The Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk: How The Court Of Public Opinion Beats The Court Of Baseless Legal Threats

from the funny-cause-it's-true dept

About a year ago, Matthew Inman wrote a short article highlighting Funnyjunk, one of the many image aggregating sites on the internet. This article, titled What should I do about FunnyJunk.com? was a short exploration of his impression of the site and some of the complaints he had about it. Primary among them was that the site hosted copies of his comics without attribution or links back to his site. Other than that, his complaints revolved around the shear ugliness of the site (they still have not updated it). He ended that exploration with a level-headed look at the big picture.

I realize that trying to police copyright infringement on the internet is like strolling into the Vietnamese jungle circa 1964 and politely asking everyone to use squirt guns. I know that if FunnyJunk disappeared fifty other clones would pop up to take its place overnight, but I felt I had to say something about what they’re doing.

No legal threats. No claims that this site was destroying his business. Just a recognition of the issues and a call for a discussion about it with Funnyjunk. Funnyjunk then responded with a rather hyperbolic claim that The Oatmeal was going to sue the site and have it shut down. Clearly not the case. Matthew had thought that was the end of the issue. Until recently.

Yesterday, Matthew wrote on his blog that Funnyjunk has sent him legal papers threatening the Oatmeal with a defamation suit. The letter makes a wide array of claims, some correct and some just outright weird. Matthew does a fairly good job of taking apart each of the claims against The Oatmeal. So I will let you read through those on your own. Our interests lie, rather, in some of the finer points of this dispute.

Funnyjunk, as a user generated content site, is probably protected by the DMCA, something it goes through great pains in its legal letter to explain. Much like Imgur or Youtube, as long as it complies with the DMCA (i.e., has a registered agent, properly responds to takedowns, does not “induce” infringement), it is likely protected. However, that really isn’t at issue here. No one but Funnyjunk has brought up the DMCA or talked about lawsuits.

Instead, I think it is time to hearken back to a few years ago when we talked about something similar happening in the comedy business. The idea is that social mores and rules can result in punishment of what society feels is unfair or unethical. So although Funnyjunk is working within the bounds of current law, it was still perceived as doing something unethical and the community responded appropriately. Much the same way the comedian who copied his jokes was shunned by the community.

Which leads us to one of the key complaints made by Funnyjunk, that Matthew’s blog post “injured Funnyjunk in its trade, business or profession.” That is most likely true considering the power of enforcement through social norms. The Oatmeal has a very strong following around the internet (274,924 followers on Twitter, nearly 600,000 on Facebook). So of course those people would be upset when Matthew is upset and they would probably respond in kind (it helps when Matthew actually asks his fans to respond). This is completely normal. But telling people your opinion as to why you dislike a particular site, and letting them make their own decision about it isn’t illegal. It’s kind of the crux of how our system of free expression works.

Perhaps most interesting of all, Matthew has also taken this public shaming of Funnyjunk to a new level. In response to this legal threat demanding $20,000, Matthew has decided to instead raise that money and donate it to charity. He has done this because he feels that Funnyjunk’s claim of defamation has no merit and he does not want to deal with a lawsuit over the next year. As a result of this very public slap in the face, The Oatmeal raised $20,000 in 64 minutes. It has raised over $100,000 at the time of this writing. None of which is going to Funnyjunk.

In the end, it seems like a great lesson from pretty much every direction. It’s an example of where you don’t need to rely on laws to make things right — and, in fact, the one party who tried to rely on laws (by being way way way way too overaggressive) gets “punished” in the court of public opinion instead. Seems like a good solution all around… though we haven’t yet seen how Funkyjunk will respond. If they’re smart, they’ll either apologize (very very publicly) or just shut up about all of this.

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Comments on “The Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk: How The Court Of Public Opinion Beats The Court Of Baseless Legal Threats”

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83 Comments
Yakko Warner (profile) says:

Please let Funnyjunk pursue this

For purely selfish reasons, I hope Funnyjunk presses their attack. Not that I want Oatmeal to have to go through the hassle of the courts (he’s had a couple offers of free help, so it would likely only cost him time and annoyance), but I find it quite entertaining seeing him draw new cartoons to publicly shame and trounce Funnyjunk.

Bob from IT says:

Re: Funnyjunk isn't entirely wrong

Actually, from what I have seen and as noted in Inman’s Layer’s letter responding to FunnyJunk’s demands letter, FunnyJunk is not protected by the DMCA since they do not appear to have a registered agent as would be shown by a quick search of the Copyright Office’s list of Registered Agents.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

and *that* sums up one of the main problems with society...

…anything that isn’t deemed ‘illegal’, is ‘okay’…
um, well, no its NOT: using ‘illegality’ as a measure of morality is such a low bar as to be meaningless in everyday social interactions…
in general, i don’t GIVE A SHIT what the ‘laws’ say (which is only what our superiors with money are able to enact), MY MORALS are INFINITELY more restrictive than stupid, shitty ‘laws’…
i don’t do stupid, unethical stuff to people *because* it is not ‘legal’; i don’t do stupid, unethical stuff to people because my momma taught me IT AIN’T RIGHT, REGARDLESS of what ‘The Law’ says ! ! !
art guerrilla
aka ann archy
eof

DandonTRJ (profile) says:

Funnyjunk’s legal claims are almost entirely without merit, IMO. The false advertising claim is bullshit — clear nominative use of the trademark. Inman probably has qualified immunity as to the defamation claim (criticism on a matter of public importance – copyright infringement on a high profile website) that he only loses with a showing of actual malice or known falsity. There might even be an anti-SLAPP counterclaim in there, depending on the jurisdiction. At any rate, I think we can all agree Funnyjunk is a scummy site, even if they operate entirely within the DMCA, and I hope they get what’s coming to them from a purely business end.

Anonymous Coward says:

First, I want to say that I really dislike FunnyJunk. I’m familiar with the website, I went there on a regular basis a while ago, but I’ve grown to hate it. I’m surprized myself that I find myself defending it.

Now here’s my take on this, because I think everybody is missing the point:

Content hosts like Megaupload have been shut down and it started with simple complaints of “they’re stealing my stuff and not doing enough to prevent users from uploading it to their website”. Veoh, Limewire… Techdirt mentions all the time how the MPAA and RIAA are accusing Youtube of not doing enough to control what users upload.
That’s the age old tactic against websites that host user-uploaded content: blame them for not doing enough, say that unless they monitor every single upload they are helping piracy, etc.
Then these websites get shutdown, or we get laws like SOPA.

So maybe FunnyJunk is simply very sensitive about The Oatmeal’s accusations, and fears this might only be the first step in something bigger, where more powerful parties might get involved, and which may result in FunnyJunk’s death.
In their position (i.e. operating a kind of website that is legal, should be legal, but frequently dies at the hand of copyright bullies) I would be very sensitive too about the kind of accusations the Oatmeal is making. And if I were operating such a website, I would counter-attack 10 times harder if anyone came at me in any way.
I think FunnyJunk has no choice: they need to send a message that going after them will not go unpunished, otherwise more parties will try coming at them. They need to intimidate. I think this might be what they’re doing, and it’s what I would do in their situation.
Blame the copyright industry and corrupt Justice for creating this situation where content hosts need to be paranoid and watch their backs constantly and feel the need to quash any threat with a 10-ton hammer.

I’ve read The Oatmeal’s response to FunnyJunk’s legal threat. Frankly, I think FunnyJunk has some grounds – it did appear to me that part of what The Oatmeal wrote was slander.
For instance, as I understood it, The Oatmeal ONCE contacted FunnyJunk to have some of their content removed. The process was, according to the Oatmeal, a bit complicated and The Oatmeal decided not to bother again. Now here’s the kicker: from what I understand, the Oatmeal did not submit a proper DMCA notice. Here are some quotes that indicate so:

“To the admin of FunnyJunk: I put together a list of all my comics which you can download here and use to remove the remainder of the stolen material. “

That’s not how it works. Admins are not required to go out of their way to identify infringing content. If you want content taken off, send a DMCA notice with links to the proper content. ALL the content. Don’t expect website admins to search the web for lists of content and then to download those lists from third-parties.

“Remember FunnyJunk? Almost exactly a year ago I published a blog post about my comics being stolen, re-hosted, and monetized on FunnyJunk’s website. The owner of the site responded and some of the comics were taken down,”

Right, so according to this quote FunnyJunk was apparently not send a proper DMCA notice. Instead The Oatmeal wrote a post on their own website, and yet FunnyJunk still did the right thing and removed the content.

“I first contacted them about a year ago after I found a handful of my comics uploaded on their site with no credit or link back to me. They took down the offending images, but since then they’ve practically stolen my entire website and mirrored it on FunnyJunk: “

There we are: the part where FunnyJunk was contacted by the Oatmeal. Except this still doesn’t sound like a proper DMCA letter was sent. So FunnyJunk was under no obligation to remove anything and on top of that, if they removed stuff based on unofficial requests, they might end up removing stuff on the request of somebody impersonating the copyright holder.
A DMCA notice is at least official and benefits all parties: if the person filing the DMCA is the copyright owner, the DMCA letter gives him some protections and recourse should the letter be ignored by the recipient. At the same time, filing a false DMCA notice is pretty bad and thus protects the recipient against false copyright claims.

The Oatmeal, as far as I can tell, has never issued a proper DMCA take-down request. In fact here’s the proof for that:

“Should I send them a cease and desist?”

Yeah, he wouldn’t ask if he had already done it.

Here’s what it comes down to:
The Oatmeal asked FunnyJunk to take down content but did not send a proper DMCA take-down request. The Oatmeal apparently also did not tell FunnyJunk which specific images had to be removed – instead, it seems The Oatmeal expected FunnyJunk to find all of the links to Oatmeal content.
Despite this, FunnyJunk, by The Oatmeal’s own admission, removed some content.

But that was not enough for the Oatmeal, which then published this:
http://theoatmeal.com/blog/funnyjunk

Including this little paragraph at the top of the article:

“Here’s how FunnyJunk.com’s business operates:

Gather funny pictures from around the internet
Host them on FunnyJunk.com
Slather them in advertising
If someone claims copyright infringement, throw your hands up in the air and exclaim “It was our users who uploaded your photos! We had nothing to do with it! We’re innocent!”
Cash six figure advertising checks from other artist’s stolen material”

And this is not presented as opinion but as fact. And if it is untrue, then it’s slander.

Let me summarize what seems to have happened:
1) Oatmeal asks FunnyJunk “remove our stuff” but fails to provide links or even file a real DMCA notice.
2) FunnyJunk does their best to comply (despite not being legally obligated to comply – so that’s score +1 for FunnyJunk).
3) Oatmeal is not satisfied, wants them to magically find all infringing material and identify future material before it is uploaded; slanders FunnyJunk out of spite.

To me this seems like a simple case of a copyright holder not understanding the DMCA, not understanding that the law gives content hosts some protections, and then doing something stupid (in this instance, accusing a legitimate website of committing copyright infringement).

Like I read elsewhere, if this was Youtube vs. the RIAA everyone would be saying “The RIAA needs to file the official paperwork and realize that Youtube can’t screen every single video”. But I guess this being The Oatmeal and the author being a “little guy” instead of a big corporation, all sympathy goes to him.

As far as I know, the Oatmeal got what they deserve – they messed with a type of website that already has a lot of trouble with false accusations of piracy. They did slander FunnyJunk, and now FunnyJunk is fighting back.
Is FunnyJunk exaggerating? Yes. But it’s understandable. And it doesn’t change the fact that The Oatmeal messed up first.
The Oatmeal is the bully. They made to FunnyJunk the same unreasonable requests that the RIAA/MPAA make to Youtube all the time. And when FunnyJunk couldn’t give them satisfaction, they resorted to slander.

I also want to point out that a DMCA take-down notice is a form of legal threat: when filing such a notice, it is implied that a lawsuit will follow should the DMCA notice be ignored. And the Oatmeal did post an article in which it was considering this option. FunnyJunk over-reacted but was not way off when they said the Oatmeal wanted to sue them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I posted a much longer content below detailing my opinion on this matter, but I’ll just say a few things here.

I agree FunnyJunk is over-reacting and some of their accusations are exaggerations.

However, what I think is going on, is that websites like FunnyJunk, who host content uploaded by users, are constantly bullied and threatened by copyright holders. Some have already been shut down, had their domains seized, etc.
It’s clear that Oatmeal can’t or won’t give FunnyJunk much legal trouble, but I think FunnyJunk is just being very sensitive about these kinds of accusations, because they don’t want to be the justice system’s next Pirate Pay or Megaupload.

I’m siding with FunnyJunk personally, at least on the slander/defamation accusations. Like you say they might not hold, but I don’t think they are overkill or without merit personally.
I hate FunnyJunk, I don’t hide it, but I side with them because this does not concern just them. All websites who host content uploaded by users are in the same boat, constantly fighting off false accusations of piracy and struggling against legal attacks just to stay online.

If FunnyJunk could sue and win, it would set a nice precedent to make the MPAA/RIAA shut up instead of throwing piracy accusations all around.

Karl (profile) says:

Funnyjunk isn't entirely wrong

So in that sense, the Oatmeal did commit defamation.

Um, no. What the Oatmeal said may not have been entirely, 100% accurate (it doesn’t “find” images but lets users post them). And, Funnyjunk may be lawful.

But that doesn’t mean The Oatmeal rose to the level of defamation. For example, The Oatmeal never claimed that what they were doing was “willful criminal infringement.” (In fact, it wouldn’t be, even if that’s what they did.) And, other than the word “find,” what The Oatmeal said was accurate (though obviously snarky).

If anything, Funnyjunk claiming that The Oatmeal wanted to “sue” and “shut down” their site is more defamatory than anything The Oatmeal said, since it was completely false.

Of course, that doesn’t rise to the level of defamation either. But, if the lawsuit actually goes forward (which I’m sure it won’t), Funnyjunk would absolutely lose, big time, for all of the other idiotic things they claimed.

This whole thing just proves Mike’s point. In fact, it’s likely that neither side is legally guilty of anything, and even attempting to duke it out it in court would be a complete waste of the court’s time, and both parties’ money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I know, reading is such an effort these days. I probably should have just written “lol go funjnk otmeel suck lol!!!” and spare myself the “tl;dr” comments that will likely follow.

What can I say, I like to be clear, concise and accurate.
I could have just given my opinion – basically that FunnyJunk was being bullied by Oatmeal, but how would that be informative to anyone if I didn’t provide the evidence and facts I base this on?

I took the time to write this, I can only hope those who feel like commenting on it will take the time to read it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Funnyjunk isn't entirely wrong

I am serious. What’s the objective, unbiased test to determine if something is humor or not?

If I threaten to kill somebody and when I’m arrested, I claim it was only humor, how will the judge decide whether or not to believe me?

So far all I hear is that “it’s common sense/obvious that it was humor”. That’s nice, but how do we objectively decide what common sense and obvious is?
Do we give famous humorists/comedians a “get out of slander accusations free” card?

I’m inquiring about how this works in the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Funnyjunk isn't entirely wrong

In your original post you did not ask if they could be sued for saying copyright infringement is stealing. You asked if they could be sued for accusing websites of infringing copyright. And yes, they can be sued for that, especially if they can’t prove copyright infringement.

I will point out to you that an accusation is not opinion but a statement of fact – it’s a statement that somebody has done something.

I was also referring to the fact that everyone jumps on the RIAA/MPAA when they accuse legitimate websites of copyright infringement, but when an independent artist does it, a lot of people rush to his defense. I think you and I at least agree that somebody is given preferential treatment, we just don’t agree what that treatment should be.

Noah Callaway says:

Re:

I disagree in your assertion that The Oatmeal is the bully.

In this case The Oatmeal did nothing other than publicly explain how he felt, and ask his readership for advice on his course of action. A year later, a lawyer shows up asking for 20 grand?

Even if I _disagree_ with The Oatmeal’s position (in that I believe it would be an unreasonable burden on FunnyJunk to pre-emptively take down all of The Oatmeal’s content without notice as to which specific items are infringing), I strongly believe that The Oatmeal is allowed to publicly _express_ his position in the goings on.

The alternative is to use the “bully smell test”. Whoever starts the legal threats – probably the bully!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I probably don’t need to point out what a ridiculous test that is, I don’t assume you were seriously arguing it as a valid test anyway.

I quoted a paragraph in my original comment, which you can find at the top of this page:
http://theoatmeal.com/blog/funnyjunk

This 6-point list is where I see an actual claim of fact and not an opinion. It doesn’t say anywhere “This is what I think”. It’s a statement: “This is how FunnyJunk operates” (slightly paraphrased). No opinion there as far as I can tell.

I’m open to the possibility that I’m missing something here and this should actually be considered an opinion, but so far I don’t see it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

You make a good point, I wasn’t aware you had to register to be covered.
I’m reconsidering my position now, FunnyJunk should probably have registered to begin with. I’m curious to know why they didn’t.

Another thing I’d like to know: in what sense are you outside of the law if you don’t register with the copyright office, exactly? Does that mean your website is automatically illegal and should be taken down? Does it mean you just lose all protections against copyright claims (i.e. no fair use defense, etc.)?

LDoBe (profile) says:

Re:

I also want to point out that a DMCA take-down notice is a form of legal threat: when filing such a notice, it is implied that a lawsuit will follow should the DMCA notice be ignored. And the Oatmeal did post an article in which it was considering this option. FunnyJunk over-reacted but was not way off when they said the Oatmeal wanted to sue them.

This is an intellectually dishonest statement. By your own admission, a DMCA req. means that the Oatmeal (TOA) wants to sue FunnyJunk (FJ). But TOA didn’t send one, and asked his community if it would be a good idea. Therefore, claiming that TOA wanted to sue FJ is incorrect, and possibly libel or slander in itself, since all you can glean from that particular quote is that he considered suing, not the he wanted to sue.
In addition, you’re misrepresenting TOA, since he claims he doesn’t want to get into a legal battle in the first place.

I don’t want to get tied up in courtroom nonsense.–Matt Inman

And a few days later in his rebuttal in response to FJ’s alarmist overreaction to Matt’s request to have the uncredited comics taken down:

To the users of FunnyJunk: I never had plans to sue FunnyJunk and get it shut down; I just wanted my stolen comics removed

You sir, are the one who might be guilty of slander.

But I do agree that it’s messy not going through the proper legal channels. I don’t think bullying has anything to do with it though.

jacques of france says:

Let me sum it up. Techdirt always insisted on the facts that:
A- Copyright infringement is not theft
B- User-generated content services can’t be liable for non-induced infrigement by their users
Which is entirely true IMO

But then, that comic strips artist writes a (totally serious) blog post in which he says FJ “have practically stolen [his] entire website and mirrored it” Read this and tell me it’s “obviously humorous”: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/funnyjunk

Calling someone a thief when he’s not IS defamation. When the MAFIAA calls a website a thief it does no direct harm (as long as there are no lawsuits) because the audience doesn’t care about them. But when a person with influence on the web audience say “these guys are robbing me!”, this is serious trouble. Defamation+Harm=Lawsuit.

If Justin Beiber (or some other mainstream celeb) had said, talking about youtube “they steal my content”, because of users uploading videos exclusive to his website(I guess he have that), Techdirt would have ridiculed him and rightly so!

Even though funnyjunk admin overreacted (you’re never pleased being called a thief), it seems like you’re having double standards. Beware of any loss of credibility, Techdirt, you need it to spread some important messages.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

meh a few differences. One stuff uploaded to funnyjunk purposely has attribution ripped off, e.g. the oatmeal.com line at the bottom of his pictures. By users or the site idk or care. But no “piracy site” has ever tried to claim they made Avatar.

They have not registered their dmca agent.

When Inman wrote about them instead of asking their users to look for and remove his content they lied and said he threatened them and asked users to spam him.

They try to sue him despite knowing they have hundreds of his comics on their site. They removed the thousands of links he lists and claim they never existed and then quickly remove the hundreds of links he provides in his response letter. You could try to say they were just doing what he asked but they are only doing it to further their legal bullshit, he provided the owner with a list of all his comics and their locations back when all this started, he could have easily just removed them then.

Also it started with an author complaining they had all his content. Not a trade organization suing FJ without even reaching out to them first.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“I’m open to the possibility that I’m missing something here and this should actually be considered an opinion, but so far I don’t see it.”

If you go to a blog that is used by the author to express humor and opinion what you read their will be humorous and based on opinion.

Any other interpretation would be on-par with suing the Onion for false news reports or slander/def.

If he said that in a NY times editorial it would be one thing saying it on a humor blog is entirely different. Context is everything, its his opinion of what is going on not a supposedly fact checked journalistic news piece.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Now here’s the kicker: from what I understand, the Oatmeal did not submit a proper DMCA notice. Here are some quotes that indicate so:

“To the admin of FunnyJunk: I put together a list of all my comics which you can download here and use to remove the remainder of the stolen material. “

That’s not how it works.”

What you have quoted is Inman’s response to FJ’s response to Inman’s original article. So it is not how his first attempt to remove content from FJ went, or indicative of whatever happened when he did have that first batch of content removed. He just left that there for FJ to do what they pleased with and washed his hands and walked away from the whole incident.

Karl (profile) says:

Re:

in what sense are you outside of the law if you don’t register with the copyright office, exactly? Does that mean your website is automatically illegal and should be taken down? Does it mean you just lose all protections against copyright claims (i.e. no fair use defense, etc.)?

It means that you do not have automatic immunity from copyright infringement charges. It does not mean that you are guilty of infringement.

You can still raise any and all other defenses to copyright infringement (fair use, etc). In fact, if the only thing you did was not register a DMCA agent, but followed the law in every other way, the judge will probably find you innocent anyway. (See the Rapidshare case.) I don’t know why anyone would risk it, however, especially if they’re a U.S. company.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Funnyjunk isn't entirely wrong

Coward, we see what you are doing.

You’re equating the “little guy” complaining about “infringement” (neither taking down nor suing) with the RIAA/MPAA going on a full legal barrage to take stuff down, putting people in jail for the same perceived “infringement”.

Then you are equating community “jumping on” (threatening with defamation) the RIAA/MPAA for that completely hostile and aggressive behavior, to FunnyJunk going full-on legal with accusations of defamation against that same “little guy” because he dared say something about it.

RIAA going nuclear =/= Oatmeal voicing their opinion
FunnyJunk going nuclear =/= the community voicing their opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Carreon pulled his contact info from his website today. I quess he can’t take the pressure.

http://digitallife.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/12/12187665-cartoonist-turns-lawsuit-threat-into-100k-charity-fundraiser

The poor fellow just walked into spinning blades of the Streisand Effect and has felt their wrath. I sure hope his client dragged him kicking and screaming into this lawsuit and he didn’t advise them to advance the case. It would be nearly criminal stupidity to have advised that. This is turning into a million dollars of bad publicity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Yeah it ain’t an official DMCA but FunnyJunk didn’t have a stated person to submit a DMCA to.

So he was annoyed with the system and vented on his blog about the situation and did nothing else. A year later FunnyJunk’s lawyer wakes the sleeping giant who probably has a better case against FunkyJunk than they have against him. He still avoids going to court, ridicules FunkyJunk, it’s lawyer and makes over a hundred grand for charity doing it. Full points for style there.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re:

Comment from Ken at Popehat, who sides with The Oatmeal on this and includes the following quotes from Marc Randazza:

I have known Charles for a few years, and know him to be one of the good guys. I did ask him “what the fuck were you thinking?” when I first saw his letter.

I can not find any words to defend trying to shut the fundraiser down. I can’t even gin up a minor benefit of the doubt on that one. I can see an ill-considered demand as a mistake in judgment while hoping to gain an advantage for your client. But taking a shot at the fundraiser would not do that ? it would just be lashing out to hurt bears and cancer patients? Holy fucking shitballs inside a burning biplane careening toward the Statue of Liberty, Captain! I hope that the reporter merely got the story wrong, because if not, that’s more fucked up than a rhino raping a chinchilla while dressed up in unicorns’ undergarments.

DandonTRJ (profile) says:

Re:

Problem: What, exactly, is Funnyjunk “fighting off” with The Oatmeal? He specifically said he had no interest in going to court, and he’s not the kind of entrenched player with lobbying clout to put ICE on the job. All he did was slam their business model using colorful language. He never accused them of a crime; at best, he accused them of acquiescence to their users’ activities and dragging their feet on addressing the rampant infringement on the site. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with pointing that out, even if it’s not illegal.

There’s a Grand Canyon’s worth of difference at being “very sensitive” about accusations (from a layman who had no interest in suing, mind you — not the government or anyone in a position to “seize” their domain) and threatening suit to stifle someone’s freedom of speech. So, no. Funnyjunk ain’t in the right here, and your last statement is absolutely horrifying from a personal liberty and freedom of speech standpoint. I suggest you rethink your position very carefully.

Colin (user link) says:

Re:

I thought this was the best part:

He ended the conversation with a promise to keep me updated on how things are resolved and on whether he takes any legal action against the folks who have been harassing him since Inman’s “BearLove Good Cancer Bad” fundraising campaign started.

Yaaaay more legal action!

I also enjoyed:

“I really did not expect that he would marshal an army of people who would besiege my website and send me a string of obscene emails,” he says.

“Sure, a year ago we told people to contact him, and even gave out contact links on how they could do so. But the absurdity of his supporters doing that to us?!”

bratwurzt (profile) says:

Re:

Go somewhere else if you think soft trolling works here. We can read here and we can also separate shit from gold.

I don’t like funnyjunk, BUT…

How is that relevant – what you like? Or are you trying to “FOX balance” your reply?

And this is not presented as opinion but as fact. And if it is untrue, then it’s slander.

Really? Why is that – I read it as a joke. A funny comic. Opinion, mixed with awesomeness. And here you are – stating an opinion of artists intentions as a fact. Irony much?

FunnyJunk does their best to comply

Really? Admin posted lies to their forums after Oatmeal first post. Backlash from funnyjunk users. Oatmeal posts links into a reply. FunnyJunk removes them (and just that) and them replies that it(infrigment) is not true – these links are dead!

You’re putting a lot of lipstick onto a very ugly pig. (or phrase “their best” is meant to be sarcastic)

If Oatmeal is the bully here, it’s bullying a crackdealer across the street from school.

Stig Rudeholm (profile) says:

Copying is not theft

I absolutely love The Oatmeal, but I have to say that I’m not a fan of Inman talking about “content theft” as that concept is quite ridiculous in this context. Copying is not theft. As far as I know, when someone posts a The Oatmeal comic on another site, that comic does not magically disappear from theoatmeal.com.

Attribution is quite another matter though, and personally, I think it is much more important than copyright.

If I were in Inman’s shoes, this is what I would have done:

* I would relax about my content being monetized by someone else in this way. A dollar earned by someone else on advertising on another site does not equal a dollar lost by me.
* I would sometimes upload material to FJ myself. If FJ gets millions of visitors, I’d try to convert some of them to fans.
* I would ask my fans to give proper attribution, and linking, when sharing my stuff on other sites.

I’m not saying that the FJ people have done nothing wrong here, but Inman has certainly also crossed some lines himself.

Daniel (profile) says:

Why?

Is it getting to the stage where someone with a good talent, makes a living of selling his cartoons online, has to be an expert in law?

You’re expecting Inmam to follow DMCA processes, when it’s clear the opposing party doesn’t.

I completely understand his side of the argument, FJ are using his content, and making money off it, it’s as simple as that, he shouldn’t have to be an expert in law, FJ hosts a *lot* of content, none of it is original (theirs) it’s all user submitted, so they should be making it *very* easy to get stuff removed.

Victor says:

Re:

I also want to point out that what FunnyJunk is threatening to sue about is a year old post. After that has the Oatmeal continued to pressure them with these unofficial requests? Nope. Fast forward to this year, it just seems like greed pure and simple since instead of asking the Oatmeal to just remove the age old post, they also officially demand $20,000.

Somehow they applied the same ficitious formula of the MPAA and RIAA to justify some lost revenue over a period of months from having that post sitting there.

Oh and let’s not forget that the Admin in FunnyJunk posted a message to all the site users saying that they were threatened to be sued and to contact the Oatmeal to complain. What has the Oatmeal done to directly incite a mob? NOTHING. Just a rebuttal post in defense of that lie and with this latest sign of litigation bullying from FunnyJunk he sets up a charity fundraiser.

nasch (profile) says:

Funnyjunk isn't entirely wrong

He spoke the truth, that is a defense to any defamation claim. They took his IP without attributing it to him. They lose. It’s literally that simple.

I’m not saying the defamation claim has any legs. But if he said that somebody “stole” his comics, that is not factually accurate. His comics were copied, not stolen. His intellectual property rights were infringed; his intellectual property was not taken from him.

hobo says:

Re: Why?

My response to Daniel is in regards to his statement that: “Is it getting to the stage where someone with a good talent, makes a living of selling his cartoons online, has to be an expert in law?”

“Expert” may be going a bit too far but my point was that it would indeed be quite useful to understand the laws and regs surrounding your profession if you are a sole-proprietor.

I was not responding to anything regarding a DCMA notice.

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