TL;DNR: From a purely creative perspective. I don’t care if you pirate my work, so long as it stays accredited and unaltered, and you personally recommend it to people who would like it. On the other hand, I don’t want my distributors to get cheated, since they’re supporting my efforts, so I’d prefer you to pay them. I’m going to be doing this either way, even though it would be nice to do it in the black. Maybe down the line that perspective changes but these comics cost me more than they earn, so I guess I’ll take the free publicity and word-of-mouth recommendations to a friend.
Reading this essay, “Why I Pirate,” this fellow’s making all the points I would. I’m not sure it gets around the defense of why you shouldn’t commit such an act, but the fact is, the broadcast TV structure has begun its descent into moot medium. Not allotting for online access is cutting out large chunks of the same demographic that actually buys advertisers’ products.
This sort of debate has always existed. Before filesharing it was mix tapes and VCRs. Personally, as a creator, I think it’s inevitable and healthy to let some stuff spread around. When I was a kid I only got $5 allowance a week, so at most I’d buy five new comics; that meant I knew there’d be some that weren’t worth it to me, and if they were, I could probably read them at Joe Black’s house anyway. And when I got there, he’d show me something I hadn’t seen, and I’d lend him the same. The best marketing in the world will forever be, “Hey, you HAVE to read/hear/see/play this.”
As someone who puts all his content online for free anyway, I’m not losing or risking much if you torrent my stuff. At this level? Maybe a few cents, about what it’d be worth to have 10 new people exposed to my work anyway. Comics have this weird structure that’s simultaneously accessible to the independent creator and completely exclusive. I could print it (and have) and after calling 100 stores, manage to sell 20-100 copies to the five retailers willing to take a risk (and usually a bath) on them. Or I could put it on a website and get 1000 views the first day at no further production costs. And then at no personal cost, maybe 10% of those readers come back as regulars, while probably a quarter to half have found a comic they enjoy and check back for more stuff periodically, or recommend it to friends.