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Tom Batiuk responds to Funky blog take down order

Yesterday I wrote that attorney’s representing Funky Winkerbean creator Tom Batiuk sent a cease and desist letter to WordPress.com asking for them to remove two blogs that allegedly infringed on Tom’s intellectual property. WordPress.com shutdown the blogs and the blog author has since moved his blog to a private server and removed the Funky Winkerbean comics from the site.

When asked why he felt he needed to take legal action to take down the blogs, Tom responds:

“I fought a lawsuit to regain ownership of my creations and, as a result, I take my intellectual property rights including trademark and copyright very seriously, and will enforce my rights when I find them being infringed. That includes someone reprinting the work in total without permission or compensation.”

UPDATE: I received a follow up response to a question I posed to Tom as to whether he was still pursuing legal action or if he was satisfied with the removal of his content from the current Funky blog. He responded, “For now things are good, but, obviously, my attorneys will continue reviewing this and any other case on an ad hoc basis.”

Community Comments

#1 Rich Diesslin
February/18/2011
@ 4:33 pm

Good for Tom, copyrights should be observed.

#2 Dave Stephens
February/18/2011
@ 4:33 pm

Good call on a bad egg, Tom – fair use does NOT include such behavior.

#3 Andre Richard
February/18/2011
@ 5:19 pm

Tom’s well within his rights, and glad that he was able to take the sites down. Sad to have seen some people take issue with him for protecting his work.

If the people running those sites had been a bit less lazy, they could of e-mailed him and politely asked for permission, or linked to his online archive of strip in place of posting his work regularly without his permission. They had options.

#4 Peter Kurilecz
February/18/2011
@ 9:40 pm

copyright should be protected and respected, but fair use and commentary should also be protected and respected. Batiuk’s C&D has now sent me to check out the new son of blog. hopefully his lawyer is also sending C&D’s to fansites

#5 Charlene Vickers
February/19/2011
@ 12:24 am

What part of this makes him a bad egg, Mr. Stephens? His ignorance of the minutiae of arcane copyright laws that even lawyers have difficulties with at times? Having the temerity to publish criticism, instead of mindlessly consuming?

I think that if you’re going to dismiss someone with that kind of contempt, you should share your reasoning.

#6 Dave Stephens
February/19/2011
@ 2:30 am

@Charlene Vickers
I am agreeing with Tom about his actions and also saying the website in question is misusing Tom’s creation…

The website was the “bad egg” – I have NO opinion on the website’s owner and I have no speculations about his intentions and I wish him the best of luck in all that he does.

No contempt here but would you believe I had “the temerity to post a criticism”? ;)

#7 Jeremy Nell
February/19/2011
@ 4:36 am

Sarcasm and jest aside, I’m not opposed to him protecting his “copyright” (whatever that is, these days, in whatever country). He is welcome to hunt down whatever non-profit websites he chooses. (In fact, I’d be curious to know whether or not he’s gained MORE readers resulting from the said blog, but I suspect that it’s besides the point in this instance.)

But he could have been less draconian and aggressive about it all, with his legal assistance and potential lawsuit threats. Even his angry response (above) reeks of arrogance and iron-fisting. Which is a bit unreasonable.

It’s the kind of antiquated action that encourages the internet generation to fling a big fat middle finger in his direction and pull a “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” move. (Because THEN what is he and his lawyer going to do? Go after all da intawebz, lolz?

Unless, of course, he previously asked the blogger to stop (which would have been a reasonable action to take) and the blogger didn’t stop.

One thing’s for sure; all of this makes for good cartoon material.

#8 Arlen Moore
February/19/2011
@ 9:08 am

I’m a little disappointed in Batiuk’s disingenuous response — if the reposting of the comic (which can be found in several locations online) was the issue a simple email to the blogger could have resulted in the replacement of comics with links. But Batiuk didn’t do that; instead he allowed his lawyers to issue a takedown notice to wordpress itself, which removed the blog without even contacting the blogger himself.

As a reader of sonofstuckfunky I can say that one of the great things about it was how the blogger was able to make incisive contrasts and comparisons to old (sometimes years old) strips, but since strips older than 60 days(?) are walled off from viewing by the copyrightholder on the major comics sites it seems the stucky-blogger is now much more constrained.

#9 August J. Pollak
February/19/2011
@ 9:27 am

I really can’t muster up outrage at a creator demanding that someone stop copying every single one of his cartoons and reposting it on their own website. From the SOS guy’s last post, it looks like he understands that too. I’m actually surprised at how level headed both sides are being in this one; usually one or the other flies into a rage about person A being a fascist or person B being the embodiment-on-earth of the First Amendment.

He’ll still link to the strips and he still has the right to say what he wants about the cartoon. Works for me.

Now regarding stealing everyone’s content, if we can just get to suing Arianna Huffington…..

#10 Dan Murphy
February/19/2011
@ 6:25 pm

Maybe if those bad eggs had used a caricature of JFK getting his head shot off it would have been considered to be fair…

#11 EMILY KESSELMAN
February/19/2011
@ 7:13 pm

TomBat has the right to defend his work, and nobody of at SOSF, myself included, is really saying his actions in calling for a take-down were unfair. It’s more the manner he did so. Anyway, nobody is real sore about it since the site is doing better than EVER after the kerfuffle.

But I will say this – you can’t stop the internet. I know people are talking about “net neutrality” and “The Big ‘OFF’ Button” elsewhere, but the fact remains that the internet has and is still changing the way media is distributed. If Tommy thinks most people will pay DailyINK.com 20 bucks a month for access to his ‘toons, he better think again. It’s way too easy to get the same thing for free with very little effort.

Syndication in “real” media is dying off as well. It’s a slow death but it’s death nonetheless.

And honestly, I know it might be how many of you guys defending this form of distribution make a living, but as a cartoonist myself I have a difficult time doing the same to a business that burnt out Bill Watterson well before his time.

#12 John Read
February/19/2011
@ 10:01 pm

Emily “I’m a cartoonist myself” Kesselman: “If Tommy thinks most people will pay DailyINK.com 20 bucks a month for access to his ?toons, he better think again. It?s way too easy to get the same thing for free with very little effort.”

That’s right, Cartoonist Emily, why should anybody pay a cartoonist for his work when they can get it for free? How dare Mr. Batiuk suggest that he be paid for his work, when it is so readily available to read for free “with very little effort?” BTW, DailyINK.com doesn’t cost anywhere near $20 a month – it’s $19.99 for a year and you have access to all the King Features comics!

And Watterson’s decision to stop doing his comic had naught to do with his dissatisfaction with the way his syndicate (which STILL handles it) was distributing it.

#13 Mark Savary
February/20/2011
@ 10:33 am

Use of the strips was excessive, so copyright’s a fair issue. But I really hafta wonder, if the blog were a pro-Funky site, would Tom have gone after it in the same way? But instead, the blog mocked Funky, and maybe that’s the real motivation here. Copyright infringement seems more like an excuse than anything else, just to stop someone making fun of his comic strip. Maybe that’s really what upset Tom. Sure sounds like it to me, but only Tom could say for sure.

#14 EMILY KESSELMAN
February/20/2011
@ 5:30 pm

“That?s right, Cartoonist Emily, why should anybody pay a cartoonist for his work when they can get it for free?”

I know “Cartoonist John Read,” like by going to chron.com (Houston Chronicle) or sfgate.com (san fran. chronicle).

Whoops, I got the price wrong! My bad. Everything I say is now discredited.

Oh, and silly me, I assumed Watterson’s refusal to let what was then Universal Press Syndicate market Hobbes dolls and Calvin-themed mugs had to do with… Universal Press Syndicate. (I believe it is now Andrews-McMeal or something of the like.)

Boy, people here seem awfully bitter about how the big wide web is affecting us. But since I have no intention right now of trying to lock down my super-duper special creation with syndication rights, I guess that’s why I’m less pissed.

By the way, if anybody here can find the place where I said “Tom was wrong to do what he did and shouldn’t be paid for his creation” I’ll send THEM $20/year. :D

#15 John Read
February/20/2011
@ 7:56 pm

When he decided to stop doing his strip in 1995, Watterson wrote, “My interests have shifted…and I believe I’ve done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I have not yet decided on future projects, but my relationship with Universal Press Syndicate will continue.” And in an interview last year Watterson said, “By the end of 10 years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now “grieving” for “Calvin and Hobbes” would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them. I’ve never regretted stopping when I did.”

Emily, nowhere has Watterson said he was burnt out well before his time. HIS words discredit your comment about him and his relationship with his syndicate, not mine. And, to be clear, I’m not someone who grouses about the “how the big wide web is affecting us.” What saddens me is hearing “people here” bragging about how easy it is to enjoy a cartoonist’s work “for free with very little effort” thanks to that big wide web, or complaining because they can’t do as they please with another person’s intellectual property.

#16 John Read
February/20/2011
@ 8:08 pm

As a cartoonist friend of mine has said about placing value on your work: “If your give your work away for free, then your work is worth exactly what people paid for it.” By the same token, if you allow someone to, as Tom wrote, reprint your “work in total without permission or compensation,” why should anyone else pay for your work?

#17 Keith Brown
February/20/2011
@ 10:03 pm

I hope to one day cartoon full time. In order to do that I would need to be paid for my work just as I am now as a mechanical designer. I can’t afford to do that for free either. It’s Toms work and I think he has every right to choose how it is used. Musicians get pissed if you down load their songs for free and with good reason.

#18 Alan Gardner
February/21/2011
@ 10:40 am

For newcomers to this blog: please read the rules for participating here before posting. First rule is to use your FIRST and LAST name. I will no longer contact those who don’t asking them for their full names. From now on, any posts with pseudo names or first names will simply be removed.

#19 David Jones
February/21/2011
@ 11:44 am

I am behind Tom 100%. We cartoonists have a lot invested in our strips. I remember the days when I looked forward to the collected works of Bloom County to be released as a treasury in print. Now with the flood of the internet, finding strips to read is too easy, watering down the demands for such published treasuries.

Protecting the copyrights, as well as suppressing the visibility of your works is an increasingly huge obstacle we cartoonists are facing.

#20 Tom Brown
February/22/2011
@ 2:09 pm

I understand copyrights being protected.

But having a honest good faith but mistaken opinion on what is fair use doesn’t make one a bad egg.

And does Batuik also send C & D’s to his fan sites? Do such fan sites even exist?

#21 Andrew Farago
February/22/2011
@ 4:48 pm

Maybe a positive fan site that devoted itself to reproducing and archiving every single one of Tom’s strips would have gotten a cease and desist notice, or maybe they’d have just gotten a polite request to not try and supplant Tom’s own syndicate.

Either way, whether a site does that in a positive or negative manner, it’s well within the artist’s rights to issue a cease and desist. He’d have been well within his rights to slap them with a lawsuit, I’m sure, so just telling them to knock it off is pretty fair.

The people behind SOSF seem to be pretty clever, and they should see this as an opportunity to try some new, all-original content. If Tom retired tomorrow, they’d be in the same position, wouldn’t they? Maybe they should cough up for some online subscriptions and branch out into Comics Curmudgeon territory. You can’t get that upset when your entire output depends on someone else’s work, and that someone else voices an objection.

#22 Jeremy Billadeau
February/25/2011
@ 3:08 pm

The voice of the people can be found everywhere now, it’s deluded now, and has far less impact to such an affluently informed society, comics have taken on a new value in this ‘new’ society as a whole, as opposed to what comics once started out as at the turn of last, last century and we’re still defining that value. Heck, everything’s being redefined by this access to, well, everything, all at once. It’s a transition period across the board. So, God bless Tom for actively fighting for what is truly his. It’s not a piece of furniture that you buy and do what you would with it. It’s not land that you rent out to someone, and hope they don’t ruin it on you, you wouldn’t let your renters set fire to it or destroy your property, would you? Of course not, and this is something he created with his own hands, marvelously I might add. So why not pursue and protect the integrity of the value of his creation and set the bar that others might benefit from their own creations as well? It would be absurd not to…

#23 mike weber
May/22/2011
@ 4:49 pm

Batiuk’s lawyers’ approach was as dictated by the law.

There is no allowance for “politely suggesting” someone stop infringing. Attempting to do that is (in terms of the law) effectively to do nothing.

One can begin with a letter stating that there is an infringement and promising legal action if the situation is not resolved. Many refer to this as a “cease and desist” notice. It isn’t.

A “cease and desist” notice is an actual legal document, the next step after what Batiuk’s lawyers probably did.

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