The Oatmeal and Funnyjunk: The Streisand Effect Strikes Again!

Once again, we have copyright issues in the online world.  This time, it’s beloved Internet comic Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal’s fight against, who misappropriated some of his work without proper credit.

The lawyer in this fight, Charles Carreon, has blown it up so much that it is now ridiculous.  Read Inman’s original response to Carreon’s action here.   Basically, Funnyjunk hired him to file a federal lawsuit against Inman, despite his right to ask them to take down the unattributed material.  He decided to raise money for charities instead of paying a threatened $20,000 fine.

Now, Carreon is suing the charities Inman has been raising money for.  Is this even A THING?  What is the matter with this guy?

BoingBoing has this post dated yesterday, June 19, 2012, in which Inman tells Carreon to “calm down.” Yeah, he needs to.  So does everyone else.

People, if you want to protest something, do it respectfully.  You won’t be heard if you act like a jerkass and flood someone with threats, harassment, and crap.

A small search turned up some contact information for Carreon, but I won’t reproduce it here.  I did write this email.

Dear Mr. Carreon,

As a writer with two blogs, I am indeed concerned about online copyright issues.  However, in this matter regarding Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal and, I’m not sure you know how the Internet works.

You are now the victim of something called the Streisand Effect. You can look this up at Wikipedia, but basically, it’s when someone’s actions call more attention to themselves than the original issue did in the first place.  I’m truly sorry people have been harassing you.  The Internet can be a very unforgiving place.  People forget their manners there.


Matt Inman is an artist who publishes online.  It’s common practice for users to share material.  If this is an issue, the users and the site that reproduces it are in the wrong.  He merely asked Funnyjunk to take down the material they reproduced without attribution.  I would do the same if my posts were copied on someone’s site, generating profit without my permission.  He has a right to do this.  He also has a right to pursue them if they don’t comply.

Your client did not comply.  Until the Streisand Effect kicked in.

Now, you are taking the fallout.  Your continued actions in filing suit against the charities Inman is taking donations for have made you into the bad guy.  These tactics, not Mr. Inman’s rebuttal, have hurt your credibility.

If I have a case involving your area of expertise, I seriously doubt I would ever engage your services.  I will not recommend anyone I know do so either.  You may think I’m nobody and that I don’t matter.  Perhaps now, but in concert with thousands of other voices, I do make a little noise.  Anyway, Mr. Inman is very well loved and respected as an artist, so count me in as one of his outraged supporters.

My advice to you is to drop these suits before you permanently damage your credibility.  I will be publishing this letter on my blog, so if my email bounces back, it will be seen regardless.

If you have a sensible rebuttal, I’d love to hear it.  I’d be happy to publish it here for you.  I’m all about fairness. You could sue me despite my right to communicate with you and post my opinion online, while linking to sources about this now public issue.  But I don’t have any money, so it would kind of be a waste of time.

I hope you’ll consider my words.   Thank you.

Elizabeth West

Yeah, he could sue me.  Is it worth the further damage to his reputation?  Maybe.  There’s no recompense there, because I have nothing to sue for.  Should I take the risk to protest this treatment of a fellow artist?


Bottom line:

  • You have a right to ask someone to take down unauthorized reproductions of your work, or to properly credit you for it.

This is probably the best initial action to take, since copyright crap has gotten so fuzzy and overblown.  Chances are some random blogger doesn’t know how to cite.  You can help him/her learn this.

  • Don’t threaten or harass people.  All that does is make you look like a jerk.  Yes, even lawyers.   Be the hell polite.
  • Don’t go all Streisand (I’m sorry, Barbra, it’s just that you did it first) on people. You can deal with issues without overreacting or causing the fallout to land on you.

And finally:

  • Please take a moment to calm down before you act.  Sending this lawyer nasty threats to the point where he had to take down his contact page does not make the people who did so any better than him.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  throwing rocks means people stop listening to you.

If you would like to donate to the charities Matthew Inman has specified, you may do so at this link.  They are legit, I promise.

4 thoughts on “The Oatmeal and Funnyjunk: The Streisand Effect Strikes Again!

    • Yep. No biggie. But I guess they got all butthurt about getting caught out.

      Many bloggers, especially new ones, don’t know how to properly reproduce and cite media. I did the same thing when I started, though now I’ve learned and am in the process of fixing this on my own blog. A polite “Hey, this is my stuff, can you either put a link to my site or take it off? Thanks,” shouldn’t be answered with the legal equivalent of thumbing your nose at someone. Funnyjunk should know better.

  1. Pingback: Gym Allegedly Threatens To Call Police On Blogger For Blogging That Its Prices Were A Bit High | Techdirt « Ye Olde Soapbox

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