Introducing The Honesty Box

Yesterday on Twitter I mentioned something I’ve been thinking about for a while now – The Honesty Box.

Every comic creator who runs their own website and checks the statistics now and again (just now and again, not obsessively… honestly) will have come across the same thing we have; in the list of search terms people have used in order to get to your site you see the words “download”, “scan”, “torrent”, etc, followed by the title of your latest book or series. It’s a weird feeling knowing that the people who are sharing and downloading your work are also (albeit accidentally) visiting your own site.

So, I wondered if there was anything that we, the creators, could do about it. Not in a GET REALLY ANGRY AND SHOUT ABOUT HOW YOU MUST STOP THIS NOW sort of way, but instead more like a “Hi search engine user, I’m the creator of the thing you just searched for”, kind of thing.

I just thought it might be good to actually address the situation in a realistic, non-hysterical, yet non-fatalistic way and explain things from a mid level comic industry creator’s point of view to those download searchers who end up on our site. So, The Honesty Box was born.

The header of the page contains many of the most popular search engine terms (broken down into single words and titles) which seem to be leading would-be downloaders to our site. The rest of the page is basically an honest, polite and hopefully friendly piece of writing explaining our position on the whole thing and how illegal sharing and downloading affects us as creators.

It’s not a solution, it’s not a deterrent, but I feel better for having done it and if other creators out there who are in the same position feel like doing something similar on their own site, I think that would be very cool.

4 thoughts on “Introducing The Honesty Box

  1. This is a great idea and more creators should do it. The free content is great and the links to purchase the paid content through official channels is of course very sensible.

    However!

    People who download music / films / books etc generally claim that they do so for one or more of three main reasons:

    1. It’s easier than buying through official channels
    2. The format suits them better (Eg. no DRM, works on all devices)
    3. It’s too expensive

    If I were in your shoes I’d be addressing these points by asking for feedback on whether it’s too much of a hassle, or if the format isn’t right to buy the content. Finally I’d mention a recommended donation level for each of your works but stress that people should donate what they think it’s worth or what they can afford.

    Mentioning in bold type how pirating your comics is ILLEGAL will turn most file sharers off and they won’t get to the bottom of the page.

  2. @Mark – Thanks, I’m glad it’s making sense and being taken in the spirit it was intended.

    With regards to our use of the term “illegal”:
    Given that there are official digital versions of many of our books available, and that The Thrill Electric (iOS version) and our Deadeye stories are free to download and intended for sharing, it seemed like we needed to make a distinction between those and scanned/pirated copies of our other comics. There wasn’t any “YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW!” angle intended, “illegal” just seemed like the easiest term to use. Maybe I should change it to “pirated”? “Unauthorised”? Hmm, not sure that would be any better really.

    I totally take the three points you’ve raised on board but I’d point out that none of those things are in the control of us as the work-for-hire writers of these projects.

    Filesharing is free and pretty much instant, so I can well understand why anything else might seem like a waste of time and money and a massive hassle by comparison. The fact remains that the money to pay us to write the stuff in the first place needs to come from somewhere, otherwise people are going to stop giving us jobs.

    We wouldn’t want to recommend a donation level for anything because that could come across as if we’re saying that it’s fine to fileshare our stuff so long as you pay us personally some money. That would be entirely the wrong message – The Honesty Box itself is the very last resort and is definitley not intended as a “pay what you want”.

  3. The more I think about it, the more I see your Honesty Box is just shockingly brilliant. It’s a two-way street, and such humility, while yet untried in fighting this particular fire, is absolutely the most plausible resolution I have heard of yet. I applaud your decision, and hope it blazes a trail and sets a new trend for many to follow- at least in terms of creator websites.
    Can’t see Marvel or DC finding success in putting up Honesty Boxes of their own, although it would certainly be funny.

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