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Freelancer loses gig after plagiarism claim

Jim Hope, who freelanced editorial cartoons for the Culpeper Star-Exponent, has reportedly lost his gig after someone questioned whether a recent cartoon was a bit too similar to a Nate Beeler cartoon. Clay Jones, cartoonist for the The Free Lance-Star, has posted the cartoons in question on his blog where he also talks about this alleged plagiarism.

He writes:

I found out about this yesterday when a friend in the know called me up. She wanted my judgement on the similarities in the toons. Well, they’re pretty close. Jim maintains his innocence and that it’s just a case of similar ideas which does affect everyone in the business. I usually buy that defense as that’s usually the case. I’m not so sure this time. I hate to see Jim lose his gig and he’s a really nice guy. But while cartoonists often demand to receive the same respect as columnist, reporters and the guys who sweep up the place, we have to hold ourselves to the same principles and ethics of this business.

Is it just me or does it seem that the number of cases are growing? Going back into the TDC archive, there have been two cases of plagiarism this year, two last year and four in 2006. Only one story in 2005, but TDC only existed the last three months of the year. Looking at the numbers, I doubt that the problem is growing, but there does seem to be too many – even at the one or two a year. Than again, maybe I’m just getting tired of the subject.

Community Comments

#1 Kevin Moore
July/29/2008
@ 3:08 pm

I suggest that there are two reasons incidents of either plagiarism or extreme similarity (to be generous) occur: a) cartoonists are stealing each other’s ideas and/or b) cartoonists are limiting themselves to a small range of ideas to draw from. That is, they are not taking risks – or, just as likely, editors are inhibiting the taking of risks – so that cartoonists wind up stepping on each other’s toes as they scrabble for the same limited territory of acceptable/predictable humor.

#2 J.G. Moore
July/29/2008
@ 4:17 pm

I think any reason to cut staff is the basis for this “trend”.
Newspapers don’t fire many columnist for this type of activity.
I see a “double standard”. The toons are close but I don’t think Jim was “biting” off of Nate’s work. I thought that’s what newspapers wanted, cheap content that is the same as everyone elses? That’s what they got, what’s the poblem?!?! (rolls eyes)

#3 Brian Fairrington
July/29/2008
@ 4:18 pm

No question he is guilty after seeing the examples. It’s a shame because the whole fun of being a cartoonist is drawing what comes out of you own imagination.

A hard lesson to learn but a standard that MUST be upheld in order to maintain professional standards.

#4 John Pershing
July/29/2008
@ 5:06 pm

As the sage said:

“Great minds think alike…

…and the minds of fools rarely differ.”

-jp

#5 Mike Sieber
July/30/2008
@ 5:45 am

I have to agree. Looking at both cartoons, it just doesn’t seem plausible that this is a case of coincidence. I understand having similar ideas, but the drawing is nearly identical as is the punchline.

#6 Malc McGookin
July/30/2008
@ 6:20 am

It’s obviously a plagiarised cartoon, the thing is copied right down to the layout, with the figures in exactly the same positions and the punchline barely altered.

This is NOT a case of two equally talented commentators simply happening on the same idea. The second cartoon is bloody awful. Discussing the two as though they are any ways in the same league is an insult to Beeler.

Somebody had to say it. Ignoring this particular elephant in the room is one huge reason why editorial cartooning is going to the dogs. Too many talentless amateurs peeing in the pool.

#7 Beth Cravens
July/30/2008
@ 10:41 am

Tsk, Tsk. I may be dreadful, but at least I’m dreadful on my own. I might could understand how they might have come across the same idea, but to have two drawings so similar…well it’s hardly a coincidence.

#8 Wiley Miller
July/30/2008
@ 10:49 am

” but to have two drawings so similarâ?¦well itâ??s hardly a coincidence.”

And it’s always at this point when, rather than owning up to his crime and beg forgiveness, the plagiarist will claim it’s due to his “photographic memory”.

#9 anne hambrock
July/30/2008
@ 11:41 am

What does it for me is the use of the word “dear” in both punchlines. Hardly the way most people talk or write, even in comedy circles. That must mean an extraordinarily photographic memory!

#10 Dan Reynolds
July/30/2008
@ 12:02 pm

I’d be hard strapped to find ANY way of explaining that as being anything other than it is…plagiarism.
I agree with Malc, too, that there’s a glaring difference in artistic ability.
Why, why take, what to me is the MOST fun out of cartooning – coming up with what breathes life into the cartoon…the spirit of the work…the IDEA?
The only thing Hope didn’t do is use a light box or a photocopy and change the name.
This gentleman’s parents left him alone too long with the Sunday comics and a ball of Silly Putty. He developed a bad habit of making copies of copyrighted work and then “stretching” the truth. Don’t plagiarize
that idea people. That’s mine!

#11 Daryl Cagle
July/30/2008
@ 12:54 pm

This newspaper subscribes to our cartoon service, including Beeler’s cartoons. Jim Hope would have certainly known that as he would see the Beeler cartoons in the newspaper. If Hope planned to plagiarize, I would expect him to choose a cartoon that he thought his editor wouldn’t have seen.

#12 Jesse Cline
July/30/2008
@ 1:29 pm

Daryl,

With all due respect, wasn’t it published without his editor noticing?

#13 Rod McKie
July/30/2008
@ 2:16 pm

It would be hard to image two ideas of such similarity happening by chance, and not satisfying the most rabid disbeliever in the uncanny as absolute proof of ESP.

It looks obvious, I’m afraid.

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