‘Justice League’ #1 (see my review here), the first issue in DC Comics’ ‘New 52’ company-wide relaunch, is one of the biggest comic book events in recent history. The milestone issue from legendary comic creators Geoff Johns and Jim Lee had over 200,000 pre-orders and the first printing of the issue sold out days before release. The issue officially hit comic shelves at midnight last night, but some unscrupulous fans had it several hours before the release.

Several hours before comic shops on the East coast opened their doors for midnight sales parties, digital copies of ‘Justice League’ #1 began showing up on various file transfer and torrent sites around the web. According to some sources, the leak is due to a slip on the part of ComiXology. The digital comic distributor allegedly sold some copies of the issue early before catching the error. Digital copies of ‘Justice League’ #1 officially go on sale today at 2pm EST.

This leak points out one of the biggest problems with day-and-date digital comics. Up until now, people who wanted to share comics online had to buy the comics, scan them, and convert them to a format for digital comic readers. Now scanning is no longer necessary. All that needs to be done is for comic bootleggers to take a screen capture of their desktop or tablet screen and post it directly to the web.

This first instance didn’t hurt sales for ‘Justice League’ #1 since all of the issues that DC printed were already sold but it may harm the inevitable second printing of this issue. I wouldn’t be surprised to see comic distributors create some sort of DRM code to prevent screen captures but, as with anything digital, cyber-criminals will always a find way around it.

Will piracy harm the sales of digital issues? Do you think that anything can be done to stop or limit piracy of digital comics? Leave your comments and thoughts below.

UPDATE: It appears as if ComiXology is not the source of the ‘Justice League’ #1 leak. The digital distributor did sell several copies of the book before the scheduled release date but their digital editions were not used to create the pirate copies. Several websites have done side-by-side comparisons of the illegal copies and the one released by ComiXology and they are slightly different. ComiXology issued a statement that they could not account for the differences between the digital and print copies but that people who purchased a digital copy would be issued an updated version that matches the print copy.