This one will be short and sweet, because (ironically, as you will see), other lawyers have already created excellent content which I want to share with you. An excellent content-provider site of which you may be aware, The Oatmeal, has recently been involved in what is best described as a feud with content reproducing website, FunnyJunk (which does not deserve a link), a site which generates over 10 million hits each day.
Short story long, the owner/operator of The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman, wrote a blog post deriding FunnyJunk for blithely mirroring virtually The Oatmeal’s entire website on its site and reaping advertising dollars all the way:
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 artists’ stolen material
Inman concluded by concisely summing up the current state of Internet copyright enforcement: “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, 50 other clones would pop up to take its place overnight, but I felt I had to say something about what they’re doing.” And really, Inman just wants attribution, “Just proper attribution; just give me a link!” he told ArsTechnica.
FunnyJunk whined that it’s content was uploaded by third-party users (true) and so it wasn’t responsible. Inman noted that even a DCMA takedown notice would likely be ineffective since other users would just re-upload the content (also true). Things went back and forth and all around the Internet.
Eventually, FunnyJunk lawyered up, hiring attorney Charles Carreon, who demanded all manner of things, including that an online fundraiser for The Oatmeal (and some worthy charities) be shut down for vague but ultimately nonsensical issues Carreon raised. Indie GoGo, the host of the fundraiser, flatly refused to shut it down, since there was nothing wrong with it, and Inman lawyered up.
Inman’s lawyer sent a well-written and researched response to Carreon, who has hopefully ended his ill-considered crusade against a beloved Internet cartoonist.
The lesson is clear. On the Internet, unless you have truly deep pockets, and often even then, the court of public opinion can be every bit as important as any court of law.