Jamba Juice accused of stealing "Get Your War On" artist's work - Update: Jamba responds, GYWO calls for boycott

"No Justice, No Juice" is the rallying cry of those joining the fight to support the popular webcomic "Get Your War On," after an aparrent ripoff in an ad campaign for the American juice franchise Jamba Juice.

BB guestblogger Carrie McLaren blogged about the controversy here last week. More about the uh, creative similarities on GYWO artist David Rees' website here.

Jamba Juice has issued a response, but it's pathetic:

Jamba Juice would like to expressly communicate that the Summer Bliss promotion was not intended to imply any affiliation with Mr. Rees, Mr. Rees' endorsement of Jamba Juice and its products, or Jamba Juice's endorsement of Mr. Rees' work."

Jambattorneys, if you're reading, here's why that's pathetic: what's at issue isn't that people think Rees "endorses Jamba Juice and its products" (he says he "prefers wine") but that to my non-lawyer eyes, Jamba Juice appears to have ripped of Rees' well-established body of work.

I don't know if what Jamba did is illegal or not, I just know it seems unfair and uncool.

Snip from Rees' step-by-step analysis of the Jamba campaign (a sample ad is inset, below):

# The clip art is public domain, of course, anyone can do anything with it ... but check out the word balloons! JAMBA JUICE TOTALLY BIT MY GYWO WORD BALLOON STYLE! Rounded-edge text box with single line pointing to mouth? I developed that in 2001 using Quark XPress 4!!! THAT'S MY SHIT!!! Jamba Juice, you're a bunch of BALLOON-BITERS.

# First person to sue Jamba Juice on my behalf CAN KEEP ALL THE MONEY. All I care about is destroying Jamba Juice and their overpriced dumb-ass juices. EAT A PIECE OF FRUIT, you morons, you're missing most of the fiber.

Look, IANAL, but it doesn't take a lawyer to smell something fishy in the wheatgrass. There's even a Get Your War On book, for cryin' out loud. Lazy ad agencies, if you're gonna copy someone's work without credit, at least pick on lesser-known, web-only artists whose work hasn't been online for 8 years. They're easier targets.

I'd like to see Jamba Juice apologize and buy David Rees a box of chardonnay, then call it a day.(thanks, Sean Bonner)

Update: Cory weighs in on the controversy.


  1. Well, he can’t really claim they stole his artwork, since it’s just clip art (presumably in the public domain). His word balloon style is the only tangible creative thing that he can cling to.

  2. I love GYWO and I love Jamba. Can’t we just go burn the advertising firm to the ground and call it even?

  3. “EAT A PIECE OF FRUIT, you morons, you’re missing most of the fiber.”

    Also, Jamba is blended so its a combination of juices and blended fruit and ice so you really get all the fiber in the added fruit.

  4. Mmmmmm, I love Jamba Juice. And to think I would have never heard of it without BB! I am buying it every day now!

    Thank you bOING bOING!

  5. Look, a clarification for people who seem to get caught up in the copyright aspect here.

    No one, not even the GYWO guy, is saying that this ad is illegal or violated copyright in any way. All the art involved is in the public domain.

    What has many people upset is that while this is legal it is also an obvious rip-off of the GYWO visual style. Same clip-art, same word balloons, same everything. For Jamba Juice to do that and then to deny that they have is a dickish thing to do.

    So people are upset with Jamba Juice for being no-talent classless dicks. Not due to any belief that they have done something illegal.

  6. The only way this could have have been a lazier steal – is if they had called it ‘Get your juice on’. . .

  7. Does anyone else find it ironic that a guy who makes cartoons using other people’s artwork is outraged that someone else is making cartoons using other people’s artwork? (yes I understand the concept of royalty free clip art)

    And then claims copyright on a style of word balloon???

    If this is a publicity stunt, well done. If this is genuine artistic outrage, you’re not the first person to make clip art say stuff with crappy voice bubbles. I was doing that in elementary school.

    BTW My Fighting Technique is Unstoppable is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

  8. I can see that Jamba (or well, their advertising agency at least) clearly ripped off his work, but halfway through his over the top rant I just stopped caring.

  9. How is a ripoff “style” different from a derivative work, exactly?

    Boingboing (and David Rees) really should of attended the Remix lecture tour earlier this year by Professor Lawrence Lessig, artist Shepard Fairey, and author Steve Johnson. I did, and I even learned about it from BoingBoing.

    It seems like the main gripe is less that David Rees’s “style” (a vague term anyway, and something I argue is unownable) was remixed. But that it was remixed by a business.

    Slippery slope here gang. Probably best to just step off, and be flattered that the work was recognized.

  10. Damages are going to be hard to prove. The used GYWO book is selling at Amazon for a penny. Non-story.

  11. Can he prove that it is a derivative of his work?

    And I thought we want people freely sharing creative elements and appropriating it for other uses?

  12. It’s just low class – no, make that No Class – to steal someone’s idea, lay-out and phrases and then not even have the guts to apologize.
    Apparently everyone from the banking industry on down really and truly believes that if you don’t admit it, you didn’t do it.

  13. At least he doesn’t have grounds to sue. I don’t want to live in a world where people can sue each other for copyright violation with public domain works.

  14. Sigh. Did they copy one of his strips’ dialogue? I love GYWO, but it’s an enterprise defined by its lack of proprietary visual character. Throwing this fit makes Rees look less like an ironic post-modern cartoonist, and more like an IP squatter. Is it dickish? Yes. Is it actionable? Give me a break.

  15. Remarkable…JJuice excoriated for imitating an imitation! Scandal! Balloon lines riped-off. P.S. get real.

  16. This is a very interesting thing. Jamba ripped off GYWO but just about everything about GYWO is public domain clip art. David Rees established an original work of art using public domain clip art and Jamba copied his “style” wholesale for their advertising campaign, without all the “m*th#rf@ck#rs”.

    Now, if Jamba had included those, Rees would definitely have a legal case.

    The originality of Rees’ work is not really the word balloons but the idea of a clip art sequential cartoon and his writing. He created a totality that has added value to public domain material. Jamba has now taken that added value that Rees produced and appropriated it for their own use. It’s hair-splitting time.

  17. aren’t there like a dozen cartoonists working in this style? Why is this an affront to GYWO in particular? (I’m not familiar with the comic, so I really don’t get it.)

  18. Might be good publicity for him—-he’s mostly preaching to a small internet choir (I know there’s a book) Good luck with the boycott (they never work)

  19. I never understand why the companies that get caught up in this stuff (because it’s always some ad agency doing this, pitching to someone clueless person in the company) never leverage off it? Why don’t they team up with GYWO, he gets coin, they get good publicity (which is kind of the point with advertising)? Instead it’s always clone lawyer army (seriously, if you’ve heard one lawyer speak you’ve heard them all – I’ve heard zombies with a more colourful range).

  20. I think Rees might actually be able to claim that they ripped off his artwork. Granted, it’s clip art, but the Jamba Juice ad uses the exact same pieces of artwork that Rees used, cropped in the exact same manner. In other words, the ad copies the changes Rees made to the clip art, not the original clip art itself. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if Rees did want to sue, he might have a case.

    They should’ve just hired Rees to do the ad. Not only would it have been the right thing to do, they would have gotten a funnier ad out of it.

    Propnomicon @8, did you not notice the word “update” in the post title?

  21. I’d like to point out that it is disingenuous to paste only half of the PR blurb. The first half talks about the artist they used and why. You make it sound like they just put out that dull legalese CYA.

  22. Exactly, Gmoke. The images are public domain, but his arrangement of them is copyrightable as a derivative work. He’d have a bit of a time in court, as they haven’t actually copied any of his comics, though; they’ve copied the style of them, but not the actual strips that he made.

    Regardless, he’s clear on not wanting to sue (and I don’t blame him); he just wants Jamba Juice to quit acting like jerks.

    (And by the way, anyone with a blender and access to a grocery store can make their own delicious, healthy smoothies at home. I have one for breakfast most mornings.)

  23. The claim that dialogue balloons with a line at the bottom to indicate the speaker was invented by Rees is absurd. Here is an example by George Herriman…

    George Herriman’s Krazy Kat with Rees’ “GYWO balloon style

    I find it hard to believe that someone who creates a comic actually thinks he invented a “style” of dialogue balloons. A claim like this shows a profound level of ignorance of the medium he is working in.

    Public domain material belongs to everyone. If you want to own something, create it yourself the old fashioned way. Become an artist and draw it yourself.

    There are plenty of great cartoonists who do just that. At the San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, I met a bunch of them. A creator is someone who creates something. It isn’t repackaging someone else’s work and then claiming ownership of the whole package. Cartoonists who can’t draw shouldn’t complain when someone else uses the drawings they didn’t even create themselves.

  24. Regardless of whether you think Rees’ invented the balloon style, the combination of his style of clip-art comics and his style of speech balloon is a pretty clear indication that Jamba lifted his style as a whole, and not just appropriated the clip-art from source.

    If Jamba really originated their campaign without reference to Rees, the similarity of the speech-balloons is incredible.

  25. It’s hypocritical to not support fair use for everyone. If the situation were reversed (say if Jamba Juice made these ads first and Mr GYWO copied them) everyone would be clamoring for his right to do so.

  26. seriously? his argument is “word bubble styles”. Now I’m convinced this is a bit of sarcasm that has the smell of a publicity stunt. Sorry…GYWO’s argument is beyond weak. If its not a publicity stunt, then this guy is beyond retarded if he thinks he invented the “word bubble” and we should all boycott giving him any attention at all.

    oh noe’s, someone used the same margin style that i used in one of my word documents…i’d better sue cause i invented word margins!

  27. @31 ARKIZZLE

    “… the combination of his style of clip-art comics and his style of speech balloon is a pretty clear indication that Jamba lifted his style as a whole…”

    Gods forbid that we encourage making ‘style’ actionable. Kiss your favorite clothes, music, etc. goodbye.

    1. Gods forbid that we encourage making ‘style’ actionable.

      Cory and others have repeatedly rejected actionability. So your point is…..?

  28. @35 ANTINOUS

    “Cory and others have repeatedly rejected actionability. So your point is…..?”

    …that I wasn’t responding to Cory. (To be fair, the original post didn’t explicitly call for actionability either. I was heading them off at the pass, to use a term that might be under trademark.)

    Combinations of the Public Domain are still Public Domain. You don’t get to fence them off. I don’t care if your complaint is based on the law or that vague concept of ‘moral rights.’

  29. I see “mash-ups” or appropriations of popular culture by the “little guy” posted on BoingBoing all of the time. The movie family portraits are a great example of this. Aren’t these characters the property of their respective studios? But that’s okay for some reason. Why? As #32 implied, it goes both ways.

    Would it have been any more ethical for Jamba Juice’s ad agency to have ripped-off some unknown comic artist off of a free comic forum like Drunkduck? I also wonder how many of you would be as outraged if you didn’t like GYWO? I think Rees is enjoying the situation and having fun playing up the absurdity of it, too. I think the answer is to do your own drawings, whether you do comics or ads and to make your own smoothies.

  30. When something is in the public domain, it is in the public domain. Period.

    This is a frightening reversal from people who have fought and fought for things to be in the public domain. If you are using public domain materials, yo0u should EXPECT other people might use them, ou should also EXPECT that other people might even have similar ideas to yours.

    In addition, boycotting Jamba Juice over this (I don’t drink over-priced smoothies to begin with)? Like their folks were aware of the body of work people are comparing this ad to?


    Like they had any foreknowledge of this?

    Public domain means anyone can use it. ANYONE. If you don’t want to run that risk, use original art.

  31. Gods forbid that we encourage making ‘style’ actionable.

    My only real point here, was that Jamba clearly used Rees’ work as a basis, and then denied it in their press release.

    Whatever about laws, copyright or action.

  32. And wait, it is okay to promote musical mashups that businesses don’t like, but if a business makes an art mash-up we are supposed to charge in and revolt?

  33. “so “Ceronomus.” is open as a handle for me to post what I will under?”

    Nah, you’ll prolly want the vowels.

  34. “somebody emailed me saying “Jamba” is Swahili for “fart.” Can somebody confirm/deny?” – – LOL! Rees is frickin hilarious.

  35. In the context of Rees’ MNFTIU blog, it’s hard to take his comments (like “JAMBA JUICE TOTALLY BIT MY GYWO WORD BALLOON STYLE!”) seriously. For the last two or three weeks before this popped up, he blogged about trying to win signed baseballs from his hero Mitt Romney. Or how he has discovered an awesome technique for winning on scratch off lottery tickets.

    He’s in character 24/7 on the blog like Stephen Colbert. I’m waiting for Rees to make some comment discretely to BB saying, “Dude, it’s not really that big a deal, I’m just having fun with it.” Except he’d have to break character to do that.

  36. @39 Arkizzle

    That’s exactly what Shepard Fairey does, but BB is always clamoring to defend that guy.

  37. @ Deidxoeb:

    I’m reminded of when Colbert got all indignant at the Chicago Tribune for improperly crediting another source for first coining the word “truthiness.” That performance too was done in an in-character, tongue-in-cheek fashion- but the mis-attribution really WAS a journalistic error that warranted some kind of apology.

  38. Jamba Juice has issued a response, but it’s pathetic”….
    “what’s at issue isn’t that people think Rees “endorses Jamba Juice and its products” …

    Rees did mention that he was concerned people would think that he was endorsing Jamba Juice and that he would be considered a sell-out. So Jamba’s press release is helpful.

    “but check out the word balloons!”….”I developed that in 2001 using Quark XPress 4!!! THAT’S MY SHIT!!!”

    Does he mean that the shape of the word balloons is his IP — if so he is probably kidding. Adding word balloons to clip art has been around for at least 25 years. When I went to the Jamba website to check out the alleged rip-offs all I could find were other Tom Tierney images. I think it’s important to mention that Jamba’s marketing campaign features a lot of different characters from Tierney, not just the two cubicle drones which Rees used in GYWO.

    “Lazy ad agencies, if you’re gonna copy someone’s work…”

    How about lazy comics! This is hilarious! Btw, Rees admits that he’s a lazy comic and prefers using someone else’s artwork because it takes less time.

    Did he contact Jamba corporate to let them know that the ad agency they hired might have blundered. I doubt it; I think he saw an opportunity to get a lot of attention and maybe sell a few extra books — I certainly hope he sold some extra books! This whole thing is cheesy, from Rees’s righteous indignation over public domain clip art to the one-sided coverage of the story in the blog-o-sphere.

  39. I’ve asked this before, but has anyone tried to get hold of Tierney or Dover?

    Or, for that matter, whomever first came up with the idea of making the easiest possible word balloons in Quark?

  40. Guys, guys, guys…

    Rees is being S-A-R-C-A-S-T-I-C.

    Case point:

    “Rounded-edge text box with single line pointing to mouth? I developed that in 2001 using Quark XPress 4!!! THAT’S MY SHIT!!!”

    Srsly, no-one actually beleives Rees is actually serious saying stuff like that? He’s sarcastically claiming to have invented the SPEECH BALLOON.

    Still, Jamba are disingenuous arseholes for doing this

  41. It took me a few moments to realize that IANAL was an initialism instead of a declaration.

  42. Context for David Rees’ quotes in the article:

    Just remember that most corporations are lame, and most advertising/marketing agencies are lame, and this kind of lame, dispiriting appropriation happens all the time. Just always keep that thought somewhere in your head. And drink wine instead of juice.

    I pushed Quark XPress 4 to its very limits developing that word balloon style!

    Because when you look at “Cubicle Picnic” (uggh, I shudder to type those words), don’t you kinda wonder, “Hmm, did the GYWO dude make this ad campaign?”

    Shit, even I wondered that. And I’m me.

    All my readers, all my fans: You are hereby authorized to spend money at Jamba Juice again. I don’t want my personal kerfuffle with Jamba Juice to further derail America’s economic recovery.

    Also see all of GYWO and MNFTIU. Rees loves hyperbole. He knows this isn’t worth the effort, but he loves pretending like it is because it’s funny, and also funny to watch people take it too seriously – even people like Cory and Xeni, regardless of how valid their points are.

    Deerhound comas indeed, reCAPTCHA. Deerhound comas indeed.

  43. This is complete and utter empty whining. What about sharing? What about letting people do whatever they want? Since when is it wrong to steal ideas or parody someone’s work? What is Creative Commons for? A word balloon style? The guy is claiming a word balloon style? Good Lord!

    Here is a bit of cosmic wisdom: There is no such thing as cheating in art.

    Was there a copyright or trademark violation? If the law is on your side, that’s pretty much all there is. What a frickin’ whiner…

  44. define “rip-off” and “plagiarism”.

    then, define “sampling” and “mashing up”.

    do we have double standards now just because the producer of the source material is one whose work we admire?

    or is it just the commercial use? but that can’t be because music mashups and sampling can be commercial use — and in many cases, are — as well.

    how about the other way around, when an “artist” appropriates a commercial artist’s work? see warhol’s brillo boxes, for instance:


    not to mention the “readymade” art of duchamp.

  45. I have seen this style elsewhere as well. Its a neat idea. Jamba seemed to think so as well. I think its totally OK to see something, think its a good idea and use it yourself. Even if you’re a big company.

    Also: Rees isn’t that popular. I mean he is sorta popular on the internet and he has a book but I doubt the average US citizen is aware of his comics and would actually think those cartoons were an endorsement on his part for Jamba Juice.

  46. When this first broke there wasn’t much sarcasm in Rees’s “THAT’S MY SHIT” comment. People were immediately twitting on the word balloon rip off. Here’s a clip from James Urbaniaks blog:

    “….Rees, of course, is appropriating free stock images but the Jamba Juice campaign is not doing the same thing. They are appropriating what Rees does with those images, right down to the way he renders his word balloons”

    In the comments section Urbaniak talks about “uniquely Reesian word balloons”….

    So I think the …”Guys, guys, guys…Rees is being S-A-R-C-A-S-T-I-C.” angle is tiresome. He is sarcastic now. This will move on into oblivion soon.

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