felt he was “ageing out” of being able to produce more of the books.

He said: “So I have decided to pass the baton to someone who can.”

He described his younger sibling as the “best tough-guy writer I have read in years.”

“We share the same DNA, the same background, the same upbringing,” he said, adding: “He’s me, fifteen years ago, full of energy and ideas.”

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There have been two Jack Reacher films starring Tom Cruise

The Coventry-born author said they would work on the next few novels together “and then he’ll strike out on his own”.

Child started writing after being fired from his job as a presentation director at Granada Television in 1995.

His first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, was published in 1997.

He has since sold more than 100 million books and Amazon has announced it is adapting the series for TV.

The novels, which are set in the United States, have been translated into 40 languages and adapted into two movies starring Cruise.

The protagonist of the book series is a former major in the US Army military police who roams the US investigating suspicious and dangerous situations.

Grant said he had been “blown away” by his elder brother’s first Reacher novel.

He said: “The more time I spent with him in each new adventure, the more I craved the next. So I know what it’s like to wait for the new Reacher novel.”

He added: “I understand what Reacher fans want – because I am one. And I’ll do my best to deliver for them.

“I’ll have to. Because my big brother will be watching.”

The Sentinel, the 25th Jack Reacher novel, is due to be published on 29 October 2020.



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Jazz musician Rex Martey signs record deal aged 82

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An 82-year-old south-Londoner has had his lifetime ambition come true by getting a record deal.

Rex Martey suffers from prostate cancer and needs dialysis three times a week.

He wanted a deal so he could leave a legacy and has been signed by record company The Animal Farm.

One of the songs on his album is dedicated to the cancer nurse who’s treated him for the last few years.

He has pledged a quarter of all sales will go to Guys Hospital.



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