Arstechnica has an update on the copyright-fight between The Oatmeal and Funnyjunk.com which is basically an ad-covered site of funny-stuff-found-elsewhere on the web and re-posted on funnyjunk. The hep new eBaum's World of 2011, if you will. Remember them? They had flameout fests with other websites over stolen content a few times, a (failed) pilot for their own TV-show, before selling out for 15 million dollars.
(image above is from The Oatmeal's how God is managing the 2011 Rapture which depicts him stuck in Windows-hell)
The digital advocacy group Public Knowledge sees the entire controversy as a Viacom v. YouTube battle in miniature. Inman doesn't really agree; he notes that his entire comics are usually copied, while much of the material on sites like YouTube was clips.
Still, similarities certainly exist. Content owners have long complained that the DMCA requires them to do too much work policing their own content, especially when other users can simply upload more clips as old ones are taken down. But the difference here is the smaller scale of the dispute, and the general lack of lawyers. These kinds of small skirmishes will help to create a set of social norms around content production and use on the Internet—which may be just as important as IP laws and court cases when it comes to shaping people's behavior.
"Situations like this one are important to consider," wrote staff attorney John Bergmayer. "Online copyright issues aren’t always David vs. Goliath (or Goliath vs. Goliath) affairs. Many important issues involving smaller players will never make it to the court system and set legal precedents, but they’re important in setting societal norms and expectations about the use of content.
"Lots of independent creators like Matthew Inman are faced with situations where neither the law nor what is actually happening is entirely clear. By the same token, many entirely legitimate online services face legal uncertainty. One way to make the law better and more predictable might be to re-align it so that it matches peoples’ expectations. And sometimes the best way to determine what those expectations are is to pay attention to situations like this one and not just the high-profile cases making their way through the appellate process."
As a bonus, the dispute here is more colorful than those high-profile lawsuits and is refreshingly full of the plain speech so often obfuscated by legal filings and public relations needs.
"I never had plans to sue FunnyJunk and get it shut down," Inman said in a statement to FunnyJunk's users. "I just wanted my stolen comics removed—your admin is a moron who chooses his words about as carefully as a mule chooses where to take a shit."
Update: In the comments section of his blog yesterday, Inman added a brief update: "The owner of FunnyJunk made it so the site changes all instances of 'The Oatmeal' to 'the fag,' and none of the stolen material I mentioned was taken down."
Perhaps Funnyjunk.com is just waiting for their TV-pilot offer. It'll be called "funnyjunk: you should see a Doctor about that".