Sentinel Newspapers apologizes for plagiarized cartoons; may continue using cartoonist

Brian Karem, the Executive Editor at The Sentinel Newspapers, has issued an apology and statement to the cartoonist’s whose works William Charles copied, manipulated and signed off as his own. But the troubling line in the statement was that the paper will continue to use cartoons by William Charles in the future.

Here’s the full 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.

Above emphasis mine.

This is unacceptable. The idea that a newspaper editor would knowingly publish cartoons by someone who so blatantly plagiarized and infringed on copyright is jaw dropping and should not be tolerated in a professional journalistic publication.

I urge you all, especially if your work was infringed by William Charles, to contact Mr. Karem or the paper’s CEO and tell him under no circumstances should William Charles work be allowed to be printed again.

Lynn G. Kapiloff, CEO –

Brian Karem on Twitter or Email.

Correction: I’ve altered the headline to read “may continue…” instead of “will continue…”. Their statement isn’t a clear declaration that they will or won’t use Charles’ work in the future.

14 thoughts on “Sentinel Newspapers apologizes for plagiarized cartoons; may continue using cartoonist

  1. I think the question is, does Mr. Charles even exist? My educated guess is, there is no such person. How do I come to this conclusion?

    First, the drawings are obviously not his — they were stolen. So he’s not an artist. Second, the signature used is a spitting image of the one used by William Charles, a cartoonist of the Revolutionary War Era. So that, too, was lifted from already available work. In fact, one news outlet has already reported that “William Charles” is a pseudonym, making it harder to determine “his” (or “her”) true identity:

    “The Montgomery County Sentinel cartoons are composed by ?William Charles,? a pseudonym. The cartoons were removed from the newspaper?s website Thursday.” (see

    The Sentinel, however, continues to refer to Mr. Charles without quotation marks, making it seem as if Charles is a real person. But the newspaper has not indicated it has spoken with Mr. Charles or disciplined him in any way. Usually, such blatant plagiarism would result in termination.

    On the contrary. The newspaper is considering allowing him to continue creating political satire, even though “William Charles” has thus far contributed nothing but words for the characters in the cartoons — if, in fact, “he” actually exists, under that or any other name. My guess is he is not an actual human being, but the creation of someone at the Sentinel.

    Curiouser and curiouser! (which, by the way, is a quote from Alice, from Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.)

  2. correction to my comment: Charles lived from 1776-1820, so “Revolutionary War Era” is probably stretching it.

    From Wikipedia:

    He was born in Edinburgh but little is known about his early life and training. Charles had published political caricatures in Edinburgh and London before immigrating to America. He worked extensively in New York and Philadelphia from about 1806 until his death.[1]


  3. I’d have to see the cartoons in question, but is this not common? One of the cartoons that won a Pulitzer or something (featured here on your site) shows Putin climbing out of a matryoshka doll. I have that same cartoon somewhere in a Newsweek from the 90s – only instead of Putin it’s a bear.

    If you ask me, cartoonists copy from each other all the time.

    Besides, that used to be a sign of flattery. Check up the origin of the word ‘forgery’…

  4. James: You can peruse the .zip file Councilman Moore has provided, and see that, for example, “Wm. Charles’s” cartoon “Rockville’s Pike Plan/Rockville’s Future?” is a distorted photocopy of Andy Singer’s “Drive to Work/Work to Drive” cartoon with only the captions and labels changed. There is not one thing anywhere in the cartoon drawn by “Wm. Charles,” including the signature. That’s not two people coming up with the same idea. That’s one person stealing another’s work.

    Or, more likely (and more to the point of whether “Wm. Charles” exists), a roomful of people stealing one person’s work. Dozens of “Wm. Charles” cartoons are so cluttered with barbs and insults that don’t work together that they have to be the work of a committee, family, or barroom brainstorming session in which nothing was discarded.

  5. If I were one of the cartoonists involved, this lack of remorse would make me disinclined to forgive and forget. AFAIK, the newspaper is legally responsible for its misappropriation of copyrighted material, particularly where the forgeries are so clearly blatant and there is a history of continued use after they were informed of the thefts.

  6. I’ll bet he’s some kid raised on the internet who had no idea it was even wrong. This is what they do, take some meme, slap new text on it and send it around for a disposable laugh. Since he’s working for free, he must think the same rules apply This is possibly the ugly future of editorial cartooning. If papers refuse to pay for content, kids will just copy clip-art and add new text.

  7. Copying another cartoonist’s work in a version of one’s own is plagiarizing. Taking another cartoonist’s actual work and merely replacing the caption and signature is repurposing.

  8. James – no, this is not remotely common.

    This has nothing to do with copying another’s work and re-working it/re-drawing it and claiming it (which is unethical and not common, but it might seem so given the infinite access to infinite samples). This is outright FORGERY.

  9. Terry:

    Do you think what “William Charles” did here is repurposing and therefore OK?

    I’m trying to figure out the distinction you’re making.


    Steve Davies

  10. @Steve Davies
    My comment is meant ironically. Of course, it isn’t ok to take someone else’s cartoon and put your own signature on it. But it’s theft, not plagiarism.

  11. I knew you were being ironic – but, wow, there are “artists” simply printing instagram photos they find and selling them for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS – they are EXACTLY repurposing whatever they come across and they make sure not to share a dime with the original artist, just like Roy Lichenstein…

  12. I feel the same – contempt for his attitude and misappropriation but grudging respect for the simple fact that he at least put brush to canvas…

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