Renegade Reflections, ROW80

A cautionary tale

editing, writing, red pen,
Red Pen by Cellar Door FIlms from WANA Commons

Please scroll down for my ROW80 check-in.

Earlier this week, I was pointed to a funny, true, and far-too-self-revelatory comic by The Oatmeal on creativity. (Thank you, Kristen Lamb). I heard from fellow writers that The Oatmeal is well-known, although not to me.

I sent the link to my husband, who, as it happens, follows law blogs and copyright law.  He said, “Oh, yeah, that guy was in a lawsuit,” and proceeded to send me all the relevant blog posts.

It is a cautionary tale for those of us who create.  The Oatmeal called out a site that posts creative works without permission or attribution; the site’s response was to threaten legal action.  An awesome set of bloggers, known as Popehat, found lawyers to work pro bono for The Oatmeal.

I cannot tell the story better than the string of posts about it on Popehat; the snark is delicious and redolent. They are in reverse chronological order, so one has to read up, but they are numbered after number 3.

I was touched that Popehat puts up a Popehat signal (yes, like Batman) when they feel someone needs legal assistance; lawyers respond by the legion, and offer pro bono help. It seems the name Popehat is an inside joke among the founding bloggers, with nothing to do with the papacy or Roman Catholicism, but coming from a staunch Irish Catholic family, I had to love the Popehat as a Batman-type signal.

I also love to see lawyers paying it forward in this way.  I cannot say with any certainty, but I suspect some of those offering pro bono work enjoy fighting the sleazebags who have given lawyers a bad name since Shakespeare’s time.

A incident like this one makes me nervous about sharing anything I’ve created. I would hate to feel powerless against a legal threat when I merely want the rights to my own work.  Early in my academic career, it was accepted procedure to sign away all rights to the journal publishing one’s article.  The sea change has happened in that world as well, with academics keeping the rights to their work.

I have no snappy conclusions or smart solutions.  I wanted to call your attention to some of the good guys. I think it is arrogant for a site to think they can post things without attribution or permission.  I am glad that, with Popehat’s help, The Oatmeal won the day.

How do you feel about having your work out there?  Do you post excerpts or serial snippets? Have you ever had anything posted without permission or attribution?


I’m still in the chrysalis phase, uncertain whether I am Swallowtail Spicebush or Monarch. The blogging class is coming along reasonably well, and I am learning some elementary things like embedding videos and the like.

I spent most of the week feeling like I’d been drained by vampires, with none of the eroticism. I’m probably valiantly fighting off some virus making the rounds of the students, so I’m not worried, but it has put paid to my doing much outside of the day job.  I have gotten most of an article written for the day job, which does help keep the pump primed for fiction writing.  All in all, I’ll take it. 🙂

Please go encourage some of the cohort here.


10 thoughts on “A cautionary tale”

  1. Ha! I hadn’t seen that creativity one, yet. So very true.

    I remember the whole FunnyJunk debacle. Pretty obscene, and unnerving to think about getting into such a situation. Glad he was able to get it worked out.

    I feel like I’ve had to deal with something of mine being pilfered before, but I’m drawing a blank on the specifics…must not have been too dramatic!

  2. I’ve been following the Oatmeal lawsuit case for a while now, and I share your worries about work being circulated without permission. I’ve been thinking about adding a Creative Commons license to my site and everything that I post there, just to have something that I can point to in terms of ownership… but I’m not 100% certain that would cover me. We should pose the question to Diane Capri, methinks.

    Sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather, my friend, though I had to laugh at your description–“drained by vampires with none of the eroticism” indeed! Hang in there, and I hope you have a chance to rest over the holiday weekend.

  3. I heard about the Oatmeal debacle a while back – someone has a cojones, taking on an Internet phenomenon like that! I’m pretty sure my work’s been pirated, but not to the extent the more well-known authors have. Hope you’re feeling better soon!

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