Copyright, Defamation, Intellectual Property, Lawsuit of the Day

Potential Lawsuit of the Day: War of the Web Comics

An unfortunate reality of the modern era seems to be that if you stick around creating online content long enough — doesn’t matter what it is — eventually, someone will decide to sue you. It makes no difference if you are a legal blogger or the creator of hilariously nerdy web comics.

Our inbox has been exploding the last few days with tips about The Oatmeal, a popular web comic, facing what appears to be a pretty absurd defamation lawsuit. The lawsuit in and of itself looks fairly spurious, but the best part is the author’s animated response.

Let’s take a look at our Potential Lawsuit of the Day, which serves as a good reminder that if you want to win an online argument, don’t get mad, get funny…

Tipsters have been coming out of the woodwork asking us to cover the story:

FunnyJunk is demanding $20K in damages from The Oatmeal in what could be one of the more frivolous copyright and defamation cases I have seen recently. This is a great example of a comedic blogger making the most of an annoying legal situation.

Another tipster simply wrote: “Why you don’t send a demand letter to a cartoonist.”

If you are not familiar with The Oatmeal (which readers use to refer to both the website itself and its author, Matthew Inman), here are a few links to some of his comics to get you started:

In any case, the website recently received a demand letter from FunnyJunk, a website that Inman claimed (almost a year ago) had reposted a bunch of his comics. In that original post, Inman also made fun of his subject, as comic strip illustrators tend to do. According to the Oatmeal’s new comic, the letter demands $20,000 in damages due to alleged defamation based on the Oatmeal’s “false accusation of willful copyright infringement.”

I wish there was some way to verbally describe the Oatmeal’s response, but all I can say is it involves a picture of a pterodactyl; the line, “Nice evidence, jackass. Your lawyer = A+”; and some pretty fantastic diagrams. Here is a link to the Oatmeal’s full cartoon response.

Not only does the Oatmeal post include an extensive list of comics still hosted on FunnyJunk (until yesterday, when the site took them down, prompting the Oatmeal to add an update to his post), but he also lays on massive doses of snark, like this:

It will be interesting to see if FunnyJunk still tries to push ahead with the lawsuit, or if it drops the issue like the hot potato bowl of porridge it is.

FunnyJunk is threatening to file a federal lawsuit against me unless I pay $20,000 in damages [The Oatmeal]

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