Ramblings of General Geekery

Image Comics going DRM-free

Image Comics is now selling DRM free digital comics on their website.

This is huge. Image Comics is the third biggest comics publisher in the U.S. after DC and Marvel. It “owns” famous titles like Spawn or The Walking Dead, and other very good series like Fatale, Invincible, Saga, or Morning Glories (I say “owns” with quotes because the whole concept of Image Comics is to publish creator owned comics, so those titles are actually owned by their respective authors).

With Comic-Con only a couple weeks away, they’re probably hoping (and I’m hoping too) that DRM free digital comics will be a hot topic of discussion, with them at the top. I mean, look at what Image Comics’ Eric Stephenson has to say about it:

My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment. There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.

This is quite an enlightened view on piracy for someone in his position. My hat’s off to you, sir.

Now does that mean Comixology’s in trouble? Not quite yet, no:

  • First, Image Comics will still sell their issues through them – they’re just adding the option to buy directly from them for people who are, like me, quite keen on actually owning the stuff they buy.
  • Second, as far as I can tell, there’s no back catalog available yet, so you can only buy the new issues coming out now.
  • Third, there’s quite a difference between tapping a button in the Comixology app to buy and read a comic, and buying a comic on a website, downloading the file, transfering the file to your reader app, etc. One takes 2 seconds, the other 2 minutes (if you count storing a copy on your file server). Most people go (erroneously) for the faster and more convenient solution.
  • Fourth, I noticed that some issues are more expensive on the Image Comics website compared to Comixology.

But I’m cautiously optimistic. Hopefully, Image Comics will want to invest a bit in making their own sales portal better, so that they can get the whole price of an issue for themselves (I can only imagine what’s left from an iPad sale once Apple and Comixology have taken their cut…).

I’m crossing my fingers for Dark Horse to start removing DRM in a few months. Unlike DC and Marvel, they’re independantly owned, and have their own online store, so that puts them in the best position to follow suit. They may not be able to do it for their whole catalog (for example, licensed IPs like Star Wars, Buffy or Avatar may have constraints attached), but they could probably do it for titles like Hellboy and B.P.R.D, assuming Mike Mignola is on board with DRM-free comics. One can only hope…