# Steal This Comic

• @Joe I'd assume there's something hidden in this image, especially given the tags. – Rand al'Thor Jun 5 '18 at 17:06
• Got it, I thought the steganography tag was perhaps referring to hidden html in the post, but I'm searching through the image now. – Joe-You-Know Jun 5 '18 at 17:08
• You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. – Rubio Jun 5 '18 at 20:25
• @Rubio Each one more identical than the last. – David Starkey Jun 6 '18 at 17:34
• This has been one of my favorite puzzles ever. I really enjoyed the group effort to get the final answer. I think gnovice deserves the accepted answer. He did the most work. – Joe-You-Know Jun 6 '18 at 17:50

When comparing the image above to the original comic, we can see that...

the text "DRM-free files" at the bottom right is replaced by "0XAmp" (a zero, not an O). Using this instead of "kLvQR" for the post image link leads us to this new image, which has five letters that differ from the original comic:

The letters "KRODF" become "WVNZ2". The correct order is "V2ZNW", with the characters ordered based on their position in their respective text blocks ("W" is the fifth character, "V" is the first character, etc.). Using this in the image link leads to a new image:

If we replace each number 5 8 -5 13 42 with the character at that position in each text block, not counting spaces or non-alphanumeric characters, and assuming negative means counting starting at the end and making it lowercase, then we get "KRiR0". Using this in the image link leads to a new image:

On the surface, this doesn't appear to differ from the original comic, but if you adjust the intensity you can see some ghosted text appear. I processed the image in MATLAB using the code imwrite(uint8(255.*(imread('KRiR0.png') > 245)), 'adjusted.png'); to get this:

And the characters "EdxNK" (read from top to bottom) appear. Using this in the image link leads to a new image with 5 changed letters (4 lower-cased and one removed):

And finally, using "goioF" in the image link leads to the final image:

Phew! All that image stealing made me tired! Thanks to everyone who was solving it alongside me!

• We're at the same point :-) I think that the second thing you've called Z is actually 2, if that helps? (Again, compare with the "2" of "DMCA 1201".) – Rand al'Thor Jun 5 '18 at 17:43
• @Randal'Thor Unfortunately there was no Z in the text. However, anytime I could, I grabbed the letters from somewhere in the comic. – David Starkey Jun 5 '18 at 17:57
• For the order of the characters in your second image, check where they appear in their respective text blocks. Kudos for brute-forcing, though. – David Starkey Jun 5 '18 at 20:16
• I tried assuming the numbers were how many characters into the sentence we need to go. If we considered a new line as a character and the -5 starts at the end of pirate and works backward that gave K, U, I, R, I. If we don't assume the new line is a character it gives K, U, M, R, I. Trying all permutations of those letters only gives two hits with actual images but neither seem like they are what it should be: i.stack.imgur.com/UIRKI.png and i.stack.imgur.com/URIKM.png – Dason Jun 5 '18 at 21:12
• I can definitely see very light colored letters in areas, such as on the top person's face and just above the lower person's hat. – ManyPinkHats Jun 6 '18 at 17:28

Joe-You-Know spotted the key difference between the image in the OP and the original XKCD comic:

the replacement of "DRM-free files" by "0XAMP", with the MP smaller than the 0XA.

This suggests

looking at https://i.stack.imgur.com/0XAmp.png - where we find:

In this new image, we can again spot the key differences from the original XKCD comic:

the letters K, R, O, D, F at various points have been replaced by W, V, N, ?, 2. I'm not sure what that fourth character is - R? Z? - or which of these are supposed to be lower-case, but presumably these letters will lead us to the next image.

• V guvax gur zvffvat yrggre vf n m – Joe-You-Know Jun 5 '18 at 17:40
• @Joe That's one of my possibilities too, but it doesn't seem to give a working URL. – Rand al'Thor Jun 5 '18 at 17:42
• I thought maybe it was using rot13 for the next image, wvnnzz, but no luck there either – Joe-You-Know Jun 5 '18 at 17:43
• The ordering of the characters is there, you just need to determine how it's hidden. – David Starkey Jun 5 '18 at 17:59
• @ffao I think you may have flipped a couple characters. – David Starkey Jun 5 '18 at 19:11

After following a series of clues and finding the differences of the last one, you end up with

As the final picture. (I'll update my answer to reflect this)

Update: Found this,

From the work gnovice has been doing.

Okay, I'm not sure if this is just spot the difference but here it is

In the original XKCD, the bottom line read "(If you don't like this, demand DRM-Free files)"
In this puzzle, it instead reads, "(If you don't like this, demand OXAmp), which is as far as I can tell is an anti-bacterial"
Compare

To

I feel there is more to this puzzle than just this difference, hopefully this will help others though.

• Just to clarify, the "O" is a "0", specifically the one from the 1201. – David Starkey Jun 5 '18 at 17:33

Using

V2ZNW

you get this image:

This shows some numbers. If you add them to the letter positions I get this:

k(11) + 5 = p(16)
r(18) + 8 = z(26)
o(15) + 13 = 28 = b(2)
d(4) - 5 = -1 = y(25)
f(6) + 42 = 48 = v(22)

This means pzbyv. Not sure what I can do with this ...

If you rot13 this you get comli, maybe a misspelled comic?

• The -5 should come before the 13, no need to add number positions, and a couple of your letters seem to be off (or I'm not understanding how you reached those letters). For example, if I count 13 with spaces, I get the U in BUY, without spaces I get the R in DRM, but you have an O. – David Starkey Jun 6 '18 at 14:48
• @DavidStarkey no, this is about their positions in the alphabet. And they are the letters you replaced with other characters in gnovices solution – MEE Jun 6 '18 at 14:50
• But the 13th letter is M, so I'm still unsure how you got to O. – David Starkey Jun 6 '18 at 14:53
• I think he's using 0 as A. – Joe-You-Know Jun 6 '18 at 15:00
• His KRODF comes from the previous step, when the letters KRODF were replaced by V2ZNW. I think we can completely ignore those letters on this step. – Jake The Snake Jun 6 '18 at 17:05