Or things I would love to have answers to.
Being a geek is essentially a confluence of weird enthusiasm for certain commodities and sharing that enthusiasm and those commodities with other people. In my geekiness I am quite fond of sharing my favourite media with anyone who is interested (who is also responsible with my belongings). A lot of this is an attempt to suck coworkers and friends into my swirling vortex of nerdery. It's also a calculated effort to recruit new readers to comics, because more readers mean a bigger market and a bigger market means more and better comics for us all to choose from. The trouble is, I think there are some ethical questions about the indiscriminate sharing of media.
As tempting as it is to view comics and nerd media as a marketplace, it fails to appreciate how important creators, those wizards who actually make our chosen fictions, are to the existence of nerd media. These people absolutely need to be compensated for their creativity and should ideally be able to earn a comfortable livelihood from their work. And for this to happen people have to not only read, say, a comic book, but have to actually pay for it. Every time I lend a friend a comic they get to read it without actually paying for it. It is for this reason that I worry about the ethics of lending.
Lending in it's most exaggerated sense is piracy which is patently not okay. Basically, piracy is a shadowy ersatz publishing machine designed to let people who specifically want something obtain it for free, but without supporting the production of that something in any way. People who share media via this mechanism, whether it be by uploading a new thing or by seeding existent things are stealing from the creators of that media and are actively hurting the industry that makes it. It's even a dubitable that piracy is a form of lending: peer to peer networks DUPLICATE media without affecting the lenders ability to enjoy the media. Lenders in this system are able to take their single initial purchase and reproduce it endlessly in a way that lets them potentially give it to thousands or even millions of people. Basically, pirates get to eat their cake and give it to a million internet strangers. I would also argue that since piracy requires the active participation of pirates who have to hunt down what they are looking for, the vast majority of them are effectively CURRENT readers who therefore represent comics/novel/whatever market that has been lost. (Although, to be fair, it was a bootleg disk full of comics that got me into a comic store in the first place, which I think supports the notion of free trials being good for attracting new readers.) Regardless, I think piracy is a clearly unacceptable form of media lending.
But what about the industrial lending of a public library? Is that okay? Libraries are easy: I think they are perfectly okay. They initially purchase books and pay a fee to publishers and creators for the right to temporarily lend media to the public. And I think libraries, beyond performing an essential public service, help the publishing industry by helping to turn young novice readers into life long readers. Moreover, at least half the novels I currently own are ones that I read first from a library and most of the rest are by authors whose work I first encountered there: the ability to try media in a legal and temporary framework that still compensates creators. Essentially, I think libraries are clearly okay.
What about legitimate secondary sales markets, like a used bookstore or the resale rack down the comic shop? The law on the matter states that at least for physical media, once the initial sale is made, the owner can effectively do with it what they will including resale. Which is to say, from a legal standpoint used bookstores are kosher. But just because something is legal doesn't make it ethical. A book bought used does not provide additional compensation to the creators or the publishing machinery that created the book. That said, a used book has ALREADY been bought once, and as such, compensation has occurred. Moreover, the original owner in selling their copy has forfeited their ability to enjoy that media which you are now acquiring. Although you are acquiring it for less than you might pay to get it new and in a way that compensates the creator directly. In a way a used book is both a legitimate sale and a lost sale to the creator. So it is without question a morally complicated marketplace. But damned if it isn't one I kind of love. When I moved out of my parents house some years ago I used a great (and now dearly departed) used bookstore to convert a misspent youth of horrible fantasy and Science-fantasy pulp into the back catalogue of my favourite authors and some of my favourite books (once borrowed from a library). That ability to essentially convert books or to find out of print copies is pretty amazing. At the end of the day, I can't help but think that used bookstores are a kind of ethically neutral space. Maybe?
What about actually lending books to friends? By the same law that says reselling media is okay, it is legal to lend a book to a friend: once you own a book it's perfectly okay to share it around. That said, any person lent a book/comic/whatever gets to enjoy that media without having compensated the creator or production apparatus for that thing. Like piracy the lendee does not pay for their use of that media, and the lender only temporarily forfeits their own use of the media. But, like a used bookstore, there is only one, legally obtained copy of the media being circulated which only a single person can use at a time. The creators have already been compensated by the time of use. So where does that leave lending ethically?
I think the ethics of lending fall into two categories. If you lend something to someone who would otherwise purchase their own copy of media you are potentially denying a sale, and that is not so kosher. If you are lending media to someone who would not otherwise interact with that media than lending is perfectly fine. Better than fine in that the person being leant might enjoy the experience enough to actually go out and buy similar media and become a new consumer and fan. Also, I imagine that while creators want to be financially compensated for their work, that they might also enjoy an audience reading and enjoying their work regardless of compensation. Maybe? But yeah, I'm still kind of concerned by this.