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I first caught wind of this over at Planet Karen, one of the few blog/comics I follow regularly. Seems that an artist (Todd Goldman) basically lifted this piece of "art" directly from a webcomic produced some five years ago (Dave Kelly's Purple Pussy), going so far as to reproduce even the details like the curl of the tail, eyelashes, etc. It's pretty egregious. And the cartoonists, they are less than pleased, needless to say. Most of the webcomic artists that I follow "give their work away" and struggle to make ends meet with Cafe Press tchotchkes, compilation books, etc. It's not tough to imagine why having someone else display their work in a gallery and sell it for $$$ might rankle them.You can find some links and more detail over at Juxtapoz, which is where the above graphic comes from.

I keep my ear to the ground, and typically forward to Becky mentions of plagiarism, intellectual property, etc., that I come across, particularly when I deem it unlikely that she'll have seen them. And I did with this case as well. What struck me, and part of why I forwarded it, as I was tracing out links was Scott Kurtz's suggestion:

David, you should make that panel open source. You should encourage everyone in webcomics to do a praying pussy strip. Make this one image synonymous with the act of plagiarism that Todd Goldman committed on you. Then ride the wave of attention and publicity and use it to bring your work the exposure it deserves. Turn something bad into a huge opportunity for yourself.

The idea here is that, rather than policing and seeking damages for the plagiarism, Kelly could get even more mileage from it in the long run by diluting the aura that Goldman is attempting to capitalize on. And that's something that I haven't seen much of as I come across the occasional discussion of plagiarism. I'm relying here on a pretty dim memory of Benjamin's "Work of Art" when I mention aura, but there's a sense in which Kurtz's suggestion turns Benjamin's point (which can be read nostalgically) into a creative (commons) strategy. And that's kind of cool.

(Oh, I should mention too that I'm not sure that there's a phrase right now that's abused and misused more than "open source." As sympathetic as I am to almost every context where it's used, I've heard a number of otherwise savvy people use it like a magic spell when they simply mean "free" or "non-proprietary." It's starting to work its way under my skin.)

That is all.


I'm intrigued by Kurtz's statement, "When someone steals your work, you HAVE to make a stink." There's a whole world of debate that could emerge from that statement. Also of interest: Metafilter's assertion that Goldman is making a habit of image appropriation. Most fascinating of all, though, is the community retribution you talk about, where multiple people empty the appropriated text of meaning by re-re-reduplication. For some reason it echoes the Grey Tuesday event for me.

This reminds me of when Suzanne Vega took all of the bootleg version's of "Tom's Diner" that people had done over the years and just released them on a CD. She made money (and so did they) off of plagiarizing her song.

My position is that if someone plagiarizes your work, you have the right to make a stink if you want, and someone who chooses to do so shouldn't be shamed.

Also, did you see the story about the CBS plagiarism? Egregious.

I first saw this story via del.icio.us; they had a link to you thought we wouldn't notice-- a website dedicated to making a stink.

The argument for avoiding traditional litigation in favor of creating buzz is a strong one (and one implicitly endorsed by Lessig and Anderson). That's what some of the large properties groups (MPAA, RIAA) don't understand: file sharing creates buzz and interest. And, contrary to popular logic, a lot of people who share files end up buying them, or passing them on to someone else to buy, or increasing ticket sales (which increases demand and radio play time)-- while mass piracy is clearly a problem (at Purdue we have a few students who can measure their downloaded files by the tera byte), common file sharing almost equates to free advertising.

And, Collin, I agree with you that open source doesn't mean free. Personally, I advocate for Lessig's plan: full copyright protection for 20-25 years, then into the public domain. And once congress updates public domain (which they haven't done in nearly 100 years) and stops making r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s new laws, I'll feel bad about ripping a few albums or a second copy of Dreamweaver (hey, I paid for my PC version just a year ago--why should I have to pay again to get it for my Mac?)

To Clancy's link:
What made the ripoff especially striking was the personal flavor of a video -- now removed from the CBS Web site -- that began, "I still remember when I got my first library card, browsing through the stacks for my favorite books."

Plagiarism experience one never experienced!

Death of the author indeed.

I'm a cartoonist and I saw one of my drawings in the scandal. My original drawing is Frank Lloyd Wrong by Kramer. I'm loving all of this free publicity. When I signed my artists contract with David & Goliath I gave them permission to use my artwork, but expected royalties in return, that was part of my contract. I never got my royalties. The reason I did not get my royalties is simple. I quit my job with them after I was threatened with termination so they told me that made my contract null and void including royalties. But it still rubs me the wrong way when I see them making money off of my original artwork when the our contractual agreement is no longer in effect and since I have never been paid royalties for my work that they used or continue to use.

I'm looking to contact David Kelly's attorney so I can figure out if I have a leg to stand on.

Good luck with it, Steve, and I mean that. The more I've heard about D&G, the uglier it seems. The wave of cease & desist letters to sites that were reporting the story is only the latest.

It sounds like you've got grounds for a case, but that's my own uninformed opinion.

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