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What is the consensus on photocopying zines?

What is the consensus on photocopying a zine you really loved for a friend?

I've occasionally wanted to do this but have stopped short every time.
The conditions I envisage are that:

(a) the zine is sold out;
(b) the zine is out of print;
(c) the zine maker's contact details net no response when you contact them re availability or for permission;
(d) it's a zine you don't want to give away because it's so good;
(e) a zine you're nervous about lending out in case it doesn't make it back to you (which can happen for a whole host of reasons; your friend is not greedy or sly!);
(f) you do not charge your friend (or anyone) for copying it for them.

What's your stance on the topic? Are there variables I've omitted that make any difference? Does copyright come into it? Is there an unspoken consensus on this that I've never unearthed in 20+ years of reading zines?!

I'm really curious to hear what people think about this.

- lofipi -

Tags: consensus, contact, copy, copyright, details, friends, maker, of, out, permission, More…photocopy, print, sold, zine, zines

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Well put.
i think making a copy of a long out-of-print zine & then selling it, through a distro, or on ebay, or wherever (for example, sometimes you see zines like "biki kill" or "girl germs" pop up in ebay auctions, & they can fetch a pretty penny because people think they are really obscure but valuable cultural artifacts from the original riot grrrl movement)--i think that is not okay without the author's permission.

making a copy of some long out of print zine to give to a friend might be a different issue. before the "doris" anthology came out, i had almost all the back issues except maybe three of them. a friend in california had all the back issues except maybe five of them. we made copies for each other & traded so we each had a complete set. a few years later, the anthology came out & our efforts were rendered moot, but still. those zines were wicked old, & yeah, cindy was still around, still making zines, & when i wrote to her to see if i could convince her to make me a copy of issue #2, she did it (after some foot-dragging). but it was kind of a special circumstance, what my friend & i did. we weren't charging each other for the zines, we weren't making them for anyone exept each other, & they were zines that we had serious emotional attachments to (i still re-read all those zines at least once a year, despite owning a bedraggled-from-re-reading copy of the anthology). i don't know.

this is kind of why i do a lot of fancy shit with my zines, so they can't be 100% replicated by someone else & sold as originals. at the end of the day, maybe someone will fall in love with an old zine of mine that i am not copying anymore & they will convince a friend to make them a copy so they can keep it as their own. & despite any protests i make, a person could do that & i wouldn't be able to stop them. & if they are doing it out of a sense of love & attachment to the zine, wanting to really cherish the zine like i do with my old "doris"es, well, okay. as long as they aren't selling it or trying to have a copy in case somehow my zines get valuable (as if that would ever happen) or something.

with a lot of questions i like these, i stop & i ask myself hard questions about what my motivations really are. i do think intent counts for something. & i think the way things actually work out counts for something. if someone is desperate to make a copy of an old zine because they really love it & want to preserve it & they follow through on that & don't sell it or anything sketchy, don't try to pass it off as an original, etc...okay. there are bigger problems in the world than someone loving a zine so much they want to make a copy for a friend.
You know, something I'd never considered before posing this question was that anyone would ever try to pass off someone else's zine as their own. Good grief! What kind of life must a person have to be living to find that an acceptable, desirable or necessary thing to do? (ie, How insecure/greedy/self-serving can you get?) Honestly, when people stray so far from basic, decent behaviour and concepts like 'integrity' and 'authenticity' that they'd construct a massive lie to hide behind, then good luck to them because they're surely gonna need it.

Your story about mutual photocopying for the greater good of you both (ie, to complete your respective sets of zines) was great. That's exactly the kind of circumstance I mean. Another: I have a friend who's asked me what zines are all about. Since I have so many I don't really want to hang onto, I thought about (and am fine with the idea of) giving them to her for keeps. But I don't want her to learn about zines via all my least favourite ones! I want to be able to share my favourite ones. I agree people will just end up doing what they like with impunity - no matter this probing Q hanging on a zine website hurtling through cyberspace - but I'm just kinda trying not to be like that.

Thanks heaps for your interesting response.

ciaraxyerra said:
i think making a copy of a long out-of-print zine & then selling it, through a distro, or on ebay, or wherever (for example, sometimes you see zines like "biki kill" or "girl germs" pop up in ebay auctions, & they can fetch a pretty penny because people think they are really obscure but valuable cultural artifacts from the original riot grrrl movement)--i think that is not okay without the author's permission.

making a copy of some long out of print zine to give to a friend might be a different issue. before the "doris" anthology came out, i had almost all the back issues except maybe three of them. a friend in california had all the back issues except maybe five of them. we made copies for each other & traded so we each had a complete set. a few years later, the anthology came out & our efforts were rendered moot, but still. those zines were wicked old, & yeah, cindy was still around, still making zines, & when i wrote to her to see if i could convince her to make me a copy of issue #2, she did it (after some foot-dragging). but it was kind of a special circumstance, what my friend & i did. we weren't charging each other for the zines, we weren't making them for anyone exept each other, & they were zines that we had serious emotional attachments to (i still re-read all those zines at least once a year, despite owning a bedraggled-from-re-reading copy of the anthology). i don't know.

this is kind of why i do a lot of fancy shit with my zines, so they can't be 100% replcated by someone else & sold as originals. at the end of the day, maybe someone will fall in love with an old zine of mine that i am not copying anymore & they will convince a friend to make them a copy so they can keep it as their own. & despite any protests i make, a person could do that & i wouldn't be able to stop them. & if they are doing it out of a sense of love & attachment to the zine, wanting to really cherish the zine like i do with my old "doris"es, well, okay. as long as they aren't selling it or trying to have a copy in case somehow my zines get valuable (as if that would ever happen) or something.

with a lot of questions i like these, stop & i ask myself hard questions about what my motivations really are. i do think intent counts for something. & i think the way tings actually work out counts for something. if someone is desperate to make a copy of an old zine because they really love it & want to preserve it & they follow through on that & don't sell it or anything sketchy, don't try to pass it off as an original, etc...okay. there are bigger problems in the world than someone loving a zine so much they want to make a copy for a friend.
ah! no, i meant "original" in terms of someone saying, "this is an original issue of 'a renegade's handbook' #2 (for example--that's my old zine)," when it is fact a photocopy of a photocopy. this has been a bit of a problem with people selling old riot grrrl zines on ebay. people are like, "holy crap, 'channel 7'!" or whatever, they get psyched, they buy it for $15, & then they are bummed that the copy quality sucks because it's actually a copy of a copy of a copy. i mean, it's really not such a huge problem except for people who care about having originals or people whose eyesight prevents them from being able to reaally low-quality photocopies.

which isn't to say that no one has ever tried to pass someone else's zine off as their own. it has happened. but i don't see how anyone could ever think they would be able to get away with that.
Emma Jane Falconer said:
Other people feel differently though, and some people like to keep their zines extremely close, so I would never assume that other zine writers felt the same as me.

But how do we know? In my opinion, if the zine maker feels so strongly against his or her zine being photocopied, given away, etc. he/she should clearly write it in the zine. I've always thought that zines were copyleft, but if a zine maker prefers to extend the copyright laws to his/her publications, I need to know.
One thing I want to make clear, in case my previous post was a little ambiguous: Of course I'm only talking about giving away other people's zines for free, and I do not agree with selling photocopies of other people's stuff
If i intended what was written in a zine... and created AS a zine to be on the internet... i would scan it myself. I do NOT believe in scanning zines to be uploaded onto the internet and would be crushed if i found out one of mine was. A few years ago The Fall Of Autumn tried to have a PDF library with the distro and it was WILDLY unpopular.

Part of a zine is the paper, the toner the sweat that goes into collating, stapling. It cheapens that passion and that hard work just to have it scanned to read electronically.

But that is where i come from in the zine culture. Reading other responses in the recent discussions on We Make Zines is actually opening my eyes up, quite widely... i didn't really realize there were such opposing opinions on some of these photocopying and "archiving" issues.

Like Miranda said... there are reasons some zines have limited copies, and go out of print. Perhaps those particular zines and issues are not relevant any longer by the writers opinion. This should be respected.

lofipi said:
I appreciate that you feel this way, but can you clarify why you feel this way? Is an electronic copy more than just a means to an end - in this case, expressly a means for a person in a far-off location to print the zine onto paper? I'd feel very exposed chancing upon an electronic version of anything of mine as well, but I don't know that it wouldn't be both a good and a bad feeling. I just don't know how I'd feel or why. Do you know, for you?

NicoleIntrovert said:
To me... making an electronic copy... is far worse than a photocopy. If i ever saw my zines scanned (aside from the cover for distro purposes)... i'd probably lose my shit. But, that is my opinion which is extremely strong in the separation of reading "zines" on the internet. Part of a zine for me is paper.

redguard said:
I recently made a pdf scan of a long-out-of-print zine to share with friends. Zines are historical documents, often representative of movements and cultures and tell their stories. It is important that they remain accessible. It wouldn't copy a zine that is currently in print without the zinester's permission (unless the zine states that it's okay, which many do). That's just my opinion.
Good points all round, including that you'd scan them yourself if you'd intended them scanned. Which reminds me: I've never had much interest in e-zines myself, because I too just love the paperiness zines. I'm passionate about paper, and the notion that someone else chose, cut, drew on, collated, stapled it - I agree with you entirely that that's part of the spirit of a zine. The process is the art just as much as the content. And that's a massive part of their appeal. And the printing - almost every printing process I can think of appeals to me. Yet, while I'm not so shocked that opinions on copying zines are diverse, some of the particular ideas have really surprised me. To me, the wishes of the zine creator are paramount. They're all, in fact. Not being able to get in touch with them is the reason I could never take that leap of assuming photocopying their work would be all right by them. A zine of my own? I don't know if I'd necessarily mind someone photocopying it, but does that mean they unstaple mine first, or photocopy images of the staples themselves (or string, etc)? That is one of the multitude of problems inherent in the process. It feels 'wrong'. It just sucks when I want to share a zine. So far I just... well, I haven't shared the special ones if they can't view them here (at my house) themselves. Even though they're the ones I usually want to share the most.

NicoleIntrovert said:
If i intended what was written in a zine... and created AS a zine to be on the internet... i would scan it myself. I do NOT believe in scanning zines to be uploaded onto the internet and would be crushed if i found out one of mine was. A few years ago The Fall Of Autumn tried to have a PDF library with the distro and it was WILDLY unpopular.
Part of a zine is the paper, the toner the sweat that goes into collating, stapling. It cheapens that passion and that hard work just to have it scanned to read electronically. But that is where i come from in the zine culture. Reading other responses in the recent discussions on We Make Zines is actually opening my eyes up, quite widely... i didn't really realize there were such opposing opinions on some of these photocopying and "archiving" issues.

Like Miranda said... there are reasons some zines have limited copies, and go out of print. Perhaps those particular zines and issues are not relevant any longer by the writers opinion. This should be respected.

lofipi said:
I appreciate that you feel this way, but can you clarify why you feel this way? Is an electronic copy more than just a means to an end - in this case, expressly a means for a person in a far-off location to print the zine onto paper? I'd feel very exposed chancing upon an electronic version of anything of mine as well, but I don't know that it wouldn't be both a good and a bad feeling. I just don't know how I'd feel or why. Do you know, for you?

NicoleIntrovert said:
To me... making an electronic copy... is far worse than a photocopy. If i ever saw my zines scanned (aside from the cover for distro purposes)... i'd probably lose my shit. But, that is my opinion which is extremely strong in the separation of reading "zines" on the internet. Part of a zine for me is paper.

redguard said:
I recently made a pdf scan of a long-out-of-print zine to share with friends. Zine
I am totally with Emma Jane Falconer and Blackcarrot with this.
And hey, why do zines if you are afraid of someone else sharing your work with other people? I thought:

1) zines were meant to be shared and copied anyway. that's why it's photocopied in the first place becuase we don't believe in the way the mainstream world of publishing works. similarly, why should I charge £5.00 for a, say, graphic design zine to say, 5 people when i can just photocopy it and hand it out for free to 100 people? (assuming the said zine was mine) wasn't the point to reach out to as many people as possibe? to communicate? and share? i thought sharing was a good thing.
it;s not like anyone's making money out of it. the whole time i was doing it, it was at a loss but it was out of love.

2) if the material is personal and you dont want other people to read it - why put it in the zine and then photocopy it and give it out to people in the first place? i understand that is why some zinesters resort to restricting the number of copies in circulation, kinda like after its all sold out, they can "move on", so to speak. but surely it's not that personal? or maybe there's soemthing that i am missing here?
if the person who wrote the zine feels precious about their material then they should apply for a copyright licsence and/or explicitly state so in the zine. this way, it not only protects their material, but also informs other people not to copy. full stop.
or they could just NOT do zines and publish their own magazines or books or something. (or just get a journal.)

3) if people want to photocopy content from zines that are not their own, it's just common sense and common courtesty to at least quote or credit the original author at the end. to pass someone else's work as one;s own, especially in the zine community - i dont think that's ever gonna happen. i think zinesters are generally really honest and awesome people anyway.
and i mean c'mon, usually we photocopy zines to trade with friends and stuff, (becuase we love the zine. because it is awesome and we appreciate it too much to lose it) not to sell on eBay or whatever.
and on the distro side of things, if the zine is really old and out of print, then surely re-copying it and selling it for the actual price of copying is not a bad thing? considering:-
a) the distro person certainly wasn't doing it for profit
b) the distro person has no intention of passing it as her/his own
c) the photocopied zine was not altered in any way, such that the original content, layout, general look and title is still the same as the original


isn't it good to see an old zine still in circulation? perhaps that would motivate / inspire the original author to start doing the zine again. motivate others too!

these are just my own thoughts. (great discussion by the way!)
=)
different people do zines for different reasons, & i think this is pretty much the source of disagreement on the whole to-make-copies-or-not-to-make-copies issue. i got into zines through riot grrrl, a lot of the zines i read (& fell in love with) back then were incredibly personal. we're talking really intimate stories about eating disorders, sexual assault, abuse, depression, etc. i loved these zines. i'm so glad they existed & that i found them because they helped me through some hard times, but what helped even more was feeling like i'd tapped into a community of people i could relate to around issues that were maybe too difficult to talk about with my friends at school, or my parents, but things i wanted to talk about with someone (ie, just keeping a journal--which i did then & continue to do now--wasn't going to cut it).

because of the intimate nature of the writing, i felt an instinct that it would be inappropriate & wrong of me to make copies of these zines without permission from the authors. i think people who got into zines through a different genre, like music zines, punk zines, comic zines, funny zines, etc, come at things from a different angle. the communities that exist around those genres are certainly important, but the people making those zines are looking less for catharsis & a deeply-rooted community than they just want to get their zines out there & have people reading them. the overwheming majority of people making the argument that the whole point of zines is to have them be read & that "sharing is a good thing/sharing is the whole point" don't make these very intensely personal kinds of zines. the vast majority of people who feel that it's wrong to make copies or sell zines they have lying around do make very personal zines, or came into zines from that genre.

because of the fundamental differences in motivation & content between these genres, there are going to be fundamental disgreements around ethical issues. & i have been having these arguments for long enough (literally about ten years) that i can see that no one is likely to change anyone else's mind once it's been made up. the best solution is probably just to agree to respectfully disagree, & to all basically try to use our best judgment in these types of situations, knowing that there is a whole contingent of zinesters out there feeling passionately that our personal stance is ass-backwards. maybe this means, copy all the goofy humor zines & impersonal comic zines & music zines etc etc that you want (provided that they are not copyrighted/don't contain specific admonishments not to copy), & think twice when it comes to very personal zines. this is an issue that is inevitably going to come up again as new zinesters get involved with the zine scene, as replication technologies evolve, as more & more people come up with the whole PDF zine library thing (which i think is just awful, by the way--sure, scan some zines & send them to a buddy who maybe doesn't know what zines are & is more comfortable with web-based stuff than paper, but i'm really opposed to scanning zines & putting them up on the internet for everyone to access without authorial permission).

also, to address some of trent rampage's comments:
1) people do & have made copies of zines & then auctioned them off on ebay. i've mostly seen this happen with zines like "girl germs," "bikini kill," channel 7," very old issues of "cometbus"--zines that new zinesters have heard of & would maybe give their eyeteeth to see, but which have been out of print for at least fifteen years. (for the record, i think this practice is wong.)
2) people have made copies of other people's zines, after changing the contact info, & passed it off as their own work. this has happened very very rarely, but it has happened.
about the zines being sold on eBay thing - that's really sad. becuase its for blatant profit when it shouldn't be.
and i've never ever came across anyone or any such incident where someone passes off someone else's zine for their own so to hear that it actually does happen, makes me think twice about what i have mentioned earlier.

actually, i got through to zines from reading personal zines, not punk zines or humor/comic zines. my own zine is a personal zine. i give it out free and its free for people to photocopy or distribute as long as they dont pass it off as their own work. it's free because its only a few pence per copy and i can afford it, so i could do it. it's also about giving something back to the community kinda feeling - if you know what i mean?

i understand that with some personal zines, you have to be extra sensitive about copying and re-distributing them, i am not saying "fuck it. lets just do it."
I am saying, if it is not for profit, not malicious and even just between friends - surely that should not be an issue? what is the REAL problem about photocoyping it? is it the nature/value of the content if you compare a per-zine with a say punk zine? or is it something else?
i dont photocopy zines (or content from zines) wihout prior permission from the original authors anyway. and as i ahve mentioend earlier, its just common courtesy and common sense to do so.


as for PDF libraries: there is one good thing aout it though. sending zines across coutries can be a very expensive thing, especially from the US to somewhere like the UK or even further. letting distroes in the receiving end have "exclusive" acccess to these libraries for PRINTING PURPOSES ONLY (and not for online publishing) can seriously minimise the cost of distributing especially from unnecessary postal charges/insurance etc. what do you think?
Nicoleintrovert said: If i intended what was written in a zine... and created AS a zine to be on the internet... i would scan it myself. I do NOT believe in scanning zines to be uploaded onto the internet and would be crushed if i found out one of mine was. A few years ago The Fall Of Autumn tried to have a PDF library with the distro and it was WILDLY unpopular.

Part of a zine is the paper, the toner the sweat that goes into collating, stapling. It cheapens that passion and that hard work just to have it scanned to read electronically.


I couldn't agree more about the beauty of hand-made stuff. I was (and still am) a mail artist before I started making zines, and I love all the little details, the handwritten letters, etc.
On the other hand, though, I'm into m.a. and zine history as well, and I just hate it when I think about all the great old zines I won't be able to see because they are sold old, etc. That's where I see the importance of scanning and archiving zines online. I've just discovered - through We Make Zines - a great archive of queer zines, and I love it.
Zines are an important part of non-mainstream culture. It's honest, unfiltered art made by the people for the people. But they are ephemeral art too. It would be a pity if this cultural treasure desappeared.
ciaraxyerra said: different people do zines for different reasons (...) i got into zines through riot grrrl, a lot of the zines i read back then were incredibly personal. we're talking really intimate stories about eating disorders, sexual assault, abuse, depression, etc. Because of the intimate nature of the writing, i felt an instinct that it would be inappropriate of me to make copies of these zines without permission from the authors

First of all I want to thank ciaraxyerra for giving me some perspective on this topic. It's true that when you are surrounded by like-minded people, you sometimes forget about other opinions and points of view. At this point, a question comes naturally to my mind: how did you get those zines? Were they directly handed to you or did you buy or trade for them by mail? I'm asking this because if you make a zine and you want to have a strict control on what you do, I guess your options are very limited. Obviously, no way you are going to distro your zine, as you don't know who is going to buy it. Then there are zine libraries, where everybody can have access to your zine. This is also out of the question, isn't it. I'm afraid this kind of zinester should use a full page of his/her zine to spell out all the dos and don'ts and what the reader can or can't do.

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