18 Jun 2012
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'The Oatmeal' in copyright stoush

By Mike Borgfeldt

Online comic artist The Oatmeal, aka Matthew Inman, has become embroiled in a battle with content aggregator site Funnyjunk, in a stoush that lays bare questions of content ownership in the online world.

The trouble has been brewing for over a year, since Inman became fed up with having his content posted on the site without attribution and posted an angry blog post, criticising Funnyjunk’s business model and asking his fans what he should do about it.

However, before he could even act on any of their recommendations, the site’s managers responded by mobilising their fan base to flood Inman with abusive messages.

While some of Inman’s comics were removed from Funnyjunk, many more remained, leading Inman to create a list and ask again to have the content removed.

Now, around a year later, Funnyjunk has hired lawyer Charles Carreon and served Inman with legal papers claiming defamation, and demanding the removal of his posts criticising the site along with US$20,000 in damages.

In response, Inman has launched a campaign to raise the money from fans, donate it to charity, and inform Funnyjunk of this action by sending them a photo of the money, along with a cartoon depicting one of their mothers seducing a Kodiak bear.

The campaign has so far raised a massive $177,000, and has been followed up with a more traditional response in the form of a letter from Inman’s lawyer, Venkat Balasubramani, confirming (if it wasn’t clear enough)that Inman won’t ‘cave in’ to the legal pressure.

It’s great that Inman has taken the fight to Funnyjunk, and that internet users have shown their support. Inman says 100% of the money raised will go to charity, but he’s left Funnyjunk in no doubt as to what sort of backing he has should the case go to court.

Funnyjunk themselves could have a hefty war chest, so there’s no guarantee they’ll back down; however, if they choose to fight it’ll be a real shame, as the legal battle could drag on, and Inman has indicated that all he wants to do is keep making comics – something he is very, very good at.

Check out the progress of the ‘BearLove Good, Cancer Bad’ campaign here.

Image: Thinkstock

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