The Montgomery Sentinel caught publishing plagiarized editorial cartoons

Rockville MD councilman Tom Moore has exposed an ongoing blatant case of mass editorial cartooning plagiarism wherein the artist is removing the original artists’ name and signing it as his/her own. A cartoonist is identified only as William Charles who used a variety of editorial cartoonist and New Yorker cartoonist’s work. The Montgomery Sentinel is weekly paper in Maryland. Charle’s cartoons have been pulled down, but Councilman Moore has linked to a zip file where you can download about a number of examples.

A few things:

* It’s not clear who William Charles really is. It may be a pen name. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, there was a political cartoonist named William Charles who lived between 1776?1820 and lived and published in the New York and Philadelphia area.

* How does the newspaper editor not notice the striking differences in drawing style from week to week?

Just a couple of examples:

Original cartoon by Walt Handelsman


Some of the cartoons aren’t even editorial cartoons.

Original by Mike Shapiro


16 thoughts on “The Montgomery Sentinel caught publishing plagiarized editorial cartoons

  1. The guy may not even exist. It could just be some staffers or an editor treating cartoons as if they’re clip art, and then pasting in the name of a dead early American cartoonist.

  2. When contacted this is what the editor has been telling people:

    “He is a third-party UNPAID contributor. We have about four or five of those. As I said, we?re a small family-owned newspaper.
    As for not noticing, yep, the buck stops here on this one.
    He sent us Jpegs and PDFs of his art that showed no tells of being manipulated. If there is a way to tell in the future, I?d appreciate a heads up on that. In fact any assistance you can provide in that area would be GREATLY appreciated.
    I first found out about it from Mike Shapiro two days ago.
    We pulled all of the cartoons and I now have a copy editor going through them all to see how many are original.”

    Based on his response I guess the only question remaining is, which is worse? Stealing the cartoons or not paying the cartoonists?

    I guess you get what you pay for.

  3. This is not plagiarism, this is as clear a case of copyright infringement as I’ve ever seen. I live very close to Rockville and will look into this when I get back from Hawaii in mid-June.

    Here’s their most recent statement:

    On Thursday, May 28, The Sentinel received an email from a local cartoonist who said certain political cartoons penned by William Charles were examples of his art work.

    William Charles is an unpaid contributor to The Sentinel, much like other contributors who graciously donate their time and efforts. We have greatly enjoyed Mr. Charles and his efforts to lampoon local government.

    However, The Sentinel takes these matters very seriously. So, we acted accordingly. All cartoons signed by Mr. Charles have been pulled from our website until we can determine their originality. Only 100 percent original cartoons will be posted on our website or printed in the newspaper. Our apologies to any cartoonist whose artwork appeared without his or her knowledge.

    Going forward, of course the lampooning will continue whether drawn by Mr. Charles or someone else. After all any event that allows us to write a headline like “Big Clucking Problem in Gaithersburg,” is certainly worthy of a cartoon.

  4. It’s not even good copyright infringement. That first cartoon is an atrocious Photoshop job that looked like it came from a middle school art class. I guess they did get what they paid for.

  5. The heavy use of labels, and on local issues, shows a serious lack of quality control. Even for someone stealing work. This leads me to suspect an editor at the newspaper is doing the manipulation.

    It’s too bad there’s never an actual lawsuit when this happens. Maybe the councilman who brought attention to this knows a local lawyer in Montgomery who will do it pro bono.

  6. They should also get a quote from the “cartoonist.” Ask him to explain himself. Of course that is if he exist. The editor’s quote implies they’re going to continue to use his work.

  7. I received an email from William Charles stating that he ‘regretted this has occurred’ and and then asked me to accept his apolgy. I asked him if there were any cartoons he’s published that did not contain the work of other cartoonists. Never received a reply.

  8. Mike: That was exactly what occurred to me when the editor said “whether drawn by Mr. Charles or …”. Namely, can “Mr. Charles” even draw?

  9. “Jpegs and PDFs of his art that showed no tells of being manipulated”? It is blatantly obvious in several of them that “William Charles” has cut and pasted bits and pieces from two, three, even four different cartoons, clip arts, and stock drawings into a single ‘toon.

  10. And to ditto Paul’s observation; the manipulation is blatant and obvious. Either the editor is consciously non-truth-telling or he’s got a serious vision problem that needs looking into.

  11. I agree, Crowden. They’re all esentially collages. I’m not going to sweat it too much. Whomever William Charles is, I’m guessing he’s out of the let’s-pretend-I’m-a-cartoonist business. But I guess you never know.

  12. I informed Mr. Karem face-to-face that his ‘cartoonist’ was stealing images from the Internet six months ago. I told him this on the evening of Nov. 29, 2014, at a lovely bat mitzvah we both attended.

    Mr. Karem appeared to be entirely unconcerned about what I told him, and he certainly did nothing in response to it over the following six months. Mr. Karem’s statement that he was unaware of his newspaper’s continuing plagiarism until two days ago is flatly false.

  13. This whole thing brings to mind an incident that happened to me
    many years ago. A friend liked work so much that he asked me for copies and seeing that flattery is the highest form of flattery I gave him some. Much later I discovered that he had traced them and sold them to magazines in New York. When you’ve been hit directly by plagiarism or should I rightly refer to it as theft I get angry. It really hits a nerve!

  14. Here’s how this plays out. For the next week, the editor will continue to defend the privacy of Mr. Charles. Then on Tuesday or so, it will be discovered that the editor, is in fact, the person behind the cartoons. He’ll then spend another week defending the paper’s position, including having a photo op with the publisher of the paper. Then in TWO weeks, the newspaper publisher will let him go.

    No apology to cartoonists or the community will ever be direct.

    What’d I miss?

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