Zine Pirating

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Synonyms: bootleg
See also: Zine, File Sharing, Zine profits
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While there are many conflicting definitions of what constitutes "pirating a zine," most fans understand it to be reprinting a print zine in full, or in part, to give, or sell, to another fan, without asking the editor/distributor.

Initially, bringing out a zine cost real money, often a lot of it.

Many fan editors adamantly pushed back against fans' unauthorized redistribution of their works, warning that by cutting out the original publisher, fans were stealing, as well as weakening the entire fannish chain of production and vessels of communication.

In 1993, in a rare stance, at least one editor, Candace Pulleine, stated up front that fans were free to distribute her zine to others. Regarding Time and Again, Pulleine's multimedia zine:

UNAUTHORIZED COPIES: The author and publisher are making no attempt to prevent copying. In fact, if you do not have the $10.00 and want a copy, if you have a friend who has a copy, feel free to copy. If two or more want to chip in together and purchase this zine and make copies for your own personal use, feel free. HOWEVER, NO ONE OTHER THAN CANDACE PULLEINE IS AUTHORIZED TO SELL THIS ZINE. Of course if you want, send the publisher your money and a zine will be sent to you.

Differing Definitions of Zine Piracy

In zine fandom, there wasn't necessarily a consensus on what was acceptable use of fanzines and what was piracy.


Some contrasting definitions:

  • copying zines you didn't make that you sell at a profit—or for the cost of what it would be to photocopy the pages
  • copying an out-of-print zine for yourself or others for personal use
  • copying your own copy of in in-print zine to give to a friend
  • copying your own copy of in out-of-print zine to give to a friend
  • making a podcast from a story in an in-print zine
  • making a tape recording or a podcast for a blind friend from a story in an out-of-print or in-print zine
  • an agent who originally had permission to sell copies of a zine, but that permission was canceled, or misunderstood

The Big Bucks Print Zines Required

Much of this cost was due to production; Xerox technology was years in the future; instead, you had plates made of each page of your zine and then offset printed. Zine editors routinely took pre-orders and a SASE and waited until they had enough money from pre-orders to print the zine. Some of those editors never got enough money, so the money had to be returned (that's why they asked for a SASE), which could be difficult, since a lot of zine buyers were in their college years and moved like crazy. In some cases, the zine never came out, and the money never got returned, which led cynical zine buyers to be even more reluctant to send money before the zine actually was finished. Some zine editors took out bank loans, or ran up credit cards to finance publications.

Other zine editors, to lower their exposure, brought out very simple zines—no art, simply stapled together instead of bound in some more expensive way (like screw post, comb binding, spiral binding or perfect binding). The Another K/S zine series is a good example of this style. Others were determined to bring out works of art—including color art covers, heavy paper, interior screened art, nice bindings and more.

Accusations of Piracy


as early as 1977, fans duplicating copies of fanzines was an issue, from Probe #11

One of the first published conversations about piracy was in 1977, (soon after SeKWesterCon, Too) in the zine Probe #11:

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. Xerox doesn't need the business, but we do.


A zine ed in 1982 spoke out against the unauthorized reproduction of out-of-print zines, mainly citing a fan's right to amass a monetarily valuable zine collection:

It has recently come to my attention that some few people in fandom are selling Xerox copies of various zines which are out-of-print or no longer available. Pulsar Press zines... are among those 'pirated'... and I would like to make my permission clear regarding the sale of these reproductions. AT NO TIME -- PAST, PRESENT, OR IN THE FUTURE -- HAVE I OR WILL AUTHORIZE OR SANCTION ANY FORM OF REPRODUCTION AND SALE OF PULSAR PRESS ZINES, WHOLE OR IN PART. This seems like a harsh statement, but consider this: Editors, publishers, and writers work long and hard on their zines -- the average time I need to publish what I consider the best quality zine I can produce is two years plus... When others, uninvolved in the creation of the zine, pirate that zine and sell it for their own profit, they are stealing from those members of the fandom family who have spent their time and energies to produce the zines that keep fandom alive. Piracy is illegal, and prosecutable under the copyright law; worse, it is a crime against fandom -- both publisher and readers suffer for it. Yes-- the readers and zine buyers, too; when zines sell out and become out of print, they also gain intrinsic value to those who have obtained original issues. A single copy of a popular zine can sell for $200 when auctioned. Would you like to be the person who has paid this incredible amount of money, only to find that 'reprints' or Xerox copies are being sold for $20 or so?" [1]


In 1983, a fan, a zine ed herself, summed up why she felt "pirating" would continue to be a problem:

I would like to offer some thoughts on the problem of zine piracy as addressed... First of all, I am saddened to hear about this practice, but I believe it is a symptom of a real problem in fandom that fan editors need to recognize. Like many others, I discovered fanzines long after Thrust, Nightvisions, and Companion, etc. went out of print. I have tried in vain to obtain copies of these and other zines to read, if only to borrow and return. Like a great many others, I cannot afford to pay auction prices of $50 and upwards per zine. I am acquainted with [names redacted] and I have repeatedly expressed to them a strong desire to read their zines. Unlike Carol's statement in her letter that she would 'help any fan obtain a copy of one of my publications legally,' AT NO TIME was I offered help in finding 'legal' copies at a reasonable price. With all this talk about 'the family of fandom,' etc., I have seen little evidence of it other than lip service... The only reason people buy pirated zines is because there is no other way to get to see them. Sadly, that is why the pirates will continue to do business.[2]

Another fan, Judith Gran, brought up profit and copyright: She pointed out that an editor's copyright extended only to her or his material in zine, not the whole zine itself and brings up the snarl that is profit and supply and demand. An excerpt:

I doubt very much that a xerox copy of an out-of-print zine for one's own personal use is infringement. And... there is infringement ONLY if the editor's copyright is valid in the first place. I mention this because of the increasingly common practice of publishing zine as profit-making ventures, a practice that... takes fanzines out of the protection of fair use...In recent years, demand for Trekzines has created such a thriving auction market for out-of-print zines that some editors now anticipate and plan for sales at auction from the beginning. The editor of a popular zine may elect to charge much more for the than the zine's actual cost of production, knowing that readers will gladly pay the inflated price because they know they can double or triple their initial investment at auction later on. Then, the editor may announce that the zine is sold out, while holding back a number of copies for auction when the price goes up. She may even auction them off herself under a different name... I write this not from concern for Paramount's rights, but because of the effect of these practices on fans. Like the AMA, some editors have learned that limiting supply drives the price through the roof. But what about the authors and artists who produce the creative guts of a zine? They don't share the editor's profits from sale or auction. In many cases, they probably would prefer a wider distribution of the zine at an affordable price so their work would reach more readers. The plight of the the reader who cannot afford to pay $50 for a zine is obvious, especially for an 'out-of-print' zine that really isn't. In this situation, resourceful readers have turned to long-distance borrowing and xeroxing as the only practice ways to have access to the work of their fellow fans... Of course, I assume that the editors who have said they will enforce their copyrights against unauthorized xeroxers do not engage in any of the practices I've mentioned., and that they have valid and enforceable copyrights. But as for the editor who's elected to turn her fanzine into a lucrative commercial venture, well, she can't have it both ways. By choosing to publish in violation of the copyright, she has made her work fair game.[3]


This is from 1988 when Randall Landers wrote about fanzines and the rip-offs he was seeing:

Let's talk about pro-dealers (95% of them, I'd guess) who charge exorbitant princes for fanzines still in print. Stardate #1 was a piece of crap. I know it, and so does everyone else who has read it. Yet at Dixie Trek, someone was selling it for $15 while it is still available [from me] for $3 or so. I recently received a hateful LoC from a poor fan who bought it, and sent the letter without a return address so I wasn't able to explain the matter to him. Let's talk about the same dealer who is selling The Daystrom Project for $30 because it's won a Fan-Q. It is still available [from me] for about $14). You see, I'm all riled up. Fandom is pretty honest, but it is also pretty timid. These things will continue as long as fans are apathetic enough not to want to get involved, and are willing to pay these unscrupulous dealers though the nose. Three months ago, I discovered someone was selling knock-off copies from Orion #25. How could I tell? The original print run of Orion #25 featured a perfect bound wrap-around cover. (Subsequent print runs will have cardstock, but we haven't printed them yet.) [4]

1988: The Blake's 7 Piracy Confrontation

In 1988, there was a major confrontation in the Blake's 7 fandom pertaining to the bootlegging of five fanzines. It involved lawyers, as well as dragging Terry Nation (the show's creator) into the fray. See The 1988 Blake's 7 Bootlegged Zines Discussion.

Also see An Open Letter to Fandom by Deb Walsh (1988), Statement: regarding the issue of bootlegging and cloning zines by Leigh Arnold (November 1988), and An Open Letter to Fandom by Della Van Hise (February 1988) for accused piracy by other fans.


The editor of Comlink to which the above 1989 LoC was written, responded:

This is an interesting problem which is probably not unique to fandom. Whenever anything is profitable, there will be those who will sell anything for any price. While selling fanzine knock-offs was once the domain of the professional dealer, I've heard horror stories from fen where other fan were selling unauthorized copies as official authorized copies. How can this be stopped? Randy hit it on the head when he mentioned printing covers in a unique manner: heavy stock, wrap around or color. We all lose when this happens, but I especially feel bad for the neo fan who spends $25 for a $5 zine and thinks all of fandom is out to rip her off.[5]

In 1989, Ethics and Etiquette: A Proposal for the Buying and Selling of Fanzines was published in Southern Enclave #23. This article generated MANY comments from fans, of which this is one:

I'm shocked and appalled that there are those who think of some fans as "thieves" for wanting to read and enjoy what other fans meant to be enjoyed! Has it come to this, turning on each other? I never imagined such an attitude existed in SW fandom. While I agree with most of the ethical code proposed, the logic behind the charge of "stealing" OOP zines escapes me. Such a charge would be valid only if the owner of the zine profited from copies or deprived the editor/contributors of profit by reprinting. I agree the selling of OOP zine copies for more than cost is unethical but since, ostensibly, neither editors nor contributors make any money producing a zine, I do not see what is being stolen. How can someone "steal" what I, as a contributor, GAVE away to be enjoyed by others? If I am wrong, please correct me, but I've been under the impression that those of us involved with zine production are motivated by love for the particular fandom and a desire to share our creativity with other fans. Why would anyone who poured so much talent, effort and time into a zine--whether editing, writing or illustrating--rather see their work die than be shared? As an author/artist, I am saddened to think an editor may one day thwart my intention to share my work with other fans by calling their sharing it with one another a crime. I hope, too, that those same editors never copy a passage from a library book, or trade needlework patterns or cookbook recipes. What the attempt to criminalize generosity and sharing between fans really means--in my POV--is that there are two classes of fans, the Haves and the Have Nots. The Have Nots (latecomers, newcomers or the unlucky) can hear about this great zine, or that great story but we can never read it unless someone takes pity on us and lends us a copy. Owning it, of course, if forever Forbidden by the Haves, since they have the Originals and love them too much to part with them but not enough to share them. After all, the editors and contributors forgot to say "If we only wanted one person to read this, we would have kept it in a notebook under our beds." So...the ideas and art and sharing stop here? That's not what I want for something I poured my heart and soul and money (yes! authors and artists spend their own money, too, on supplies and postage) into for over a year. I would be flattered if people were interested in my work after it was out of print. Not only would I give my permission to reprint my story or art, I'd copy my originals if no one else would. These comments may not endear me to my editor but I am entitled to my opinion and would not have offered it on such a controversial subject if Mary hadn't asked for responses. I can't imagine there will be many folks straddling the fence on this one; my conscience wouldn't allow it. If I'm going to err, it's going to be on the side that offers the greatest chance for creative expression of any kind to survive. To lock a book away, to prevent the continued expression and expansion of its contents, kills not only the idea it holds but the love that was put into it. Love of ideas and sharing them is what holds fandoms together. When those things evaporate, or are restricted, fandoms die.


A unique disclaimer in the Blake's 7 zine, Children of the Federation:

No Copyright 1990. All stories and art are controlled by their respective creators, and are unreservedly offered to the fandom for the entertainment and enjoyment of the readers. All rights to "Blake's 7" are acknowledged to Terry Nation and the BBC, with heartfelt thanks to Mr. Nation for his creation. Terry, we couldn't have done it without you! To Paul and Michael and all the splendid actors who gave us the characters we love, equal heartfelt thanks. To the fans, this zine's for you guys.

NOTICE: Copying this zine is permitted with the written approval of the editor. Making copies of this zine is also permitted with the written approval of the Queen of England, three state governors, an act of Congress, and the blessing of the Pope. And you know what? Copies of this zine are also permitted without any of above.

There, you guys have it in writing, you're safe, go ahead and xerox your little hearts out, and when the zine police scream bootleg! you can show thiem this paragraph and sneer nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah nyah-nyah, and watch them sulk. All proceeds from the sale of this zine will be donated to the AIDS Project of Los Angeles to help them in the fight against AIDS.

If all the copiers in town are busted, this zine can be ordered by sending lots of money... to Bonni Vitti...


In 1991, a zined commented on bootlegging, the shaky legal ground zines stood on, and the pro-cons:

With the popularity and profitability of the Creation-style "conventions," unscrupulous dealers and fans have realized that there's a buck to be made, and bootleg zines are a neat way to make a fast bundle with little or no cash outlay or time investment. This has become a serious problem for fanzine editors, and will adversely affect the number and quality of available zines. Because of the hazy legal status of media zines, and the expense and hassle involved in litigation, bootleggers are hard to stop. I know some fans resent paying high prices for fanzines, and welcome the chance to save a few bucks, but there are sometimes good reasons for those high prices, reasons that benefit the readers. Printing is very expensive in the smaller quantities most zineds must work with, and sometimes considerable expense goes into getting them printed well (ask me sometime about the time and expense involved in printing the art for Pulse of the Machine). There are expenses involved in soliciting, editing and rewriting material for the zine; there are 'stats, reductions and working copies to pay for; contributor's copies for typists, proofers, artists, writers, collators, and so on. Most or all of those expenses must be covered by the sales of the zine. If the bootlegger, who is not concerned about quality, and who has invested none of the time, cash or sweat that went into the development of the product--who has created nothing—cuts into the market for that fanzine, the zined, unable to recoup expenses, will no longer be able to do a fanzine, or will no longer be able to do it well. That means fewer good zines for us to read. Don't support bootleggers, and don't turn a blind eye if your friends do, unless you want to be an accomplice in the untimely demise of the quality fanzine.[6]

Also in 1991, an Australian fan wrote of a situation that was making a zine ed reconsider selling zines to fans in the United States:

Last night I rang up Annie Hamilton, the editor of Enarrare, and received the following interesting information.

There has been a lot of problems with pirating in the US. They know of at mast a dozen copies of Enarrare (the big black zine) that went over there, and they have many dollars of stock still sitting on their hands, and yet the zine appears to be pretty widespread. There was even one person who wrote and asked for a particular page, who said quite openly that they had made 5 or so copies for friends!

If this does not stop, they will have to take strict measures. No more zines that they produce in future will be sold to anyone in the United States, to for anyone in the United States. Full Stop.

So please, please, please make this known! Tell everyone you know. The real zine has a black cover with Enarrare in a design like a metal plate go embossed sideways in the bottom right-hand corner. I don't think the pirates could reproduce that!

This pirating must stop. I'm quite cross about it, and I'm not even one of the editors. Things like this are pernicious, and cause harm. I know of one zine editor in South Australia a few years ago (about '85, think) who produced an excellent zine, Syndicated Images, which folded because of pirating in the US. That was a loss for all of us. Don't let the same thing happen again.

Sorry for the rave, but I feel it.[7]

A 1991 meta plea from "Tommy Hanson," a character from 21 Jump Street:

Zine Pirating is a real drag. I know more and more of you are being made aware of how wrong it is for these people to bootleg the hard work of others. But did you know that ever)' time you buy one of these pirate copies, you're taking a risk?

"Hi, I'm Tommy Hanson" -- meta by "Tommy Hanson" (character from 21 Jump Street), written by Tosya Stohn, illoed by Jung

Naw, its not a legal thing. It's personal.

Why do we buy zines? Because we like 'em, right? We buy issue after issue of some - really become fans of them; look forward to the next one.

Did you know that one of the only things that allows a fan editor to put out their next zine is the sales of the prior issue? By buying a bootleg copy, you're dooming the very fanzine you've come to love. So while you might be getting a great deal, you're actually hurting yourself in the long run.

Cut off these cheats. Buy your zines from the rightful editors and their authorized dealers. Ask for proof of dealership. Report pirating to the editors when you see it happening.

All bootleggers care about is getting your dollar. They're not going to turn it back into making a new issue for you to enjoy.

The buyer is the one who has the power to stop this.

Help keep your favorites going!

It's in your hands. You're the ones who see it happening. Get involved.



Zine editors continued to complain for years, occasionally doing things to make their zines harder to copy. Zine editors who kept their back issues in print tended to feel much more strongly about pirating than editors who printed a zine once and then let it stay out of print.

1993 and RevelCon

The 1993 convention, RevelCon, became a flashpoint for conflict regarding zine piracy. Due to fan behaviour and discussions at that con and in its aftermath, a number of Open Letters circulated in fandom regarding the photocopying of in-print zines.

Open Letter to Fandom Regarding Zine Pirating by Alexis Fegan Black was an outraged rant co-signed by Wendy Rathbone and MKASHEF Press. This letter was directed to fandom in general.

Another slightly calmer argument was the Zine Piracy Letter to Candace Pulleine by Bill Hupe, directed to the head of the RevelCon concom, basically suggesting that she should make an effort to educate Pulleine's local Kinkos about zine copyrights and so on and threatening a dealer boycott of RevelCon if she didn't address this problem. Candace Pulleine responded with an open letter of her own, writing that RevelCon was being unfairly targeted and was the object of a smear campaign.

An example of strong language tensions running high were two editorials in the Australian Professionals zine, Down Under Express. The first editorial was written in March 1993, and a "sort of retraction" was written in January 1994:

Some bad taste news to report before we let you get on to the stories in this issue. Our main U.S. agent, Bill Hupe, wrote and told us about the happenings at RevelCon in Houston this month. It seems the number of pirated zines being sold was so high that it was impossible to ignore. Among them were copies of DOWN UNDER EXPRESS. If any of our readers were at RevelCon and can shed some more light on the matter we want to hear from you ASAP. Perhaps most people are unaware that the international copyright laws were revamped a few years ago. Just because we are far away in Australia doesn't mean we can't clout anyone trying to pirate our zines. It takes one report to the Trade Practices Council to set things in motion and they can be very ferocious. An automatic result of such an action is that the reported person(s) is(are) audited by the I.R.S. regardless of the verdict. How do we know it works? A few years ago a 'lady' in California decided we were fair game as an extra source of income and was pirating CHRONICLES, our general B7 zine. It took one report from us here in Australia and I believe her head is still spinning from the results. You have been warned. We are friendly, generous people, but try and rip us off in this way and we will enjoy taking you apart.
[The second editorial, written in "Down Under Express" #4]: Now for a retraction of sorts. When we went to print with the last issue, we had been told by one of our American agents. Bill Hupe, that pirated copies of DUE were being sold at a big convention he had recently attended. Since then the mis-understanding has been cleared up. It WAS a misunderstanding; the copy of DUE was legitimate, and Bill has apologised in print several times for this single case of mis-understanding, and I'll do so here too.
But, neither of us is going to apologise for the fact that other pirated material appeared to be there. This included pirated copies of individual DUE and BACKTRACK stories, lifted from earlier issues, with their borders removed and page numbers altered. These are apparently now available on the circuit, and is not the fault of either the official Librarian or ANY convention committee.
Can I make one request. Those fans who have so much boundless energy could stop hounding fellow fans, and get down to the business of helping stamp out zine pirating. It's such a shame to see all that energy being used to make innocent people's lives miserable when it could be put to so much good.

In the The LOC Connection, a K/S letterzine, the Hupe/Fegan Black letters were furiously debated with most subscribers siding with the zine publishers and attempting to link zine piracy the death of K/S fandom:

"Everyone should try to read issue #22, May/June of THE ZINE CONNECTION. Reprinted there is an open letter to fandom from Alexis Fegan Black concerning xeroxing and a letter about the problem from Bill Hupe. This is an extremely grave problem and please learn about it. We can't let K/S die because of a handful of greedy, thoughtless people."[9]

In fact, some fans went one step further and worried that fandom was not just facing 'death,' but also dishonor:

"This practice is also a grave offense against the writers, poets, and artists. This is our hard work you're stealing. It's bad enough we can't be paid for it because of the nature of the genre; please, don't blast the deck out from under our editors.....Zines are the lifeblood of this fandom: our premium 'product.' We have got to treat this product, and each other, as honorably as we possibly can. [Name redacted] wondered if one should draw the line at selling used zines. I don't think so. Selling and buying used books is not a violation of copyright. It's a perfectly ethical practice, and is environmentally sound. And so many of us collect zines and keep them that I don't think selling used ones hurts editors. But copying in-print zines... is unethical, whether it's one page or a hundred that you're copying. So is knowingly supporting zine pirates. Please, let's hold ourselves to the high standards that our two favorite guys would hold themselves to. Would they steal another's work in this manner? Let's not dishonor ourselves or destroy K/S fandom just to save a few bucks."[10]

Other zine editors responded that they didn't believe that fans copying a zine or two for their friends was responsible for the decline in zine sales. They pointed to changes in fandom, the recession at that time, etc.

In the "Letter from the Editor" of the next few Naked Times, Fegan Black said that "the editor reserves the right to confiscate any and all unrightfully copied copies of this publication being sold at conventions or elsewhere."

Another zine ed, Lynda Roper, also responded with a similar threat; in the "AUTHORITATIVE SOURCES" section, she advised against "purchasing fanzines from [name redacted], a known zine pirate. She adds that:

IT'S AGAINST FEDERAL LAW to reproduce fanzines and give them to friends or sell them without the author/editor/publisher's permission. If not stopped, this unlawful offense will bring an end to fanzine publishing.[11]

For more, see History of Media Fanzines.

The 1993 Letters

Some Fan Arguments Regarding Pushback, Publisher's Comments, and Piracy

Zines Start to Come Out in Series

Another way to deal with the up-front cost of printing was to print a series of zines, price them to turn a 'profit' of some sort, and then use that profit to print the next zine. By the mid-80s, just a few years into the K/S period, most K/S zines were part of a series: First Time #1, #2, #3; As I Do Thee #1, #2, #3—put out by a small group of publishers.

With offset printing, you had to choose at the beginning how many you were going to make, and few zines had a second printing. Once a zine went out of print, it was fair game for fans to make copies for their friends. Once in a while, a very popular zine would be re-printed again after a pause, but that was rare and usually well reported ahead of time.

So, at this point, making copies of zines that were still in print could be financially damaging to our friends and acquaintances. Zine pirating had two meanings—occasionally it was used to mean any copying of an in-print zine, but usually it meant making multiple copies and selling them (whether at cost, or for more). There was also a fairly strongly held view in fandom that people should not profit off of fandom. (Mind you, that statement meant different things to different people, and even people who believed it adamantly didn't seem to have any problem with fan artists selling art, even for far more than the cost of materials.)

Exaggerations, International Challenges, and Just Because a Zine Doesn't Sell Well Doesn't Mean it Was Pirated

In 1995, a fan addressed other fans at Lysator:

I think that a lot of the fear of zine piracy is just that; fear, not based on reality. In the early days of B7 fandom there was indeed a fair amount of zine piracy, as British zines were hard to come by here, and the demand was enormous. As American zines began to be produced and as British zines became easier to obtain things slacked off. By zine piracy I mean someone who reproduces a zine in quantity for resale. Some people define the making of a personal photocopy from a friend's original as zine piracy. I think it is important to maintain a distinction here. True, a photocopied zine is not a zine sale to the producer, but in many cases that zine would not have been bought anyway, and the number of personal photocopies is likely much less than the number of zines reproduced for sale. There's no way to know this for sure, however.

Most people would rather have the original, and tend to photocopy only when the original is difficult to obtain. So making a zine available for sale and easily obtainable is one way to prevent personal photocopying. Australian zines probably are more often copied because getting money to Australia is not easy, and the postage costs can double the cost to the consumer. Bill Hupe agents a lot of Australian zines, and one group, NutHatch Press, maintain a US distributor. I believe the zine Katharine believes was pirated is the fat black Enerrare special. I certainly did not order it direct, but I bought one from Bill Hupe when he was finally given some copies to sell. I suspect many American fans did the same, or borrowed the zine from one of the few people who bought it from the editors. I personally did not think the zine was worth the money I paid, but you always take that risk when buying zines sight unseen. These extra difficulties and costs, which must be similar for Australians buying American zines, mean that American fans probably own relatively few Australian zines unless they can buy them from an American distributor. I have most of Susan Clarke's B7 zines because I could get them from Bill Hupe, and I bought them during my B7 feeding frenzy, when I was buying and reading everything I could get my hands on. I probably would not buy all of them now, and would borrow first, or ask friend for recommendations. Because Australian zines are relatively expensive here a zine has to be outstanding, and be recommended by someone whose taste I trust for me to invest the money and the trouble of getting it. A mediocre American zine costs me less in time and trouble as well as cash, and those nice British digest zines are cheap to buy and cheap to post.

To end this, I think the problem of zine piracy in the US has been greatly exaggerated and is fueled more by rumor than hard evidence of recent occurrence. Some zines are in high demand and other zines are just not popular. Just because a zine does not sell does not mean that there are lots of pirated copies around. Every fan does not buy every zine, and most of the B7 fans I know well are more and more selective about what they buy. Katherine will decide for herself where she wants to sell

the zine, but she is limiting her readership and her sales by refusing to allow it to be sold in the US.[12]

Controversy: Zines No Longer Went Out of Print

Gradually, printing costs came down as xerography became more common. At the same time, the fear of making a profit ebbed for many zine editors, and the cost of fanzines started to rise.

At some point, fanzine editors-turned-agents, such as Bill Hupe, Agent With Style, and Della van Hise, started keeping zines in print indefinitely, in contrast to the previously established fannish code of ethics. Each writer of a story in the zine got a trib copy of the zine, and then the zine editor got the profit from the remaining copies in the print run. Since the zine never went out of print, the zine editors continued to make money off of the writer's work, but the writer never received additional compensation.

Copying Out-of-Print (and some in-print) Zines

Throughout the era of zine fandom, most fans agreed that making individual copies of zines, once they were out of print, was perfectly acceptable fannish behavior. Others clearly disagreed.

In 2009, Sandy Herrold described the divide:

In the early/mid 80s, there were two competing views about zines, each with roughly the same number of adherents:

One -- that you did an offset run of your zine, and when they were all gone-- poof! The zine was free to be copied. Frequently in lzs of the time, zine pubs announced "blah zine is out of print", which meant, go ahead and copy. And when a zine sold out its press run, the stories reverted back to the authors.

Two -- that most zines never go out of print, and that authors never get their rights back. This faction tended to be more adamant/comfortable with the idea of monetizing zines.

For a bunch of reasons (for example, technology changed and cheap xerography arrived), the "never go out of print" faction gradually won the consensus war, to the point that many fans don't realize that the other viewpoint ever existed.

Of course, 20 years later, the internet has nearly made the argument moot -- most fandoms have moved away from zines almost completely.[13]

Apart from the 'ethics' of copying zines, some fans worried that if zine publishers became upset over copying they'd sue other fans thereby putting all of fandom at risk with unwanted publicity:

"Many people claim that K/S zines are overpriced. Maybe zines wouldn't be copied so much if they cost $15-17: we'd probably lose the slick presentation that we're used to. Others, including me, complain about excessive white space, large type and less value for their money than they expect.....But these are peripheral issues. I encourage everyone not to purchase copied zines when the originals are still available from the editors. Jean Hinson and FireTrine Press is threatening to sue known zine pirates who produce large quantities of illegal zines for sale. I shudder to think of what will happen if she tried to enforce a "copyright." How do we keep Paramount out of the courts? Do we really want K/S in the limelight like this? We stand to lose much more than the few dollars anyone might save through making or buying a copy."[14]

This line of argument left some fans feeling that zine publishers were holding fandom hostage with idle threats. Others felt that this was a real threat and zine piracy had to be stopped to "save fandom."

Some Anecdotal Opinions

  • "I do not wish 'Rigel' 1, 2, or 3 to be xeroxed by anyone but myself. I believe it is unethical to copy and sell other people's zines without their written permission. I appreciate the fact that 'Rigel' 1 and 2 are out of print and that old zines are sometimes impossible to come by, but I reserve the right, alone, to xerox 'Rigel.' Anyone interested in copies of 'Rigel,' please contact me, and we'll discuss the matter." [15]
  • "Some of the readers of 'Chris' (a newsletter for Chapel-Christine/Spock fans) will be tying to get out-of-print C-C/S stories to one another by way of the information in my newsletter. The information column I run each month will have names of those wishing to exchange materials. It will also run the strong suggestion that they track down and contact the authors/editors for permission before xeroxing anything and that no money change hands beyond the cost of copy, postage, etc. Most of the authors I know would not mind this, however, if you have written C-C/S materials that you do not wish to be copied at cost... please let me know. I will then list specific authors who do not wish their materials copied. Of course, I can not assure that my suggestion will be heeded. That, must remain up to the personal integrity of the fan." [16]
  • a commonly worded ad from Jundland Wastes #2: "If anyone has back issues of [titles of seven Star Wars zines]... and would be willing to copy them for me, I will forward the costs of copying & postage, plus a little for time & trouble."
  • Regarding British Takeaway: "Some of you may have heard that the British Takeaway series of zines are now being sold via Agent With Style. If you like your zines brand-new, all well and good - the BT series certainly contained some excellent stories and gorgeous artwork, and though they're mostly gen, they're still well worth reading. But if you're on a tight budget, you might also like to know that at Zebracon, Kate N. (their publisher) gave carte blanche for anyone to copy her zines. So if you've been holding back from copying a friend's, er, copy, by concerns about not infringing on the publisher's rights, go ahead and do it. And a hearty thank-you to Kate for her generosity!" [17]
  • From Southern Enclave #22, a zine editor says, "Personally, I have no objection to anyone copying either of those for friends, if the zines are not available on the new or used zine market. (Doing it in bulk for profit, would be a different matter since that would be making money off my labor.) But individual copying seems harmless to me and beneficial for people who don't have a chance to get the zines."
  • A fan in 1984 posts an open letter in Universal Translator #23 to fellow fans requesting some thoughts and feedback on the subject of tape recording stories from fanzines. "I've recently become involved in a tape correspondence with an ST fan who is visually handicapped, and have been taping an occasional story from one of my fanzines to sent to her. In all honesty, I don't feel this is abusing anyone's rights or violating anyone's copyright, any more than the very common practice of lending out or trading zines. The basic question I'm posing here is: At what point does the practice stop being friendly sharing and become zine piracy? Suppose the tape is passed to a third party and beyond? Or suppose someone should decide to produce multiple copies of tapes for general distribution? Obviously, at some point, permission to sued the material is necessary. At what point? And who is authorized to give it -- the author, the zine editor, or both? There is also the question of reimbursement. If multiple copies are made, is a contributor's copy in order? If the tapes are sold at a profit, are royalties to be expected? And in either case, who is entitled to that reimbursement -- again, the author or editor?"
  • From a zine ed in 1990, a notice in Media Monitor #10: "[I'm] quitting fandom. After 16 years of editing, writing, and producing fanzines, Pon Farr Press has decided it's time to quit. .... For the record, this is not an open invitation for zine pirates to have a field day with my titles..."
  • In Guilty Pleasures, in 1998, the editor's blurb says, "Please don't make copies...while this zine is in print. This zine will remain in print for one year (until Feb. '98). All story rights revert to authors after that."
  • From Southern Enclave #22, "I know many people won't agree with me, but it's still my contention that even being unable to contact the publisher of a defunct or out-of-print zine for the permission to make a xerox does not give you the right to make yourself a copy anyway. In my opinion, if you can't reach a publisher, you can't make a xerox. You can always still try to buy an issue from someone (okay, okay—I'll admit that often is a dead end); or borrow an issue to. But once you xerox it, I feel you've stepped over line and stolen the zine."
  • Look Through My Eyes, the slash Bodie/Cowley novel by Jane Carnall and Nicole Craig has this in the introduction: "This story is copylefted; share as it pleases you."
  • In It's Love, Cap'n, published in 1991, the editor, MRK wrote, "The print run of this zine was 100. when they're gone, they're gone—there will be no reprints. If you're reading a borrowed copy, and you want your own, you have my blessing to take it to your friendly neighborhood copy center and make your own. And enjoy!"
  • From a zine publisher in Datazine #21 (1982), the editor of Pulsar Press writes that she has learned some fans are "selling xerox copies of various zines which are out of print or otherwise no longer available... I would like to make my position clear about the sale of these reproductions. AT NO TIME -- PAST, PRESENT OR IN THE FUTURE -- HAVE I OR WILL AUTHORIZE OR SANCTION ANY FORM OF REPRODUCTION AND SALE OF PULSAR PRESS ZINES... When others, uninvolved in the creation of those zines, pirate that zine and sell it for their on profit, they are stealing from those members of the fandom family who have spent their time and energies to produce the zines that keep fandom alive.... When zines sell out and become out of print, they also gain an intrinsic value to those who have obtained original issues. A single copy of a popular zine can sell for as much as $200 when auctioned. Would you like to be the person who has paid this incredible amount, only to find out that 'reprints' or xerox copies are being sold in quantity or $20 or so?"
  • From a zine publisher in Datazine #21 (1982) warns fans against buying unauthorized copies of zines of any sort for any reason. "[This] does not apply, of course, to anyone who is selling his/her personal collection of original zines for whatever reason. The sale of an original copy by the owner of that copy (or her authorized agent), although it may be sad, is neither illegal or unscrupulous."
  • A fan in Datazine #21 says she has put an enormous amount of time and effort into tracking down the publisher of Spock Enslaved! so she could buy a copy or to ask her permission to photocopy this zine. All her letters, sent to three addresses, were returned. She finally put in ad in Interstat asking to buy a photocopy of Spock Enslaved!, and obtained one that way. Shortly afterwards, she got letters from 58 fans who wanted a copy of her copy or who asked to "rent" hers." She asked for help in locating Diane Steiner to ask for official permission to make these copies. From Boldly Writing: "Many fans, in the time period from 1975 to 1982, claimed they were going to find all the editors of the out-of-print fanzines mentioned in Star Trek Lives!, to get permission to reprint them and provide copies to all fans who wanted them, None, including the fan who wrote this issue of Datazine, ever succeeded."
  • From the editor of Galactic Discourse in the editorial of issue #4 in 1983: "I will continue, periodically, to reprint back issues of the zines I publish, so as long as there's a demand for them. In the meantime, I have copies for lending... I will not knowingly sell zines to persons intending to resell them to the zine-starved at a substantial profit after the zine in question is out-of-print. My reprints are original quality and a lot cheaper than the resells I've seen floating around. If you just can't wait, I will make you an at-cost Xerox."
  • In Datazine #15 in 1981, a fan puts out the call for some Star Trek zines: "I'm looking for copies of Showcase. If anyone has has some, give me the price plus postage. I don't want to have to purchase xeroxes unless I have to."
  • In Best Little Valentine Zine in Texas (1984), "NOTE: This publication, such as it is, is NOT FOR SALE—not now, nor at any time in the future. Anyone who feels compelled to own it is free—nay, encouraged!—to xerox it for her own collection."
  • From the editorial of Double or Nothing #2: "This zine has been formatted for American Letter-size paper so that printing and con-based distribution can more easily be handled by Jackie Beeman. Nut Hatch zines are usually on the Australian A4 size, but the different format of this issue does not indicate that the zine in your hands is bootleg! As usual, Nut Hatch is doing some graceful groveling/begging that this zine is not copied between friends - for the usual reasons."
  • From the August 1980 issue of S and H, the author says, “Reader reaction to Autumn? In a word, phenomenal. We’re all sold out, and those who bought it, liked it. Any S/H could do much worse than an initial print run of 200-250. Inquires are still coming in... In conclusion, Forever Autumn is totally sold out. FOREVERANDEVER, and I can’t say that I’m sorry. Anyone who wishes to make a photostat copy, please feel free to do so. I have no copies to lend out, and there will be at no time any reprints.”
a fan explains this... "A Meeting in Hyades"
  • From Fanzine Review 'Zine (1976), the editor, Lori Chapek says she has been given permission to xerox Interphase, and offers to copy other titles for fans as well. "Due to Connie Faddis mentioning in the flyer for INTERPHASE 3 that I had volunteered to xerox copies of INTERPHASES 1 and 2... I am able to make xerox copies of INTERPHASES 1 and 2 available at a lower-than-normal cost.... I am also currently compiling a price list of the fanzines I have. I am willing to xerox out-of-print 'zines only. These 'zines will be priced according to the normal xerox cost of $.10/page, plus postage. Postage is to be reimbursed to me upon receipt of the 'zine(s) ordered."
  • From Between Friends #5 (1984): "All our zines except for 3-11 are sold out and there will be no reprints, so if you can get someone else to do the xeroxing, you have our permission to copy any or all of Ten-Thirteen #1 and #2, One More Mountain and One More River. I don't have the xerox facilities as cheaply as some folk in the U.S., or I'd offer to do it myself."
  • From Boldly Writing: "... There was a fairly intense discussion [in Universal Translator] relating to the fact that demand [in 1983] for fanzines often outstripped supply. In January, Dorothy Laoang got things going by saying, 'I discovered fanzines long after Thrust, Nightvisions, Companion, etc. went out of print. I have tried in vain to obtain copies of these and other zines to read, if only to borrow and return. Like a great many others, I cannot afford to pay auction prices upwards of $50 per zine. [We] are not asking for a handout, nor are we likely to run out and pirate your zine if you are rash enough to lend us a copy.' In the next issue, Lynda K. Roper countered that fanzine editors were not obligated to loan out copies to anyone who asked for one."
  • From [R B], a long-time fan and zined (circa 1980, see image): "Anduril ("Flame of the West") #1 summer 1962 was a one-shot Tolkien fanzine put out by Marion Zimmer Bradley featuring her 'A Meeting in Hyades.' It is a lovely story, but twill-tone mimeograph paper xeroxes very badly, and I'm ruining my copy by xeroxing copies for friends who are interested in Darkover... A note about copyright status: Anduril was not copyright, but I'm not sure if it would count as an actual 'publication' in legal terms—if not, it is protected by the old common law copyright. This isn't a publication either—I'm not offering it for sale—so as to interfere with whatever its copyright status is."
  • from a fan in 2015 who was selling a zine on EBay: "Ok, this is obviously a photocopy of Metamorphosis #1, and that always makes me a little nervous, am I causing an issue by re-selling a copy of a zine? This copy was made many many years ago, I would NEVER reproduce a fanzine and sell it on here. Those who have bought from me in the past I hope would know I am an honest person. However, this zine is an oldie, so by reselling the (old) copy, am I helping to preserve it in hand-held form? Well, I'm not sure, but I'm going to go ahead and list it, if people think it is wrong out there in the fandom, please do give me feedback."

Fans Respond To Zine Piracy

Fans at the time were even more adamant that the accusations were baseless. There were comments like "What the hell did Bill Hupe EXPECT for a plump, expensive, multimedia zine from an editor whose standards have slipped?" and "I don't have the kind of $$$ to buy a $20-25 mixed media zine for the 1/3 in which I might be interested, so I copy that 1/3rd from my friend's copy, and no, I don't feel guilty."

Other fans pointed out that newer zines are xeroxed, and a copy of a zine doesn't necessarily look worse than the original zine (unlike when zines were offset printed and the originals clearer looked better—meaning that fans no longer had as much incentive to buy an original copy).

A fan in 1994 wrote:

There has been of and on a lot of Sturm und Drang for years about zine piracy, and lot of fiery exchanges have taken place in various arenas. What gets me about all of this is how often the fact is ignored that we are stealing (poaching if you like) other people's material in the first place. In a fundamental way, none of us has any rights. I am not a stickler about any kind of piracy, but when you have a fanzine full of material that uses someone else's characters and situations, without their permission, without giving them a percentage, it seems the height of hypocrisy to turn around and take a outraged self-righteous stand about someone infringing on your rights as an editor.

Fandom is a community, not an organization. Nor is it a simple marketplace, but a network of friends, associates, peers connected by a common interest. As such, the rules of ordinary courtesy should apply. I think most of us feel this way, and get upset when we think these rules are violated, or when variations in the rules cause misunderstandings. No, I wouldn't copy someone's zine and sell it myself, because I wouldn't want someone to do that to me. But also no, I'd prefer someone not buy my zine if there are only two stories out of seven that they like at all. And if they really feel the zine is not worth the money, but is worth the time and hassle of copying, be my guest. I don't like it, but I don't feel my rights are being infringed. It's more bad manners than anything else, and particularly bad manners if they flaunt it. I've always thought the best realistic preventive for zine piracy is to make sure that any copy of the zine is an obvious and unattractive imitation of the real thing.

I know this may sound hokey on paper, and no doubt others have said it first, but why can't we operate by being reasonable about all these practical issues? If it would make you mad to have someone do something to you, don't do it to them. And given that we don't all really know each other, better to be cautious with other's material. This isn't a generalized plea for us al to 'get along'; it just seems to me that these arguments are either covering up some deeper issues (which I would like to see uncovered), or else just silly. [18]

Another 1994 comment:

The argument about zines using characters out of already-copyrighted shows and therefore having little or no moral ground to object to zine-copying has always bothered me, since the cases are not parallel in a very significant way. Literal or mechanical copying of an original work is very different from extracting elements from it and reusing them in a different medium, along with creative invention, to make up a new story/picture/etc. The latter is all but the basis for Western art of all kinds. The argument that fanzine content is nothing but a debased and illegal copy of something else so that unauthorized duplication of it has no further to sink on the moral or legal scale is not one I can agree with. A fan story or zine is not a duplication of a TV show — would it substitute for a tape of the show to someone who wanted to play the tape, for instance? I'd rather consider that zines have valid independent existence of their own; the ethics of copying them is another question entirely. [19]

Other Fan Comments

Other fans asked for more transparency in zine costs:

If the price-per-page of the zine is more than 10 cents per page, why shouldn't a fan Xerox the stories she thinks are "worth it" and resell the zine? [20]

Zines used to go OUT OF PRINT so fans with less financial means could at some point make a copy of a zine without taking money from the editor's pocket; prices were more reasonable when the cost of production was MUCH higher, why SHOULDN'T fans balk at making Alexis' car payment when they have trouble making their own? [21]

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! [22]

… my first experiences with pirating come from EDITORS, years ago. Art was copied or traced from my work and then used (I've never figured out why I WANTED an art credit for a stolen border, when it looked that bad!), and a story was printed without my permission.[23]

There are three alternatives (three golden rules?) to be put into operation to wipe out all illegal copies [of oop zines]. 1) Advocate the reading and Xeroxing of the consumers' friends' copies. 2) If this is impossible for the fan, then offer to lend out an extra copy you the editor should have handy. 3) And if you decide there are so many requests that you want to do a reprint, then offer them this as an alternative, asking for a deposit until you have enough orders to go to press. By not offering the first step, the editor is setting herself up for pirates because the consumer wants the zine and she will get it somehow.[24]

My first slash zines were copies of Naked Times that I bought at a Creation con. I don't know if they were secondhand or pirated or what, but they certainly were not first editions and they were priced at about $30 apiece, i.e. around a third more than you would pay if you ordered them directly from Pon Farr Press. But at the time, I knew nothing about slash publishing, thought all the zines I saw were out of print, and didn't know who to contact if anybody WAS actually publishing.

I read an anti-pirating blurb in one of the Naked Times issues I had bought, got all freaked out, and wrote to Pon Farr Press saying that I had bought some zines that might have been pirated and I was sorry and here was a nice money order for $140 to order a whole bunch of stuff directly from them. I heard nothing for months. Eventually a letter from me got a response from Della (she used her name in the letter, so that's how I found out who she is) saying the zines were in the process of being reproduced. I still had to wait about another 6 month, making it about a year since my original order (with NO replies to my letters after that first one) for part of my order to arrive; then another part arrived. One zine was still missing, and I had to write and remind Della that I had paid for it. Then she sent it to me, with a note of apology. She also sent me the form letter about the difficulties and thrills of moving from Poway to Yucca Valley (or wherever it is).

Anyway, the feeling I was left with was that I would rather buy the damned things from random dealers at conventions than go through that again. Having also ordered from MKASHEF Enterprises, Bill Hupe, and Orion Press, and gotten a two-week turnaround most of the time, I felt especially put off by Van Hise's attitude. I understand that she is involved in a number of other projects, like writing novels that sell commercially, but I still felt like putting a caveat on any list of publishers I sent to a new inquirer (like the people who contacted me through the net), saying 'If you order from this place, be prepared to wait a year and have to write five times to get your zines.'


It is interesting to me that there seems to be an US vs. THEM attitude coming from the dealers/editors/publishers towards the fans. I mean, didn't we all start out being just fans? Don't they rely on fans for their raw product, the stories? From what you say, the authors get nothing, the editors/publishers get all. The purchasers are paying for the publishers' production costs, right? (Which I didn't realize are as low as Lezlie says.) So is there now a trend among the dealers et. al. to make a *profit* too? Or are they just worried that fan copying will undercut their budgets for producing new zines? (That was part of the argument in the anti-pirating essay in the copy of NT that I read, I think.) It seems to me that if that is their worry, then rather than threatening to withdraw from the conventions, they would better serve themselves and the buyers of zines by having a little presentation on why fan copying could cause some publishers to go out of business and then we'd have no more zines. (If that is really a danger.)

Also, as [L S] pointed out, a distinction should be made between pirating (making 20 copies of a zine and selling them at the con) and private exchanges between fans, which have presumably been going on as long as slash exists and, as she pointed out, should neither surprise nor

offend the publishers, who, unless they are millionaires themselves, should be able to understand why we do it. I put out $600 at the first convention I went to, and then ordered another $200 worth of zines by mail afterward, completely exhausting my savings. After making an investment like that, I feel like I should be able to get a few free copies from friends, or give a few free copies to friends, without anybody complaining.[25]

When The Call To Arms Backfires

On occasion, fans would extort one another to confront suspected zine pirates. Some conventions had policies in place to deal with fans suspected of copying or selling zines. MediaWest for example would sent flyers to local copy shops near the hotel, warning them of the possibility of unauthorized copying and educating them of what a fanzine looked like so they could be on the lookout. One of the complaints raised in the 1993 Revelcon letters was that the convention organizes had included a map of local businesses - and one of those businesses was a Kinko's copy shop. At other conventions if a fan made a claim a dealer as selling copied zines, the seller would be asked to leave the dealer's room. And from time to time, LOCs would appear urging fans to publicly root out pirates.

"Suggestion: Whan a zine pirate is spotted at a convention selling a certain zine(s), what if a contributor or group of contributors to the legitimate zine confront the pirate and loudly proclaim that they as contributors only gave permission to the original editor to publish their work and not the zine pirate, and that as a consequence she/he is selling stolen material. Than said contributors should demand to have their story, poem or art back, even if it means the pirate has to tear out every page in the pirated zines that contain the work of the protesting contributors? That would put a crimp in their sales wouldn't fit? The pirate may not do it, but it would sure embarrass the hell out of them and make everyone in the dealer's room aware of who they were. And consequently it would discourage anyone who was thinking of patronizing the pirate (whether knowing or unknowing) to decide not to buy from them. Think about it, would anyone like to have it known that they bought stolen goods? Also, if one is not a contributor to the original pirated zine, just a fan.,..what if they walked over to the pirate's table, thumbed through the zine, and very innocently in a very loud voice said things, "Fake. You want how much for this? But it's xeroxed, the artwork is barely visible, the printing is bad, this is a terrible, shoddy piece of reproduction, you can't be the original editorl Are you one of those crummy zine pirates I've been hearing about? Hey man, you're trying to rip me off?" Yeah."[26]

This confrontational approach made a series of assumptions - that *authorized* copying did not exist, that fanzine dealer's would never have someone else agent their zines without communicating this to the entire fannish world in triplicate and that every suspected zine pirate was guilty. This led, on occasion, to embarrassing situations as reported by this one fan:

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 ZINES! 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?[27]

Two years later, in 1995, Bill Hupe sent this statement regarding MediaWest*Con the policing of zine sales:

If you are agenting new fanzines en behalf cf•another person/press, please have each person/press send to Peg and Bill by 15 May 1995 notice of titles and sellers at MediaWest*Con. These notices are kept on file at the convention, and will be used in case any questions are raised. Naturally, this does not apply to used fanzines. This is a reminder that the sale of unauthorized copies of fanzines, as well as art (prints) and videotapes, is not tolerated at MediaWest*Con. In the case of new zines, if the title (s) in question cannot be verified by the aforementioned file, said title (s) will be held until the publisher can be contacted for verification. In the case of used fanzines, said zines may be confiscated by convention security. Any person or persons knowingly selling bootlegged fanzines, art (prints) , and/or videotapes will be dealt with severely by convention security.[28]

The Circuit: An Alternative To Zine Piracy

In the majority of fandoms during the print fan fiction era, fanfiction was distributed through fanzines. This meant that writers had to go through a submission and editing process (sometimes intensive, sometime very minimal), readers had to pay for their fanfiction and publishers had to bear the upfront costs (of both time and money) of publishing and selling the zine. In a few fandoms, however, informal circuits appeared, where fans would write and print their own stories (usually unbound and on loose paper) and then send copies to friends - who then would circulate more copies. The largest circuit was the Professionals circuit which is still in operation today. Smaller, intermittent and informal circuits would appear in other fandoms, often before the fandom had traction in fanzines. Most circuits did not survive the introduction of zine publication.

Still, when zine piracy issues would crop up, some fans would point to circuits as an alternative for both zine publishers who were losing money and for writers and readers who could communicate with one directly at a very low cost.

In 1993, one K/S fan encouraged others to fight "piracy" by moving their fanfiction platform and activities from zines to a circuit:

I would like to suggest that if the pirates continue, that K/S fandom switch to the circuit fandom that B/D fandom uses. I was absolutely amazed when I first wandered over to that fandom, I was rather soured on K/S at the time... I found that all the stories were - free! You traded them around, you copied them if you liked them, and if you didn't, you just passed it on. It saved money. It gave you collections you were happy to read. There were central libraries you could join for a modest fee and borrow stories—thousands of them... you can't steal what is being given away.[29]

Not all fans (and certain not many zine publishers) embraced the idea of shifting to circuits:

Yet shifting the entire fendom into story circuits wouldn't work at this stage. K/S fandom is much too large for circuits. If all we had were circuits, you would only know about the stories your friends had written, or which they had heard about. You couldn't necessarily get hold of a story you wanted to read unless you knew who was circulating it. A new fan would be in a worse position than someone who'd been around for a long time because new fans would have fewer connections for getting involved in circuits. There also wouldn't be very many new K/S fans because K/S could only spread by word of mouth. You couldn't find out about it in adzines or pick up a zine at a con. Obviously, there would be nothing like TLC [letterzine] either.[30]

In fact, some fans *blamed* the circuits for ruining zine fandom:

... the circuit fandoms may have harmed the zine fandoms. Fans who had only known the free stories saw nothing wrong in copying zines. These people only copied the stories they liked....There is a real irony in this whole situation, in that as more and more K/S fans drifted into B/D, they wanted to see a more familiar form of stories (with art!), and many B/D zines are springing up. This is causing the circuit to suffer to the point where I have had discussions with fans as to if the zines are killing the circuit! [31]

Tactics Zine Publishers Used to Battle Piracy

As one fan pointed out, piracy counter-measures can be circumvented: "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." [32]

sample edition stamp
some publishers put a color stamp on the zine to assure buyers they had an authentic copy, anti-piracy stamp here from Slime Trails

Different Colored Paper

Some zine publishers experimented with using paper in dark colors. Some issues of zines from MKASHEF Press were printed on dark purple paper—impossible to copy from, but also very hard to read. Other zines came out with red Do Not Copy bars underneath the text. Not only did this make it hard to read, but zine buyers were also insulted to be treated as guilty until proven innocent.

anti-piracy stamp here from Sappho, click to read disclaimer

While it was more a tactic to protect the editors who'd printed very early slash, the Starsky and Hutch zine, Pushin' the Odds, had some stories printed in blue ink on red-patterned paper to render them "copy-proof." It also made them almost unreadable without the sheet of red plastic that was included to put over the page. The editor also required a signed "statement of compliance," numbered the copies, and used coded hole-punches on the pages, supposedly to identify the purchaser of any copy that "fell into unauthorized hands."

Edition Statements and Color Stamps

Many zine publishers used an edition statement, hand-writing the edition number of the zine on the title page, as well as signing each issue personally.

Other publishers used a color stamp, one that would only show correctly on an original, authorized issue.

At least one zine editor asked for unauthorized copies to be sent to her. From Slime Trails, a Real Ghostbusters anthology: "This publication cannot be sold en masse without the handwritten consent of the editor, excluding only single copy sales sold as used. If you don't see a purple stamp of a cat on this page, you're reading an illegal copy of this zine. Please send the illegal copy to me along with the name and (hopefully) address of the person(s) you bought it from, and I'll send you a free zine and give you my undying gratitude."


Some editors included various creative threats in their disclaimers. From In a Different Reality: "Any unspeakable slob who copies any part of this 'zine without permission will be used as a heat-reflecting tile on the next available shuttle mission."

In 1988, an editor wrote in the preface of Unfinished Melody: "This novel is from THE NUT HATCH CREATIVE WORKSHOPPE. Not for general sale: Get it from a friend. Get it for a friend. But no part of this novel may be reproduced in any way or form without permission from the publisher. Please do not photocopy it as a favour for your friend; the result is that she won't know it is/was a zine and not a circuit story, and will copy it for her friends, who copy it for theirs—ad infinitum. Got it?? This is a zine! And unless The Nut Hatch can sell its copies, we'll go broke and won't be able to do any further zines! Many thanks for your attention and your co-operation. This novel is copyright. -- Kathy Keegan, Publisher."

In 1992, an editor wrote regarding Flood Tide, and used a statement she used on a number of Nut Hatch zines: "THAT OLD PLEA TO READERS: for the umpteenth time we beg you not to duplicate this zine for the circuit. Also, if you discover someone doing this, gently suggest to them that they stop, because The Nut Hatch will get stuck with $1000's worth of unsold copies, and go broke all over again! If you would like to bulk-order for your group, circuit or con, please write to us, we would be delighted to give details in full!"

Another fan writer wrote in Charisma #19 (1995): "Those who want to copy this page -- just this one page! -- have the author's permission. Of course, you also need the editor's permission, and if I were you, I'd look over my shoulder a few times while in Kinko's just to make sure one of us crazed vigilantes isn't standing there with a Klingon disruptor waiting for a zine pirate to make her day."

Or, as the publisher of Riders on the Storm (1993) explained: "[If] you copy all or part of this sucker without permission and you'll be hunted down like the motherless dog you are! Not only that, but you'll be treated in the same disrespectful, thoughtless manner in which you are treating this humble editor and these hard-working authors; you will be photo-copied, folded, spindled, perfect-bound and/or stapled down your middle, mutilated, sealed in a 10x13 envelope, taped shut, stamped and mailed...at which point you will be at the not-so-tender mercies of the infamous US Postal Service."

Authorized Letters

From a zine publisher in 1988:

AND FINALLY... Starting from 1989 (i.e. as soon as I can sort out the paperwork), ALL official dealers (bulk or otherwise) of Horizon merchandise will be issued with an ANNUAL LETTER OF AGREEMENT, stating that they have been authorised to sell our stuff. Among those definitely licensed to sell for us will be [list of fans and stores]. Please ASK to see their current Letter of Agreement which should be valid for the current year, and signed by Diane Gies. If a dealer is selling anything which you think is Horizon merchandise, and DOESN'T have an Agreement, please a) DO NOT BUY IT and b) TAKE THE DETAILS AND LET WE KNOW. We really need support from ALL of you on this, particularly in the States. And I heard rumours of some of the bootlegs being on sale at the recent ZenCon II convention way out in AUSTRALIA... anyone with details of this, PLEASE let me know who was selling them. (They did have some OFFICIAL Horizon merchandise, though, which we sold them specially for the con). ALL HORIZON FANZINES HAVE OUR NAME AND ADDRESS PRINTED ON THEM ON THE CONTENTS PAGE. Anything WITHOUT our name AND address is likely to be a nasty illegal copy.[33]

Internet as Technology Disruptor

All of this strong opinion slowed zine editors from realizing the power of the Internet and web, to circulate stories. Most of the early fannish archives and story collections were created by new fans with some internet experience; old fans were a) too invested in their old ways of doing things and b) too worried about no longer being in charge of things: about being ripped off, about stories showing up in new places they couldn't control. And stories from zines printed before 1996 (the year the web really took off) are still rare on the web.

Initial conversations about e-zines included a lot of discussion about preventing unauthorized copying and pirating, and talked about how readers would take a disk and recreate a zine on their end, printing it out, collating it, stapling it, etc. There was no idea at first that anything would change about the zine reading experience, except for the initial delivery method of getting words to the consumer. By the time zine publishers finally paid attention, a large portion of fandom had bypassed them for the direct writer-reader relationship of the Internet.

External Sources


  1. ^ from a personal statement in Universal Translator #16
  2. ^ from Universal Translator #17
  3. ^ from Universal Translator #18
  4. ^ from Comlink #37
  5. ^ from Comlink #37
  6. ^ from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #2
  7. ^ from an LoC by Kathryn Andersen in Tarriel Cell v. 4 n.3
  8. ^ from The Choir Boys, author is Tosya Stohn, illustrator is Jung
  9. ^ The LOC Connection #54 (1993).
  10. ^ The LOC Connection #55 (1993).
  11. ^ from the editorial on the front page of the May 1993 issue of The Monthly
  12. ^ comments by Susan Adair at Lysator, 17 Oct 1995
  13. ^ Sandy Herrold, posting in response to statements on the Zinelist that "making a copy of an out-of-print zine is and has always been considered some horrible act." posted June 26, 2009, quoted here with permission.
  14. ^ The_LOC_Connection#54 (1993).
  15. ^ from Scuttlebutt #5
  16. ^ from Datazine #20 (1982)
  17. ^ from DIAL #13
  18. ^ from Strange Bedfellows APA #5 (May 1994)
  19. ^ from Strange Bedfellows (APA) #6
  20. ^ Private email from a friend to user:sherrold dated Jan 1993, quoted with permission
  21. ^ Private email from a friend to user:sherrold dated April 1993, quoted with permission.
  22. ^ Private email from a friend to user:sherrold dated April 1993, quoted with permission.
  23. ^ The LOC Connection #57 (1993).
  24. ^ from Interstate in 1983
  25. ^ comments by E B on Virgule-L (Apr 20, 1993)
  26. ^ The LOC Connection #58 (1993).
  27. ^ The LOC Connection #59 (1993).
  28. ^ from a flyer titled: "MediaWest*Con 15 Dealer's coordinators"
  29. ^ from The LOC Connection #57
  30. ^ from The LOC Connection #58
  31. ^ from The LOC Connection #58
  32. ^ Piracy by Kat, accessed January 22, 2011; reference link
  33. ^ Diane Gies, Horizon club president, from a statement in Horizon Newsletter #21 (December 1988)