HTML Comics is still down. And it’s never coming back. Now that that’s out of the way…
You remember this sweetheart, right? That’s Gregory Hart – champion of the underfunded comic fan – who bravely provided millions of pages of illegally copied comic books on his site HTML Comics. Back in April, after politely ignoring numerous requests to stop violating copyright law, Hart’s operation was shut down by the FBI. This seemingly came as a surprise to Mr. Hart who repeatedly proclaimed that he had not been operating the site illegally. It turns out, though, that just because you claim something is legal doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s legal. Case in point:
Feds have sued six websites for violating copyright law in providing scanned copies of comic books against the wishes of the publishers who own the copyrights to said comics. All six sites were run by Gregory Hart. Ruh roh.
The lawsuit states that Marvel had contacted Hart last year to take down their material, but he refused, saying that his actions were not illegal. Oddly enough, he offered them a revenue sharing “opportunity” with his site, in which he would keep it up and perhaps charge, but if not accepted, he would continue running his site for free. Obviously Marvel didn’t feel that Hart had any grounds to claim ownership of their material, and instead got the FBI involved. I suppose it was a moral victory for Hart for a while – I wonder how he feels about it now.
I’m posting this update because ever since the news first hit, HTML Comics has been the #1 search term that has brought readers to Comicdom Wrecks. On my second update, I got a lashing from a fan who saw it Hart’s way, to which I provided a polite rebuttal that kindly put him in his place. Let me spell it out here – yes, HTML Comics was a very handy site for reading comics for free. Unfortunately, the whole operation was illegal and was therefore shut down. It wasn’t a matter of the big companies picking on the little guy – it was a matter of the big companies wanting to be compensated for the goods and services they provide. That’s how the system works.
But I would have loved to have seen fans’ reactions had the publishers taken Hart up on his offer to start charging for access to the site. So many people have complained that it made easy access to out-of-print materials, but I have this sneaking suspicion that even a minimal fee of, say $5-10 a month for unlimited access would have had all these people up in arms, calling Hart a sell-out. And don’t lie, people. You know you would have.
But instead, Hart can go down as a hero to freeloaders of the comicdom world while he finds himself in a whole world of trouble. How many of these fans complaining about the site’s end are jumping to donate to his legal funds?