Rise of comic book piracy 'a real problem'

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."