Archive for June 14th, 2012
The Oatmeal is a sometimes lame, sometimes amusing, sometimes sophomoric webcomic. It’s drawn by Seattle, Washington’s Matthew Inman. It’s not an advertising bucket; whatever money Inman makes is made from his shop.
Inman was annoyed that a site called FunnyJunk had hundreds of copies of his art, and used it and other people’s work to sell advertising. No, WC isn’t going to provide a link to FunnyJunk, although it’s easy enough to find. You’ll see why.
He complained, as The Oatmeal does, with a badly drawn cartoon.
Someone, maybe the owner, maybe not, responded with an invite to FunnyJunk’s readers to bury The Oatmeal in harassing messages.
There things sat for a year or so. Then, apparently, The Oatmeal got a threatening letter from Charles Carreeon, an internet lawyer who gives bad lawyers a bad name. He’s best known for the sex.com litigation, and tries to leverage that case and an evil reputation. He wrote a demand on behalf of FunnyJunk to the Oatmeal, claiming slander and libel. And demanded $20,000.
The Oatmeal responded, as The Oatmeal does, with a cartoon. He sensibly refused to pay the extortion demand. Stupidly, he violated Coghill’s Law – Never Get in a Pissing Contest with a Skunk – but cleverly he opened a social funding project at indiegogo.com to raise $20,000, pledging half to the National Wildlife Federation and half to the American Cancer Society. “Bears Good; Cancer Bad.”
In the first few hours, he raised $77,000.
That’s cool. A bit dangerous, waving all of that green in front of a lawyer who works on a no-doubt stiff contingency fee, but still cool. Sending the bear cartoon to Carreeon or the owners of FunnyJunk, LLC? Not so cool.
But seriously, in FunnyJunk you have a site that makes its ad revenue from unfiltered, unmediated content. FunnyJunk doesn’t care whose stuff its members post. If a lawful owner complains, FunnyJunk may stir itself to take some of the offending material down. But it’s cockroach content: a site that lives in one of the cracks in U.S. internet law. Living on spilled crumbs of the First Amendment and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FunnyJunk’s business plan is like a pawnshop fence’s: accept everything offered to pawn, and if you get caught with hot goods, give them back. But never ask if they are hot; never volunteer. And turn everything into cash as soon as you can. Hey, it’s a living. It’s not a very nice living. But it’s tough times, right? You may have pay a bit to shady lawyers. Who can threaten extortion to anyone who complains, if they can keep a straight face.
You’d think the digital equivalent of a crooked pawnshop would keep sensibly be quiet. You’d be wrong.
WC wishes The Oatmeal well in his battle with the Forces of Darkness. But WC fears the next social media fundraiser will be for attorneys’ fees.