Zine Piracy Letter to Candace Pulleine by Bill Hupe

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Open Letter
Title: Zine Piracy Letter to Candace Pulleine by Bill Hupe
From: Bill Hupe
Addressed To:
Date(s): March 19, 1993
Medium: print
Fandom: Meta, Zine, Zine Pirating
External Links:
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Zine Piracy Letter to Candace Pulleine by Bill Hupe was a letter sent to Candace Pulleine, head of the Revelcon concom. It was cc'd to other zine editors and publishers.

The subject was zine piracy.

Some Background Information

Making copies of zines that were still in print could be financially damaging to many zine editors and publishers. It was an issue that was first publicly discussed in media fandom in the eleventh issue of Probe in August 1977. The editor, Winston A. Howlett, wrote:
Have you heard of the Underground? The one in ST fandom... They Xerox things. Lots of things. Like parts of fanzines, or whole fanzines, or even whole sets of fanzines. All without permission of any kind from anyone who had anything to do with the fanzine's production. And I'm not talking about just a copy for 'personal entertainment,' but five, ten, forty copies... whatever number fits their 'small circle of friends.' Sometimes they sell them, sometimes they trade them for other fanzines (copies or originals), sometimes they give them away...to someone else who also has free access to a duplicating machine and another circle of friends. I first heard about the Underground when a fellow zine editor stumbled across a Xerox of her visual series (elaborate comic book if you will) in the hands of a neo-fan at a con. Said neo praised the artist/editor for her work and casually mentioned that 'XYZ in California' had Xeroxed about forty copies and spread them all over the country... People with free access to Xerox machines make me very nervous, if just for the built-in temptation that the devices [will be] be used irresponsibly. What good is all the extra effort and expense an editor goes through to acquire a special story or article for an issue, when somebody with the 'Start Print' Syndrome can wreck the whole process? In case you hadn't thought about it, zine editors don't just give their works that extra effort just for the sake of the art, but to acquire new readers. In short, friends, when you fellow Trekfan starts drooling over your latest zine purchase, try gently imploring them to buy their own copy, instead of running to Daddy's office.[1] Xerox doesn't need the business, but we do.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were strong feelings in fandom about some fans who were making copies of zines still in print and were, from one point of view, "stealing" from zine publishers by copying in-print zines. There were also strong feelings about zine editors who kept zines in print forever, thus continuing to make sales while the story authors never received any additional compensation. This coincided with growing resentment among other groups of fans regarding rising zine prices, often for zines which they felt were not worth the higher prices.

Many of these tensions came to a head at, and after, RevelCon 1993.

A Series of Open Letters: by Zine Publishers/Con Organizers

In 1993 and 1994, a number of Open Letters circulated in fandom regarding the photocopying of in-print zines.

See: The Revelcon Zine Piracy Letters.

Bill Hupe's First Zine Piracy Letter to Candace Pulleine

The letter below was sent by Bill Hupe to Candace Pulleine, head of the Revelcon concom. It was cc'd to other zine editors and publishers.

Dear Candace,

After considerable thought, and talking with some of the people affected, I really need to bring something to your attention: are you aware of the widespread zine pirating that was going on during Revelcon? People openly discussing it in front of my table (several instances when an attendee was considering buying a given zine and was stopped with 'we can copy mine over at Kinko's for less'). And not just my stuff being affected: I was offered a 'slice' of Denetia Arellanes brand new _Liaisons 2_ at one point, Tami interrupted two people in the artshow discussing (I guess 2 of Paulie's pieces) 'splitting them to keep the bids down and making each other prints'.

This doesn't exactly endear some of the dealers to return. Anne Wortham (who's new _Southern Lights 5_ was being copied (and did 'stunningly poorly' for premiering--less than 5 copies, although there were quite a few people talking bout the contents...), is considering forbidding me to bring any of her zines back to Houston.

I know the ol' friends copying the or that routine, and I’ve always tended to look the other direction, but I feel that this 'wholesale slaughter' of zines considerably out of line. My printer is printing Anne's zines nowadays for her, so I know what she's laying out for the contributor copies: a small fortune, and what happened last weekend didn't bode well. I know people consider MediaWest*Con's rules on the subject as going to the extreme, but considering the circus the convention had turned into the last 'open year': at least 2 xerox machines (that we know of) brought into the convention hotel for the wholesale duplication of zines (one person actually put of fliers--'Bring your new zines to my room, look through my collection, and we'll do copy swaps'), room dealers bringing in pre-copied pirated zines for an 'alternative source', maps being distributed to Kinko's and so on, so much so that some people actually questioned whether legitimate or illegitimate copies were more readily available from room dealers, so prevalent were unauthorized copies. MediaWest*Con has actually had to brief the Lansing Kinko's, who now actually have to ask for identification before making any copies.

I have spoken in brief to the manager of our Kinko's about what occurred in reference to the violation of editor's copyrights; I will again be speaking to him next week at the request of some editors to actively contact the Houston Intercontinental Airport Kinko's and inform them of the situation and what was going on at their store this past weekend, especially as Kinko's has been successfully sued over bootlegging of copyrighted materials.

Unfortunately in light of this, I can't see returning to RevelCon next year at the moment, as infuriated as I am right now, and at least 4 editors are screaming for blood at this moment. If you can see any way to try and alleviate this problem, I will be quite happy to return, as in the past I have always had a good time and lots of fun, but this problem simply overshadowed any enjoyment I was getting from attending the convention.

See you in May...[at MediaWest]

Bill Hupe

cc: (individuals known for certain affected directly at RevelCon)

PJ Alexandre
Denetia Arellanes
Taerie Bryant
Alayne Gelfand
Leah Rosenthal
Anne Wortham

A Fan's Zines Get Caught in the Backlash

At least one fan's zines were caught in the backlash when they were erroneously listed on Bill's list as being "pirated." That fan wrote an Open Letter of her own, one which was published in September 1993:

Upon receipt of Bill Hupe's letter regarding wholesale bootlegging at RevelCon I was surprised to see Down Under Express was listed as one of the zines pirated. Authorized copies of DUE and Backtrack were sent by me. Gale Good, an authorized dealer by the Australian editors, to be sold by a friend as I was unable to attend the convention. Bill was unaware of this and apparently thought the copies he heard were being sold were bootleg. They were not. As for the other allegations that people stood in the aisles, taking orders for debuting zines to have printed at Kinkos, I know nothing about this. Since I needed to talk to Bill about something else, I called and clarified the fact that authorized DUE and Backtrack zines were at the convention and I hadn't heard of anyone bootlegging them. He thanked me for the information. Unfortunately, he'd already informed the Australian editors, and, as they had a previous run-in with a well-known bootlegger, the Australian editors responded with a warning in their next issue of DUE. When both editors came to MediaWest, I informed them of the circumstances and set their minds at ease that the zines at Revelcon were legitimate and not pirated copies. Then I stuck my foot in mouth. At a local fan meeting, Bill Hupe's letter was posted on the wall and several people were discussing it. A Revelcon attendee mentioned copying a Star Trek zine for a friend at the Kinkos there and I assumed she was referring to the one mentioned in Bill's letter. I WAS WRONG! She has since convinced me completely that it was an out-of-print zine she was talking about and NOT a new or currently in print zine. I apologized to her for the misunderstanding, and I am willing to apologize publicly, in print, as well... Please do not allow this situation to escalate and fragment fandom as did the 'Blakes 7 controversy'.[2]

Fannish Reactions

Fandom's reactions split into unsurprisingly three categories: those who believed the facts as presented by Bill, those who believed the facts as developed by Candace in the subsequent months, and those who really couldn't care less about the entire matter. Morgan Dawn remembers fans discussing the issue in 1995, a few years later: "When the story was told to me, there seemed to be a dual set of memories. One set 'remembered' that Candy Pulleine went to a lot of trouble to track down the facts, she spent her own money mailing to members asking specific questions about pirating they might have observed and/or participated in etc. The other set focused solely on Bill's recollections (sans his retractions and corrections). I gather it was easier to just remember the first series of letters than to try to keep up with the later twists and turns. In my head, I divided the groups between those who liked to read complex mysteries and those who preferred to read short stories. Or, as I heard one fan say, somewhat bitterly: "pirate stories are more comforting to editors with old zines and people with sloppily organized tables." I never really did a get a feel there was agreement on any of the 'facts'."[3]


RE: "Piracy" There is a huge difference between running off 100 copies of a zine and competing with the original print run, without having put in any of the labor, and copying the couple of stories you like out of a friend's copy -- or reselling your own copy. IF a zine ed is pricing her zines "reasonably" (good bang for the buck), is treating her writers and artists well (one WOW ed of my acquaintance sent a nice Native American art print with the 'tribbers' copies -- it's something most of the WOWers are into, and the prints weren't so much pricey as tough to come by), and isn't getting an attitude about stuff, then I'll be more sympathetic when someone is zapping off copies of her zine left and right, than when someone is paying their rent with overpriced zines. Bill Hupe is talking about "piracy"? In the eyes of some fan writers, HE'S a pirate for reprinting zines way past their natural lifespans (like Leigh Arnold's. Those got BAD toward the end). All rights revert to the individual authors and artists upon publication -- unless the editor gives the masters away without your consent, in which case you loose out on all 'trib copies for reprints of your "classic" story.

MediaWest isn't stopping much by banning copiers and getting their Kinko's to act as enforcers. Fans DO communicate afterwards. I know of about 1/2 doz fans, within an hour's drive of my home, with whom I can trust, and be trusted with, loaned zines. Unless a zine is something I MUST have, I'll let one of them buy it and just read theirs, especially if it's mixed media. I've been known to pull a mixed media zine APART (I wanted the Bizarro in it, and gave the ST and SiSi to a friend).

You're absolutely right about finances. Like I said, if I can get copies at 3cents/page, why the hell should I permanently PAY more than 10cents/page when I don't like half the zine? If those poor oppressed blossoms of editors don't like this plain economic fact, they can damned well get real jobs and see what their fanzine-purchasing budget looks like then. A $20 zine is, let's see, minimum wage is $5-something, minus taxes, say $3.50 -- about 6 hours of retail slave work. WOuld you like fries with your fanzine, m'am?

This was all a lot more fun when it was a hobby and not a business.[4]

[Michelle Christian] and I called Bill Hupe yesterday to talk about the letters from Candy, et. al. (Well, [Michelle Christian] did most of the talking, I lurked and prompted her when I felt she was missing a point...)

First, Bill is an absolute DOLL, very co-operative (not adversarial at all) and we had a really good talk. At the end, he saw almost all of our points, and we had a really good rapport.

He is coming from a position of feeling responsible to the zine eds that he deals for. Since he's on-site at the cons, they want to know what he's doing to protect their interests. (I feel this is kind of misplaced, but, oh well.)

We talked a lot about the "love of fandom" versus the "business of fandom". [Michelle Christian] pointed out that the people who seem to be screaming loudest are those for whom the business seems to be outrunning the love. (For instance, we have a policy that we don't mind people copying a single story out of our multi-media zines and selling the zine--we've even been known to send people a copy of a story if that's all they wanted. BTW, this is what he meant by being offered a "slice" of Liaisons...)

We think there's a BIG distinction between what Bill calls "casual pirating" (one fan making a copy for her friend(s)) and "big-time pirating" (making 25 copies and selling them as if you are an agent for the editor). We just can't get to worried about the first one, but the second pisses us off.

We talked about the legality of editors crying copyright infringement, when we're all basically working in other people's universes. He says there is some validity to this, but we're going to call the copyright office to check.

[Michelle Christian] also pointed out that the editors who are "getting out of fandom because of this" also have a number of other reasons. Those of us who know them know what's up in their lives and where they are with fandom. Bill agreed that he doesn't know as many of these folks personally.

We agreed (as the Escapade committee chairs) that we'd be willing to take steps to stop big-time pirating (e.g. asking people to have letters of permission to deal for others), but that we're not sure what level of "policing" is appropriate or comfortable to us.

Also, we'd like to take part in any dialogue that includes zine readers, writers and editors about how to meet all our needs amicably. Bill said there may be panel(s) on the topic at Media.

We intend to write an open letter on this topic before the con, if we have the time.[5]

The Message Comes Full Circle

Due to the slow nature of communication (letters, phones) in the pre-Internet days and that both news and facts tended to be distorted through multiple re-tellings, one of the greater ironies of both Alexis' and Bill Hupe's Open Letters, is that they and their authorized agents were, in turn, accused of zine piracy.

In the K/S letterzine, The LOC Connection, Alexis' and Bill Hupe's letters stirred a vigorous debate on the evils of zine piracy. As issue after issue focused on the topic, fans whipped one another into an anti-piracy frenzy. It cumulated when one of the subscribers unknowingly confronted Bill Hupe's agent Peg Kennedy over 'pirated' Alexis Fegan Black zines:
"Having recently attended Farpoint (formerly OktoberTrek), I was involved in an incident that pertains to the recent discussion about zine pirating.

Being quite used to rummaging around in the K/S boxes of zines kept far under the table and carefully out of sight. I was thrilled to discover two of Alexis Fegan Black's novels, OASIS and VAGABONDS that I had been meaning to read..... Clutching them in my hot little hands I rushed back to the room and proceeded to dig right in. Postponing my pleasure just a little while longer, I started with the editorials in with Alexis states that to prevent pirating she has printed the zines on GREEN paper. My copies are on WHITE paper!

Filled with righteous indignation. I don my shining armor, mount my trusty steed and charge back to the table where I loudly proclaim I HAVE PURCHASED PIRATED ZNES! I DEMAND MY MONEY BACK!! HOW DARE YOU DO THIS DASTARDLY THING!!!

By now a crowd was gathered, aroused no doubt by the scent of blood. The woman behind the table calmly informs me that, of course, she will return my money, but these are official reprints put out by Pon Farr Press. At this point someone tells me that this is Peg Kennedy. To my dread I recognize the name. Peg Kennedy is associated with Bill Hupe a reputable zine dealer I have dealt with many times through the mail.

Hemming and hawing, I back my way out of the dealers' room, tail tucked quite neatly between my legs.

My bruised tail will heal, (I do tend to leap before I look), but if Bill Hupe is selling pirated zines - which I somehow doubt - fandom needs to be apprised of this fact. If, on the other hand Alexis has forgotten to add a postscript to her reprints, this fandom also needs to know.

How can we protect our editors and insure our steady supply of K/S zines if they don't give us a hand?"[6]


  1. ^ Winston Howlett uses "running to Daddy's office" to infantilize fic readers, something that Fegan Black does later with her use of the phrase "Suzy Cue trotting down to Kinko's" in May 1993's open letter Open Letter to Fandom by Alexis Fegan Black Regarding Zine Pirating.
  2. ^ Gail Good in On the Double #28
  3. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed April 4, 2012.
  4. ^ comment by at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (April 20, 1993)
  5. ^ comments by Megan Kent on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (May 17, 1993)
  6. ^ The LOC Connection, Issue #59, November 1993.