Piracy. It is real. It goes on. It sends zineds to the wall.

Like to hear a horror story? In 1990, an Australian zine was nominated for the FanQ awards for best fanzine. These awards presumably require many votes just to get nominated - another Australian zine sold 250+ copies _and_was_being_lobbied_for_ by its editor and her friends, and didn't get nominated. Guess how many actual, genuine copies of the first zine had been sold in the States at that time? Five. That's right. 5. F-I-V-E.
How do I know this? The editor told me.

The difficulty in fighting bootlegging/piracy is that the poor fan-in-the-dealer's-room has no way of telling if the zine they just bought is a pirate copy, because they've never seen a genuine copy. Number the zines? Anyone can write numbers. Warnings in the editorial? Leave out the editorial in the pirate copy. Special seals or embossing? These are usually mentioned in the editorial, so they just do as above - leave out the editorial. Not all zines have editorials, so how is one to know whether there was an editorial in this zine or not? If the pirate zine is only a partial copy of the original, they can leave out the table of contents. Not all zines have a table of contents, so one won't know that it's missing. Maybe one might become suspicious if the first story starts at page 7, but who really looks at the page numbers? And they could just renumber them anyway.

And maybe the pirate copy is so good that someone who has seen a genuine copy can't tell the difference. Maybe it is an authorised reprint. How do you know? Give your agents authorisations? Anything can be faked, and most people wouldn't know to ask. And even if one did ask, the pirate would just lie through their teeth anyway. Practically no-one but the editor themself would be able to tell for sure.

Another tale - an Australian editor went to the USA, went to a convention, saw her zine (pirated) for sale at a dealer's table. "Is that an authorised copy?" she asked, pretending innocence. "Yes, I know the editor personally," said the pirate. "I am the editor!" said the editor.

That was one pirate caught, but most non-US editors don't have the opportunity to check US conventions (or visa versa).

And even if you, the buyer, figure out that that zine was a pirated copy, the penny doesn't usually drop until after the con anyway, when you start putting one and one and one and one together... by which time it is too late. There may be enough circumstantial evidence to point pretty clearly to piracy (like in the first example above), but no proof whatsoever. What can you do? If you had proof, the editor could take them to court, at least in the US. But most of the time, you don't even know who "them" is, and there's nothing you can do - you just know people are being ripped off. Pirating is stealing, _whether_or_not_ the piracy is for profit or convenience.

Some people think that pirating is a victimless crime, but it isn't. Fanzines just simply disappear because their editors cannot sell their own copies because the pirate copies are easier to buy (or make for one's friends). The ultimate losers are the fans, because there are simply less and less good zines around.

Syndicated Images, R.I.P.