web comic

The Least I Could Do To Prevent Theft

Least I Could Do is a web comic by Lar Desouza and Ryan Sohmer that I really enjoy reading. They post very regularly—at least a couple of times a week—and they make their income from selling print books of the comics and through ads on the site. From what I can tell, Least I Could Do seems to have a pretty big following and has let the duo live comfortably. Earlier this week, Sohmer wrote a blog post called "Thanks for Stealing" in which he expresses his displeasure for the fact that someone has created an iPhone application that allows people to easily view the comics that Sohmer writes. The maker of this app earns money from the sale of the app ($0.99) and from ads within the app. Sohmer's displeasure stems from the fact that he isn't seeing any of this money, and that someone is essentially profiting off of his hard work.

At first, I completely agreed with him. Then I read the rebuttal posted in the comments section by AsmodeusLore (clearly a student of the Masnickian school of economics) in which he constructs and airtight argument as to why Sohmer should not be concerned about this iPhone app.

The essence of his comment is that the comics haven't been "stolen" but rather "copied" (something quite different), and even though this app isn't driving any traffic back to Sohmer's website, it is still serving as a promotional tool for the comic. Existing fans are able to enjoy it in another way, and at least some of the new fans will want to know more and will eventually end up at Sohmer's site or buy one his books.

Read the post from Sohmer, then read at least one of AsmodeusLore's comments below it and see how you feel.

I think there is a huge opportunity for Sohmer to partner with the creator of this app. For example, offering to promote the app on his site if the developer changes the app so it links back to the site, or share revenue with him. Not everything needs to end up with a lawsuit or take-down notice.

So what do you think? Is it still stealing? What does this make you think about the "piracy problem" facing the entertainment industries?