During my brief time as a Blog@Newsarama writer, I hit what amounted to the blog "jackpot" with an evidently well-timed April 1 post about the pirated downloading of current American comics on Web sites like Demonoid, sparking pleas from then She-Hulk writer Dan Slott for readers to stop it.

This one short post generated an amazing 137 responses (a Blog@Newsarama record at the time), most of them fairly debating the pros and cons of illegally downloading new and recent comics on the Web.

Those posts came immediately to mind when I saw these news briefs from IF Magazine and the Anime News Network about 11 Manga artists (including Go Nagai, creator of Devilman) awarded more than $175,000 in damages by the Tokyo District Court against Internet companies and homepage maintainers for uploading publishers works without permission.

Even more interesting, the court created a formula for calculating the damage those cartoonists incurred as a result of unauthorized downloading.

For many, I suspect this concern just doesn't register because most people would sooner watch paint dry than to download digital comics -- even new ones -- at all, legally or illegally, even without a broadband connection, much less read 'em. Having been involved in the digital production phase of producing graphic novels, books and magazines, believe me, reading them via your favorite 20-inch LCD monitor is much more work than fun, especially on the eyes...

Here's the $64,000 question: Is the Tokyo court right or wrong about cartoonists and publishing companies being hurt by the illegal downloading of comics? Or, as some folks have wisely pointed out, would those same downloaders just stop reading comics altogether if they couldn't get their "free" digital fix every week?