Cartoonist Donna Barstow often broaches political themes.
Paging Charles Carreon! Someone on the internet wants money from mocking critics, but may need a hand with the legal not-so-niceties.
Slate cartoonist Donna Barstow railed on Monday at online forum Something Awful, whose denizens often repost her work and subject it to withering ridicule. Though one of many artists to find their work attacked online, Barstow is fighting back, demanding payment and accusing the site of copyright infringement.
When twitterers suggested that embedding and criticizing her panels constitutes fair use–a common defense against claims of copyright infringement–Barstow said that their treatment of her work was nothing of the sort.
"You steal my cartoons (read definition of Fair Use – NOT on SA) and ignore my takedown & DMCA notices. That's evil," she wrote.
To bolster her case, Barstow invoked the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and cited today's story in the LA Times describing how Twitter gets 80 percent of requests for user information from U.S.-based police forces.
"Are you talking about people posting them on the forums and making fun of them?" responded Something Awful's David Thorpe. "I think you might be confused about the internet"
"I think you're confused about money," came Barstow's retort. "Can I send an invoice your way?"
Monday's exchange only triggered a torrent of further criticism–much of it impolite–directed at her work. Singled out was a strip about "wishy washy" men of uncertain sexuality, jibes at Muslims' and Mexicans' expense, and an insensitive remark about Japan's 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.
Barstow's cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker, L.A. Times and Sunday Parade as well as Slate. She is also the author of What Do Women Really Want? Chocolate!, a collection of cartoons about confectionary. In the late 2000s, she branched out into political cartoons, drawing the attention of Something Awful's diverse army of artists, writers, fans, flatterers and trolls. She also maintains a blog, Why I did it.
It's not the first time Barstow has threatened critics who reproduce her single-panel cartoons. In 2009, she emailed the ISP of Alas, a Blog in an effort to have two posts accusing her of racism (1, 2) taken down. Renee Martin of Womanist Musing, who criticized the "Mexico" strip reproduced above and described Barstow as a "racist pearl clutcher", removed it at her request the same year. Pandagon, Volcanista, The Faithful Penguin, Kick and Radgeek all accused Barstow of racism over the same strip—and all were sent takedown demands.
The fight is a bizarre inversion of another ongoing cartoonist-vs-aggregator dust-up. In 2011, comic artist Matthew Inman (of The Oatmeal fame) expressed frustration at website FunnyJunk's prolific rehosting of his strips. In that case, however, FunnyJunk ultimately demanded money from him, for what it described as defamation. Inman, for his part, fought not with legal threats, but cleverly-aimed snark and a spectacularly successful charity campaign.
FunnyJunk's lawyer, Charles Carreon, subsequently launched his own lawsuit against Inman.