BTB #309: Copyright & The Cartoonist

Kirsty MelvilleFrom his studio in Seattle, “The Oatmeal” cartoonist-humorist Matthew Inman posts online his views on everything from Sriracha hot sauce to designs for “how a movie theater should be laid out.” But when he discovered his work re-posted to Funnyjunk, an advertising-supported Web aggregator for “funniest things,” without links or attribution, he took the matter very seriously.

At the Yale Publishing Course on Monday, Kirsty Melville, President and Publisher, Andrews McMeel Universal, told CCC’s Christopher Kenneally that as Inman’s publisher, she saw the issue as one of fairness. “In the world of the Internet where so much is free and available, I think the etiquette is at least to acknowledge the origination of the content, and that’s really all Matthew was trying to do,” she said.

Inman is among numerous highly-regarded cartoonists in the Andrews McMeel catalog, including Garry Trudeau and Bill Watterson. Many – but not all — agree to seeing their work published online as well as in print, said Melville, who described a paradox of content on the Internet – “When you can’t find it, you steal it, as opposed to when it’s available, you will buy it,” she explained. “When people go to search, instead of finding the BitTorrent site that’s stolen the content, they can see that it’s available for sale…We want you to buy it, we want to make it available to you, and we want to make it easy.”

As Forbes reported earlier this month, Funnyjunk replied to Inman’s caustic postings with threats of a defamation lawsuit that only spurred Inman to further anti-infringement activism. Earlier this month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who defended Inman, announced the defamation suit was dropped – and more than $200,000 was raised for various charities from Inman’s global fanbase.

The Yale Publishing Course (YPC) offers mid to senior-level publishing professionals from all over the world access to industry experts and a cutting-edge curriculum focusing on the most crucial areas in publishing. During the week-long programs in book and magazine & digital publishing, YPC participants learn new leadership skills and develop their global network and perspective. Follow YPC on Twitter #YPC2012

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