Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to sell licensed digital works (otherwise known as why licensing titles sometimes suck)

When it comes to manga in particular, digital copies have always been a little tricky. How do you sell something that you don't entirely own?

Companies that license manga don't own the material. In fact, the license reverts back to the original license holders after x amount of time. Last summer, the license for Akira supposedly reverted back to it's Japanese publisher, Kodansha.

So how can it be sold? To sell a digital copy, a company must first protect it. Why? Because otherwise, the license holder and creators will be unhappy that it's being given for free.

DRM. It's a word I hate because of its limitations. Yet it's understandable that a company and an artist would want to protect their works. Without DRM, fans would simply send it to one another.

A great example is what happened with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight sequel, Midnight Sun. A copy was leaked and within minutes, it was all over the internet. And she was NOT happy.

As I've said, DRM is imperfect. But not only that, the "better" the technology is, the more costly it is. The best way to sell a digital version of a manga would be to have some sort of way where only the paying customer can view it. It'd be nice if they they could throw in some temporary "guest" views too.

Now one of the easiest ways to get around it (somewhat) is to have it online as if it were streaming. The problem with this is that the customer will NEVER permanently own the digital copy. Why?

To be realistic, it's because the company licensing the property only temporary owns the right. After the license expires, they have no obligation in keeping it up. I guess it would mainly be up to the license holder what they would allow the licensee to do.

The last reason is a little bit more negative but realistic all the same. If the company fails, the website will be gone, and your digital copy will be gone forever. Say goodbye to that hard earned cash you spent on it. At least you got to read it before it went bye-bye.

What would have happened if Be Beautiful had offer online versions of their manga that was only viewable online? Well, you just wouldn't be able to view it anymore since the website no longer exists.

So basically, the final question is... Who does it suck more for? The company that has licensed the title and trying to release some type of paid digital copy? Or the paying customers?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've always just enjoy holding something I bought. It doesn't seem real if I don't get to hold it and look at it somehow. Maybe I'm just old fashion.

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