From: Dublin, Ireland
Why does everyone publicize these projects? I've seen multiple posts about this issue lately on both Websnark and Comixpedia. I understand it's an emotional issue, but it's the same argument everytime; there will always be folks who think it is their right and responsibility to subvert webcomics and their associated revenue streams. Linking to them and giving them a soapbox only encourages them. They're wrong, we know they're wrong, they probably know they're wrong, conversation is over. Let's stop linking to these folks and start taking steps to limit the damage they're doing.
One way to do this is to recognize the points they've made -- there are people out there that, for reasons of laziness or bandwidth or what have you, are not satisfied with the way that they receive their comics (although I've never understood their logic myself -- is it really so hard to load up a webpage?). We shouldn't look at these poor, stupid saps as the enemy -- they are potential readers and customers. We should find a way to give them what they want without compromising what we're trying to do.
Goats does this via our RSS feed -- we invite folks to use their favorite RSS reader to subscribe to our feed and read the comics in their environment. We also include our news items in our feed, allowing RSS readers to take note of our various merchandising offers, donation drives and such. I'm sure advertisements could be included in the feed as well, if that's a preferable business model for some folks.
Doing this accomplishes two things: one, it gives folks what they want. And two, it takes the air out of the arguments that these types of scumbags keep presenting. The latest version of Firefox even has RSS functionality built right in. You don't even need an extra program. Certainly not one of those scumware comic readers.
There are some real limitations to doing business on the web, and there's no magic bullet to make people pay you for your work. Are there downsides to offering webcomics for free? Yes. These horrible programs, for one. But the upside is that you get to attract an audience and allow people to visit your site and fall in love with the comics you're creating. Many of those people will choose to support your endeavor. Making it easier for them to support you means listening to the things that they want and giving it to them in a way that benefits you both.
I call on all webcomic artists who are complaining about these rippers to do two things. First, stop linking to them, please. Second, add an RSS feed to your site and help eliminate the perceived need for these programs.