We Make Zines

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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
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.
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.
i am really sick of arguing about this stuff, because i have literally been having this argument off & on for ten years & it'sreally boring to me. but i'll say that i actually do include do's & don't's instructing people on what to do with my zines after they're done reading if they don't want to keep them. i explicitly tell people not to re-sell my zines, not to put them on ebay, not to burn them (it's happened), not to make copies, etc. i tell people that they are welcome to put my zines in grab bags sold for the cost of postage, donate them to zine libraries, give them away to friends, etc.

i would really like to believe that people are smart & thoughtful enough to se their judgment on these issues. super personal & intimate zine written by a 15-year-old girl about surviving sexual abuse? yeah, maybe that's not one you re-sell to your buddy who is mostly interested in, like, comics or something. & i'd hope that that 15-year-old girl wouldn't have to dedicate an entire page/paragraph/whatever closing all the loopholes for the ways people coud violate her trust in some ephemeral zine community with which she is attempting to share her story & engage in some catharsis & maybe connect with other people who have survived similar stories. i don't like this tone of, "don't want people to do absolutely whateverthefuck they want to do with your personal work & efforts & pass it off lke they're doing you a favor because 'oh, we need to preserve these artifacts, even though i want to preserve them in a way that i understand many zine writers are very very opposed to? well, you have to make sure to draft up a document that foresees any & all mis-use or abuse of your work & you have to include it in your zine & then you have to trust the zine community that forced you to write this document to respect your wishes when they couldn't be grown up enough to consider your feelings without a fucking contract in front of them." you know? i ENJOY making zines. i like to thnk about how my friends will respond to what i write. i like to run my distro & i get excited when i make a new zine i can add to my catalogue. it's exciting when i get letters from people saying, "i just found out about zines & i want to order zines from you!" it really deflates that joy to have to stop & think, "okay, some people are going to have a lot of half-baked justifications for disrespecting the integrity of how i want this zine to be read & distributed. time to imagine all the worst-possible scenarios & tell people not to do that shit."

& by the way, i have seen my zines, that expressly say, "don't sell this zine on ebay," up for auction on ebay. so i am well aware that some people don't read, don't care, don't respect what zinesters think, & i know the only way to avoid this shit is to just not make zines at all. wouldn't it be a lot nice if the people who do have some modicum of interest in respecting other people actually put it to use? without having to have every detail spelled out for them? i mean, maranda was asked in this thread to basically justify the reasons why she wouldn't want her zines distributed once she has stopped distributing them. i think it's disrespectful to ask her to justify that position. she's entitled to feel how she feels & want what she wants. if "all you have to do" is say what you want, you shouldn't also have to justify it eight ways from sunday & engage in arguments with people who use the "preservation" defense, like that's so new & original &mind-expanding (i volunteered at a zine library for several months, i like zine libraries, & they differ from online PDF libraries inasmuch as you need to actually go to the library to see the zines; your employer can't google your name & find your zine, your stalker ex-boyfriend can't google your zine name & read all your secrets, etc etc etc...we all give up fundamental privacy when we go online--a PDF zine library open to the general internet-going public would be like if a friend suddenly uploaded every e-mail i'd ever sent her on to a website without my permission: a violation of trust, re-contextualizing things i wrote for a specific purpose & putting them in a much more public context without checking to see if i'm okay with that)...

bah. this whole conversation annoys me. hai 1997, good to see that nothing has been resolved in eleven fucking years.
my argument has fuck all to do with what kind of zine content is better/worse or worth more money. these are completely subjective opinions that don't even factor into the discussion. go back & re-read my posts. the crux of my argument is that where a person stands on the to-photocopy-or-not-to-photocopy/to-sell/trade-or-not-to-sell/trade (work that is not your own) has almost everything to do with what genre of zines they are most invested in/what kinds of zines they makes/what kinds of zines they like best. people who make very very intimate personal zines often have very small print runs--sometimes as few as twenty copies, sometimes just given away to friends. while people who are making, say, anarchist political zines want to have lots of people reading their zines, sometimes even leaving stacks for people to take for free at the local infoshop. one method isn't any better or any worse than the other. the type of zine any given person prefers is subjective. but the person's motivations in making their zines are going to necessariy influence their feelings about people potentially photocopying their zines/loading them on the internet/re-selling them, et al. i really don't think this is difficult to understand. just think about it for a hot second.

my issue-the reason i am getting oh-so-emotional (actually i am just fucking pissed off & BORED with this motherfucking dumbass REPETITIVE BULLSHIT CONVERSATION) is because people ARE assigng value judgments as to which distribution method is best when they say, "i thought trading was a good thing! don't you want more readers? if you zine is really that personal, get a journal. if you don't want me re-selling your zine, i assume you yourself don't take trades & are opposed to zine libraries.if you don't want people doing X, Y, & Z with your zines, you better have no faith in the zine community at all & foresee all possibilities people could seize to disrespect your work & then dedicate a page in each zine to specifically telling them not to." basically, comments like these say, "if someone violates the trust you had in the zine community, it's your own fault for being so fucking stupid to trust us. your distribution methods are stupid. if your zine is about very personal & intimate subjects...no one wants to read that shit anyway. keep it to yourself." am i really the only one who sees this as really fucking disrespectful?

i have been in the zine scene now for EIGHTEEN YEARS. if someone had laid this shit on me when i first started out, i doubt i would have gone any further. the zine world is really big. i think there is room for all kinds of different sorts of zines, all kinds of different distribution models, zine libraries, people who like trades, everything. & obviously we are not all going to like everything that everyone else likes, but hopefully we can have some respect for each other, in general.

seriously, my frustration with this thread isn't personal against anyone who has been posting here (i actually only personally know a few people that have posted to this thread & wouldn't presume to judge anyone i didn't know just off a couple of posts in a zine forum). my frustration is with the relentless tediousness of this discussion. seriously. eighteen years i've been doing the zine thing. talks like this get old. not to say they aren't illuminating for new folks, but jeez louise.

i will say though, trent rampage, have you ever had a stalker? because i have. someone who used my zine life against me. IT FUCKING HAPPENS, & i am not the only person this has happened to. i also know people whose employers vetted them online & discovered their zine personas, which again, is maybe no big deal if you don't do a terribly personal or political zine. but what if you do a zine about how you survived a sexuallyabusive childhood? do you want your employer reading that? or a pissed-off ex? seriously. i'm not being paranoid & assuming that people are assholes. i am being realistic & assuming that some people have prvileges that preclude them from understanding that other people have VERY GOOD REASONS for feeling the way they feel about various issues, & that they don't need to justify that shit on some online forum. & with that, i'm done with this thread.

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