Hervé St-Louis posted a piece recently talking about webcomic piracy. He was specifically talking about in relation to some work he did to help bring down the Manga for Adult website earlier this month. MfA is a site, not surprisingly, that features pornographic manga. (Not all of it is porn. Or manga. But that’s their selling point.) The problem, however, is that they take their content from other webcomic portal sites and charge their users for it without even alerting the original creators, much less paying them. Even their logo “borrows” the Playboy bunny icon, despite having no affiliation with that magazine. St-Louis and others were able to convince the site’s internet service provider that this was all illegal (which it is) and the site got pulled down. However, it’s already back up and running (presumably) using a different service provider.

Now, St-Louis and the others can go to the new service provider and make the same case. And there’s a more than fair chance that the new service provider with also pull the site down. But the files and databases used to make the site are already created and tested; MfA just needs to copy that up to another server and they’ll be in business once again. Users wouldn’t even have to change their bookmarks! And while there are technically a finite number of service providers, I don’t doubt that they could switch every day and have enough to work with for years before even needing to go outside what’s available in North America! It’s annoying for them to switch servers, sure, but if they’re making enough money, it’s worth the inconvenience since MfA is most likely run by no more than a few people.

But that’s really the key to stopping this type of illegal behavior. The reason MfA, and other sites like theirs, continue is because they’re making money. They have an incentive to keep doing what they’re doing. They’d stop if there weren’t any money in it. And there wouldn’t be any money in it if readers stopped giving them money. If readers stopped paying for the content these sites have stolen.

Of course, if it were just that easy, piracy of every kind would’ve been eliminated centuries ago. But it seems there are always enough people willing to pay for stolen goods. However, you don’t have to be a party to that. As a fan of webcomics—which I have to presume you are since you’re reading this column—you should support the medium you enjoy by sending your money to the creators making the content you love, not the people who are serving it up on their own platform. Even if it’s just out of self-interest! A creator who’s not making money on their webcomic has less of incentive to continue it, and if you’re sending your money to the pirate instead of the creator, that increases the likelihood of the creator quitting. Which means you wouldn’t get to read your beloved webcomic at all!

My point today is a simple one: if you want to spend money on webcomics, that’s fantastic! But make sure that whatever money you do spend is fining its way back to the creator her or himself!

About The Author

Sean Kleefeld
Senior Editor, Comics & Lifestyle
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Sean Kleefeld is an independent researcher whose work has been used by the likes of Marvel Entertainment, Titan Books and 20th Century Fox. He writes the ongoing “Incidental Iconography” column for The Jack Kirby Collector and had weekly “Kleefeld on Webcomics” and "Kleefeld's Fanthropology" columns for MTV Geek. He’s also contributed to Alter Ego, Back Issue and Comic Book Resources. Kleefeld’s 2009 book, Comic Book Fanthropology, addresses the questions of who and what comic fans are. He blogs daily at KleefeldOnComics.com.