The Internet Rips You Off

Things are quiet around here as everyone prepares for the annual Halloween Countdown. We’ll have new, daily content for you throughout October (even weekends. Rad, right?) You can help out GdL16 by spreading the word – tell people to check us out, interact with us on Twitter and Facebook.

In the meantime, I’ll chat a bit about something I read over at ComicsAlliance involving artist Francesco Francavilla and TeeFury, a copycat that sells one shirt design every 24 hours (though it seems more transparent with its payment policy than Woot. And, artists retain rights of their designs whereas Woot retains rights in perpetuity.) Francavilla got pissed off because a TeeFury design depicting H.P. Lovecraft had some elements similar to something Francivilla drew.

Of course, both designs seem to rip off one of the two existing pictures of Howard, so it’s a question of “who ripped off who?” The answer is “they both suck” and that ultimately, Francavilla doesn’t have as strong of a standing to sue, in my opinion. If he had a more original piece of work, instead of adapting a existing photograph, he’d be in a better position. Hell, we all would. Hell, people, there are more classic horror writers than H.P. Lovecraft. Yeah, C’thulu and all that but c’mon. It’s like how Hollywood keeps making movies out of Philip K. Dick novels. We’re turning C’thulu and H. P. Lovecraft into the McDonalds of Horror literature.

My main point is not that people are overexposing Lovecraft (they are) or that some whiny dirtbag artist stole artwork from another whiny artist (Jimi Benedict, artist of the TeeFury piece, is innocent in this case but his blog posts kind of reveal that the guy’s a dick.)  The main point, one that ComicsAlliance hinted at, is  that if you contribute to the Internet and don’t cover your ass, it will rip you off.

Example: Some guy posts a picture of his cat wearing a custom-collar that looks like a tie. Someone makes a few captioned pictures and thus BusinessCat, the meme, is born. Shortly thereafter, starts selling pictures featuring a black cat wearing a similar tie-collar. The design is a drawing and it’s altered enough that while it retains similarities to the original meme (the cat is black, there’s no discernible facial expressions, tie-collar), it’s clearly different from the original picture. This difference is made to scuttle any possible lawsuits that the original photographer might make, though if the guy wanted some of the profits, he could probably make a decent case. I’m not entirely sure if the cheezburger group reached out to the original poster (the picture first appeared on the forums. The cat’s name, by the way, is Emilio.) They might have but after seeing how they use all the troll faces from 4chan/reddit with gleeful aplomb, it’s pretty clear that unless you put a signature on the piece of art, you’re going to get fucked over.

We here at GdL16 are against intellectual property theft. I’m personally for reforming the Intellectual Property laws, since a lot of the corporate culture has lobbied for laws that will erode away the ‘public domain.’ Big respect, personally, goes to Senator Ron Wyden for putting the ‘PROTECT IP’ act on hold, since its obtuse, vague language gives sweeping powers in combating piract and copyright infringement. Yeah, the AFL-CIO supports the bill but so does the MPAA and RIAA. Yeah, the MPAA/RIAA have stopped suing grandmothers but they’re still assholes.

So. What can we learn about this Francavilla/Benedict issue?

1. Lay Off of H.P. Lovecraft. Seriously, people. The dude had some good stories but c’mon. He’s not the be-all, end-all. He was also racist as fuck and not terribly kind to women in writing or in life.

2. Don’t rip off work in the public domain and cry foul when someone else does it. Originality is key. If you’re going to hi the ol’ PEE DEE, then make sure your work is clearly transformative enough that it establishes a style and at least, something that if someone ELSE steals, you can have some stable ground for your lawsuit.

3. When defending your position on a blog, have some sympathy for others or else, you’ll look like a total asshole. Don’t be an asshole. This is the “Jimmy Benedict” rule. The guy’s pretty entertaining and witty but he’s kind of a dickhead on his blog, sometimes. Writing “all’s fair in love and art”  without some kind of empathy towards the opposite side in the recipe for Instant Shitbag(tm). If someone calls you out for doing something, EVEN IF YOU’RE IN THE RIGHT, don’t be an asshole.

However, if that person is clearly being an asshole themselves, you’re allowed to ignore Rule 3.

4. Seriously, knock it off with all the Lovecraft. Find someone else. I mean it.

5. There are enough legislation on the books to combat internet piracy. This is more of an opinion, though I’m sure if someone set up and just ripped off everything we did, I would change my tune. Actually, no. Who the fuck would go to Which, brings me to:

6. Cover Your Ass. Don’t put stuff up on the internet without either expecting it to be copied or without you securing the right paperwork to protect your work. And when someone DOES steal it, use the tools at hand to combat piracy. Yeah, they’re jerks for ripping you off but don’t seek vengeance; seek justice.

That’s pretty much it. I’m going to be busy for the week so I hope this half-brained sermon will hold you over. Trust me, the next month will be entertaining.

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