Plagiarism allegations hit Bill Day in closing days of fundraising campaign

Eleven days before the close of an Indiegogo campaign to raise $35,000 to support the continuation of editorial cartoonist Bill Day’s career, comes an allegation that Bill used an image from the website DeviantArt in one of his cartoons without citation. The cartoon, on the topic of gun control, features an assault rifle with a capital dome on the end. The alleged sourced image is a 3D C6k Assault Rifle rendered for video game development by Zack FowlerYou). Bill’s cartoon was sent out through his syndicate, Cagle Cartoons, but the drawing has since been replaced on Cagle’s site with a hand drawn version of the cartoon.

When I contacted Daryl Cagle, who launched the Indiegogo campaign and syndicates Bill Day’s work for comment, Daryl says that when he was alerted to allegations of plagiarism he asked Bill about it and was told he “thought it was a photograph of a generic assault weapon that he altered for transformative, editorial purposes and [Bill] wasn’t aware of the artist who created the image.” Daryl asked him to redraw the cartoon, which Bill did “without objection.”

I have reached out to Bill for comment and will post his response when one is received.

Below are the art and cartoons in question:
The alleged 3D rendered image
The 3D rendered image
Note: I have flipped the image so that it appears as it does in the cartoon below.

Bill’s cartoon with the same gun
Bills cartoon with the same gun
Note: It appears small alterations were made to the image. The end of the stock has been removed to shorten up the gun. And it looks like a couple more small edits were made as well.

Bills redrawn gun
Bill’s hand drawn gun as currently posted on Cagle’s site.

As for the Indiegogo campaign the campaign has raised $33,011 as of this writing. The intent of the campaign is to raise money to allow Bill to keep his home and provide an income for one year so he can continue drawing his editorial cartoons.

Full disclosure: Until today, I have been running an ad for the Indiegogo campaign on the site as a general token of support. I have removed that ad as of today.

38 thoughts on “Plagiarism allegations hit Bill Day in closing days of fundraising campaign

  1. “the fastest gun ever drawn”?… the one Bill Day drew after he was caught plagiarizing.

    So what happens to the $33K donations to keep “an important progressive voice”? And how much do you have to donate to get an original Bill Day copy of another persons work? And if you’re not embarrassed to beg for money are you embarrassed when you’re caught stealing? Got to admit, that whole flopped image thing sounded fool proof but my favorite: “he altered for transformative, editorial purposes” is f’ing rich.

    Lastly, I wonder how E&P feels after writing a supportive story?–Political-Cartoonist-Goes-Directly-To-Readers-For-Funding

  2. This is not the theft of an idea. That is a big difference. Day may have been sloppy in double-checking the originality of the image he worked from — or just didn’t care enough — but he wasn’t taking a cartooning concept and calling it his own. (In addition, Day’s using a lovingly rendered assault weapon weapon in order to knock assault weapons makes this viewer even more sympathetic to the matter.) Let Day live another day!

    John Carey
    Editorial cartoonist
    Greater Media Newspapers

  3. I thought I would post my comments I wrote in an editor?s forum here on TDC.

    This whole situation is disturbing and serious. As a client of Cagle who bought into the fundraising campaign, we now feel duped. We even ran the story sent out by the syndicate and E&P to promote Bill Day in several of our newspapers in our chain. Making the situation worse, it now appears we ran the cartoon in question. This puts us in a precarious situation where we?ll be forced to issue an apology to the original artist and to our readers.

    All of this begs the question as to the worthiness of this fundraising campaign. Why should other journalists, cartoonists and readers support someone who engages in this behavior?

    Since this story broke several of my editors have pointed out this link:

    As an editor who subscribes to Mr. Day?s syndicated work, we had always assumed that we were paying for new content. However, it appears that not only does Mr. Day steal the work of others, but has made a career out of using the same cartoon over and over again.

    My publisher is currently reevaluating the value of this syndicate and the work they provide to our chain of papers. IndieGoGo should also reevaluate the worthiness of promoting a campaign for someone who has disgraced the journalism profession.

  4. It’s certainly serious to take someone’s copyrighted image, put your signature and some labels on it, and sell it to newspapers. I don’t know why every year or so there is someone else caught doing this all over again.

    That Day thought an image that read “Design and model by ZF” was a photograph of a (nonexistent) weapon and was thus free, stretches the bounds of belief.

  5. Donald,

    I don’t think the problem is that a drawing looks like something else, in fact I think that’s what people seem to really go for. I think the problem is people expect a cartoonist (you know someone who draws stuff) to you know…actually draw the stuff in their drawing.

  6. So sorry to see Mike Lester jumping on this with relish. I’m a big admirer of Mike’s but his politics stink, and he seems to embrace his image as the Ted Nugent of cartooning too enthusiastically.
    I don’t have a problem with Bill’s use of the firearm pic. He didn’t steal an idea, and there are umpteen artistic reasons why he shouldn’t be treated like a criminal here. Alex, we as cartoonists are NOT paid for our drawings, per se, we are paid for our ideas. It would have been better if Bill had just used the photo as it appears, and stuck a cartoon of the Capitol dome on it, that way it would be obvious to the boneheads that the gun pic wasn’t his creation. I never thought for a second that Bill Day had come up with that weapon design. I see photos used in editorial cartooning all the time, and there is an acceptable way and an unacceptable way. At worst, Bill Day’s cartoon is borderline, and even then it is not plagiarism. He took a photo of a grotesque military weapon which, from its designer’s point of view, was more an exercise in masturbation, exaggerated aspects of it (which is the essence of cartooning), re-worked it totally from top to bottom and used it as a base for his cartoon comment. His own version actually doesn’t work as well, a point I am sure he would agree with, because by “correcting” his comment, has watered it down. The original design is far more of a cartoon than anything we as cartoonists could produce, it’s an idiotically embellished phallic monstrosity designed to appeal to cretins.

  7. Bill Day can clearly draw, so why did he choose to copy and paste from google images? And why that specific gun? it doesn’t look like a gun that exists, more like a gun from a video game.

    Why not have just drawn that version of the gun?

    Why not use a generic looking assault riffle like Bob Gorrell copied and pasted in this cartoon:
    (Gorrell also copied and pasted a hammer)

    Gorrell is the worst when it comes to copying and pasting from google images. Here’s a list of some of his cartoons that use images copied and pasted from google images:

    If you don’t have time to draw a cartoon, change your style to something simpler and one that you can draw faster.

    Editorial cartoons don’t have to be photo-realistic.

    If you don’t like drawing, why are you in political cartooning?

  8. Mike, Mike, Mike… Not even 14 days ago you spent an entire week of your “Mike Du Jour” strip using an unattributed photograph of an exercise machine from an online retailer in nearly every panel. Just because it’s not “art” doesn’t mean the photograph isn’t copyrighted.
    For reference:

  9. @Ralph – if you want money back, you’ve gotta get it from Cagle. Indiegogo doesn’t do refunds/cancelations.

    EDIT: If you were a contributor to the Indiegogo campaign, you could have cancelled your donation prior to the campaign reaching its funding goals, but as of January 17 @ 1:15 am, it has surpassed its goal. You’ll have to contact Daryl Cagle and request a refund.

    More details:

  10. Oh come on, let’s not pretend photoshopping an image found on Google isn’t rife in political cartooning. Only difference here is someone had the sack to call Day out.

  11. I am the artist of the gun in question. I only found out about this because a few people tracked me down and e-mailed me about it, and I’m glad they did. I’m also glad that this problem was corrected without me having to write any scary-sounding letters — I don’t think any artist would ever look forward to that.

    That is an entirely fictional rifle that I sketched out designs for and then turned into a 3D model. It is not based on any specific real-world rifle, but is intended to seem authentic. Amusingly, this isn’t even the final version of that model with materials applied — this is a work-in-progress render with the same generic grey material applied to every surface.

    I guess I’ll take it as a compliment that it would be mistaken for a real thing. It’s ancient work by my standards — 4 years is an eon in the field of 3D art. Please excuse the terrible “weathering” of the text and the background concrete texture; I was young and stupid. Or younger and stupider?

    Right now I’m trying to get ahold of Bill’s contact information to have a serious discussion with him about this. I stated in no uncertain terms on the image itself that it was my own design — whether or not he thought it was a photo, we have things to talk about.

    After I got over my initial reaction to seeing my work stolen so blatantly, the one thought I couldn’t get over was, “Out of all the people who have stolen my work over the years, this is one person who really, truly ought to know better.”

    Malc: Your characterization of my work is pretty amusing, but of the many objectionable things you say I only feel compelled to respond to this: making it clear that the work you steal from another artist is in fact work stolen from another artist absolutely would not ever, in any universe, make it acceptable to indeed STEAL WORK in the first place.

    I spent dozens of hours designing, modeling, and rendering that goofy rifle, and I retain all rights to how anyone may use that creation. If for some bizarre reason you wanted to parody this specific work I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) stop you, but implying that anything that looks vaguely photorealistic is for up anyone’s grabs is not only wrong, but insulting.

  12. Like Lester, I was pretty impressed with how quickly he rendered another detailed assault rifle to replace the one he plagiarized. It tempts me to suspect the second one is also a piece of plagiary, but no one has tracked down the source photo yet. Mind you, drawing from the photo is not plagiarism, obviously, but I suspect there was some serious tracing involved.

    Even without this issue, I couldn’t put my money toward supporting a career based mostly on recycling a set of lame gags over and over and over again. The joy of political cartooning is finding a fresh way to express your opinion artistically and humorously. It’s also the challenge, which in itself is part of the joy. I don’t see either element in his work.

  13. Just to be clear: I haven’t written off the possibility of legal action as I still don’t have all the information I need on the distribution of the offending piece, etc., but suffice to say Cagle was wise to ask Bill to fix it when it was brought to his attention.

  14. We should all be grateful to Alan for finally agreeing to cover this story. It is, of course, many years old. But it isn’t exactly like he just found out about it, is it, Alan?

    No, he’s been sitting on these plagiarized cartoons for years. He refused entreaties to write or even look into them.

    Why? Because, instead of acting like a real journalist ? something that he has set up his website to pretend that he is ? he has been a cartoon booster. Emphasizing the positive, downplaying the negative, good feelings all around, nothing but BS.

    Like too many others, he knows that a lot of things are rotten in Denmark. But he dare not speak the truth lest he be ostracized and make enemies among those he is supposed to be covering objectively rather than shaking down for donations every now and then.

    Bill Day is disgusting, but Alan Gardner is part of the problem.

  15. Uncalled for, Mr. Garcin. And lame. Alan has covered negative news regarding cartoonists when such stories break.

    Please state your facts backing up your allegations or STFU.

  16. Wow! That was just wrong. “Alan Gardner is part of the problem.” Seriously?!? Alan is an outstanding individual. Also providing some of the best reporting on the industry.

  17. While Hill may owe his fellow artist, ZF, proper credit (and perhaps they should personally work out something mutually satisfactory between them even if that means a cup of coffee and a handshake) there is no a legal case here, nor a fundamental moral violation worthy of public scorn. This is not theft. Hill has simply altered and transformed an existing image to created a fundamentally new work of art, which is common in both satire and parody. Conceptually, the two images have nothing in common, and in fact, Hill’s image is actually *mocking* the message of first one. In the first, the gun is meant to be an image of military awesomeness, both badass and admirable. It is totally lacking in irony. In the second, the gun is meant to be over the top, scary, ridiculous. Not badass, but something deserving of ridicule. Hill’s image is dripping with irony. In the final analysis, this makes it both satire *and* parody (legally speaking, and artistically speaking) where the appropriation of existing images is entirely common. Now, that being said, the fact that Hill traced the art as a shortcut when he can draw a better gun on his own is just plain lazy, and yes, inconsiderate to his fellow artist ZF buy not giving him proper credit. However, what he is doing artistically is on a whole other level. That’s not plagiarism. That’s art.

  18. Who the heck is “Hill”?

    And sorry, no. Appropriating and altering a well known image to make an editorial point and thereby creating an acceptable, and legal, derivative work of art (which usually includes an acknowledgement, and apology, to the original source) is a far cry from grabbing something obscure you found online because you were too lazy to draw it.

    To quote ‘Spinal Tap’, “There is a thin line between genius and stupidity” … in this case, Bill Day wasn’t even near that the line.

  19. If I am mistaken – if Alan has not known about Bill Day’s self-plagiarism for a long time – let him deny it here.

    He won’t. It’s true.

  20. gan golan: “…the fact that Hill traced the art as a shortcut when he can draw a better gun on his own is just plain lazy…”

    Gan, he didn’t trace it, he resized it in Photoshop and took off the front sight. I tested it out with the two images and the resizing took less than thirty seconds.

  21. “Self-plagiarism?” Plagiarism is defined as taking credit for someone else’s work. Self-plagiarism is just — I don’t know — taking credit for your own work?

  22. It’s re-purposing old work and presenting it as new to someone who thinks they are paying for new work. It’s actually a thing and doing it in academia and journalism is considered an ethical breach. You can parse it 100 ways and find all sorts of caveats, but re-issuing the same cartoons over and over and over is incredibly lazy and reflects poorly on the field. In fact, that more cartoonists don’t understand that also reflects poorly on the field.

  23. That’s fine, but the term is silly. (And I’m being generous here. It’s a misnomer at best, a lame euphemism at worst ? one that immediately calls to mind that catholic standby, “self-abuse.”)

  24. @Joseph Garcin

    Type in “plagiarism” in the search option on this site and there are over 30 articles about plagiarism dating back years. Alan is a good person and does a great job, this is the BEST site for cartoonists. He also just lost his dad, so try to show some sensitivity. Also trolling is bad for your health.

  25. @Joseph Garcin

    Type “pagiarism” on this site’s search option and there are over 30 articles dating back years. Alan is a good person and does a great job, this is the BEST site for cartoonists. He also just lost his dad, so try to show some sensitivity.

    P.S. Trolling is bad for your health.

  26. If any clients of Cagle are willing to speak to me regarding this matter, I will be happy to grant them statements of non-liability. My e-mail can be found on my website. Thank you.

  27. I reckon the content of the cartoon in question, at a time when its subject is being hotly debated in government and media of all sorts is the origin of of this non issue.

  28. It’s a lift, pure and simple. I don’t even like the new gun. It looks like Wall-E with an overgrown phallus.

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