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Censorship The Courts Your Rights Online

FunnyJunk v. the Oatmeal: Copyright Infringement Complaints As Defamation 286

An anonymous reader writes "Funny as it might sound, FunnyJunk's threat of litigation against The Oatmeal raises a very important issue: the extent to which artists can complain in public about perceived or actual infringement of their works by user-generated content websites. Does it matter if the content creator accused the website of condoning or participating in the infringement?" The short story is this: Numerous Oatmeal comics were posted without permission to FunnyJunk; Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman lambasted FunnyJunk in the form of a blog post. FunnyJunk responded with a suit (or rather the threat of a suit) accusing Inman of willful defamation, unless he ponies up $20,000, which he doesn't plan to do.
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FunnyJunk v. the Oatmeal: Copyright Infringement Complaints As Defamation

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  • by makomk ( 752139 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @09:49AM (#40294847) Journal

    If it's so easy to upload an image, shouldn't there be a responsibility to make it just as easy to take one down?

    Not really. Otherwise you make it far too easy for groups like Scientology to take down material critical of them through untraceable false copyright claims.

  • by Calos ( 2281322 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @09:52AM (#40294881)

    Actually, it seems to be more than that.

    I glanced over the original Oatmeal blog post. He mentions a bunch of other comics that are being ripped off. I followed a link from the blog post to the website, which is a query for "the oatmeal." No results found. So I tried a couple others - Cyanide and Happiness, Calvin and Hobbes... No results. Then I tried just "Calvin." Bunch of results, many of them Calvin and Hobbes, many of them with the name "calvin and hobbes" verbatim in the title and text.

    Unless their search index is just behind from the scrubbing, it looks like they didn't even scrub. They're just gaming the search results.

  • by Daniel_is_Legnd ( 1447519 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @09:58AM (#40294941)
    If you want to support him, go to to his store and buy prints/shirts/coffee mugs.
  • by Theophany ( 2519296 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:04AM (#40294997)
    Hence the manual review process mentioned in the parent. Once it is flagged as copyrighted material, a moderator should check the claim and if the claim is correct, remove the offending item. That way copyright infringement is dealt with both quickly and efficiently, without nutjobs and vandals having the power to remove material for their own gains or agendas.

    Crowd moderation in doing the grunt work - i.e. "I like the material by the author of this and it is being ripped off so I will report it as infringing" is also a fuck ton more fair than expecting copyright owners to police every shitty website on the internet to see if their creative works are being stolen.

    E.g. I like the C&H guys. If I see somebody unfairly using their works, I would report as infringing material. I certainly don't expect them to have the time to police the Internet when they're providing me with entertainment on a daily basis on such modest income means.
  • Goes both ways (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:12AM (#40295071)

    This, "we can post what we want," business goes both ways. FunnyJunk may not have any legal obligation to remove the offending content, but Inman was not lying when he posted his criticism of FunnyJunk. Everything he said was true. His opinion was that these facts made FunnyJunk unethical. He has a right to his opinion and he has the right to express it. FunnyJunk could have just left it at that, "Oh somebody on the internet doesn't like us, and that somebody has a large audience." Instead they decided to threaten to sue for defamation. Here's a hint guys. Defamation suits only work when someone is lying about you. It's like slander and libel. You can't sue somebody for laying out a set of facts and then expressing their opinion about those facts. That's not defamation. Somebody needs to go back to lawyer school.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:17AM (#40295135)

    sure smells like destruction of evidence... And courts tend to take a very dim view of destruction of evidence...

    Deleting the records that show these links existed (the site backups) would be destruction of evidence. Not preserving the backups that would otherwise be deleted in the normal course of business could be considered destruction of evidence once there is an expectation of litigation and discovery.

    Removing the offending links? No, that's not destruction of evidence. You are not required to continue to commit wrongdoing to preserve evidence of that wrongdoing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:36AM (#40295419)

    Not all charities are good. These charities appear to be environmentalist charities. Environmentalist charities do not have a good track record of making intelligent decisions. Heck, lately one of the most famous environmentalist charities (The WWF--who already suck for fighting with the real WWF over the name) explained that unless the earth is in abject poverty we will all perish from environmental problems.

    So, yeah, sometimes donating to charity doesn't help, it hurts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:39AM (#40295457)

    That makes the assumption that The Oatmeal never did anything wrong to begin with.

    FunnyJunk encourages users to upload content from elsewhere on the internet
    FunnyJunk encourages users to violate the copyrights of content producers
    FunnyJunk displays said content with all sorts of advertisment around the content to make money
    FunnyJunk makes it difficult to take down the content
    The Oatmeal creates funny content
    The Oatmeal discovered that significant content of his was on FunnyJunk
    Oatmeal requested from FunnyJunk to purge all of his infringing content from the site (A bulk DMCA request)
    FunnyJunk drags their feet on the requests.
    The Oatmeal puts their feet to the fire by publically shaming them (and pointing out the infringement FJ hosts of other popular properties)
    FunnyJunk discovers that The Oatmeal is more "popular" than their site because of the shaming
    FunnyJunk hires a lawyer to send out a threatining letter with a demand for 20,000 for the harm to their reputation

    At this point the rest of the sequence has been covered. None of this would have happened if FJ had complied with the DMCA request at the rate that YouTube does. At this point it's snowballed to the point that Oatmeal could outright buy FunnyJunk, dismantle it, and then use the URL to host the proper "Funny Stuff" index he implemented called http://bearfood.com/

  • by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:44AM (#40295525) Homepage

    Atlas Shrugged [wikipedia.org] -- How middle/upper class white men convince themselves that doing anything for other people is morally wrong.

  • by jiteo ( 964572 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:56AM (#40295707)


    TheOatmeal: angry and funny blog post to vent about FunnyJunk stealing his and others' comics

    TheOatmeal: no actual DMCA takedown notices filed.
    RIAA: file ALL the notices!

    FunnyJunk, to users: harass the shit out of TheOatmeal!
    YouTube: K, I'm gonna take obey every takedown notice.

    FunnyJunk: SUE THEOATMEAL!
    YouTube: Shit, we're getting sued by RIAA Viacom. Oh hey, let's start Vevo.

    TheOatmeal: WTF they want HOW much? BEARS AND CANCER AND CHARITY!
    RIAA: Uh, we're still not making as much money as we want. Who else can we sue?

  • by spicate ( 667270 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @12:43PM (#40297239)

    No. Socialism is force & operates based upon fear of the government (jail time). Charity is voluntary, and a reflection of a person's true character.

    Wow, what a thought-free bit of propaganda.

    Socialism is a way of distributing goods and services, maintained by the rule of law. Capitalism is a way of distributing goods and services, maintained by the rule of law. Break the rules of either, and you will (in theory) end up in jail.

    In practice, people cheat, and sometimes they get away with it.

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @01:03PM (#40297603) Homepage Journal

    I don't think this is a lawyer to take seriously.

    Maybe the whole "conflict" is to not take seriously, and is a conspiratorial hoax between oatmeal and funnyjunk. Or rather, those are the puppets and this is really a conspiracy between the puppetmasters: National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. What if this is all just an attempt to wipe out cancer in bears, thereby removing this important check on their population, so that they are finally able to overrun North America? I, for one, welcome our new ursine overlords.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @01:31PM (#40298079)

    It all comes down to tacit consent, it really is all about the threat of force, there are no purely voluntary societies.

    Thus, the threat of force is irrelevant to the discussion of Socialism.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle