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The Case of The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk and Charles Carreon

oatmeal-bumper-intro

The Oatmeal is a satiric cartoon site run by Matthew Inman. About a year ago, he noticed that his content was being uploaded without attribution to a site called “The FunnJunk.” The FunnyJunk is a site that contains user generated content. This means that account holders post things that they like from all over the internet. Maybe a pre-Pinterest sort of site. The Oatmeal writes to the FunnyJunk requesting that the information be removed.

FunnyJunk took down the comics but proceeded to create a mirror image of The Oatmeal’s website. The Oatmeal responded by asking his readers what to do.

The FunnyJunk responded with a call to action to its own users asking them to inundate The Oatmeal’s inbox and facebook page. The FJ’s users responded in droves using their arsenal of retorts such as gay slurs and incoherently misspelled sentences to insult The Oatmeal and his biological predecessors for having the gall to procreate and, I guess, learn how to spell and draw.

According to Ars Technica, after the furor died down, the FJ admin acted somewhat responsibly, possibly realizing that its site could be in jeopardy due to all the copyrighted material illegally reposted there.

When the flame war finally died down, the FunnyJunk admin issued an unsigned note saying, “We’ve been trying for the longest time to prevent users from posting copyrighted content” and “I’m having all content, comics, comments, etc. with the names of your comics in them deleted/banned by tonight… The site barely affords to stay alive as it is and has enough problems.”

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk could have died there in November of 2011, only to be a footnote in internet flamewar history. But no.

The FunnyJunk for some reason came into contact with Charles Carreon, Esq., an attorney who came into national prominence during the sex.com domain name lawsuit. Carreon penned a letter on behalf of FJ, threatening The Oatmeal with a lawsuit for the post where The Oatmeal points out that the FJ has copied his website. Carreon, on behalf of FJ, wants the post to be taken down and $20,000 in damages.

The Oatmeal gets a lawyer and responds back with well worded, backed by research, rebuttal. The Oatmeal also goes on to decide to raise money off this ridiculous situation because so many of his readers want to help but the money isn’t going to Inman, instead he raised money for charity. Initially, he only thought to raise $20,000 for charity but the donations came in thick and fast and in the end, Inman raises over $200,000 which is donated to The American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation.

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk could have died there on June 12, 2012, only to be a footnote in internet flamewar history and with its own Wikipedia entry. But no.

The situation gains the attention of the mainstream media and Carreon begins to make personal threats. He expresses wonderment and dismay at the internet’s reaction (he calls it bullying) toward his legal demands of Inman and The Oatmeal. He suggests that there might be other legal problems for the Oatmeal such as the fundraiser being violative of IndieGoGo’s term of service.

The internet continues to make fun of FJ and Carreon. Other attorneys make public statements about Carreon’s actions which include statements like “Holy fucking shitballs inside a burning biplane careening toward the Statue of Liberty, Captain! I hope that the reporter merely got the story wrong, because if not, that’s more fucked up than a rhino raping a chinchilla while dressed up in unicorns’ undergarments. ”

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk could have died there later on June 12, 2012, only to be a footnote in internet flamewar history, with its own Wikipedia entry, and a few mainstream media mentions. But no.

Charles Carreon’s pride has been wounded. In his delusionary state, he must see that the only way out is to double down on the Jack and the Six (i.e., worse blackjack hand in the deck). He takes the situation to DefCon 5. Last night, Popehat was alerted by another legal watcher that Charles Carreon has filed a lawsuit against The Oatmeal, IndieGoGo, American Cancer Society, and National Wildlife Federation.

He transcended typical internet infamy when he filed a federal lawsuit last Friday in the United Sates District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland. He belonged to the ages the moment he filed that lawsuit not only against Matthew Inman, proprietor of The Oatmeal, but also against IndieGoGo Inc., the company that hosted Inman’s ridiculously effective fundraiser for the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society.

But that level of censorious litigiousness was not enough for Charles Carreon. He sought something more. And so, on that same Friday, Charles Carreon also sued the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society, the beneficiaries of Matthew Inman’s fundraiser.

Popehat is a site run by a bunch of lawyers and they are offering Inman pro bono legal work and they are asking the internet the following:

1. Kevin and I have offered pro bono help, and will be recruiting other First Amendment lawyers to offer pro bono help. It’s not just Mr. Inman who needs help. IndyGoGo does to. So do the charities. No doubt the charities already have excellent lawyers, but money that they spend fighting Carreon (whatever the causes of action he brought) is money that they don’t have to fight cancer and help wildlife. That’s an infuriating, evil turn of events.

2. You could still donate through the IndieGoGo program The Oatmeal set up. Or you could donate directly to the American Cancer Society or the National Wildlife Federation. I like animals, and I loved my mother who died at 55 of cancer, but I have no qualms whatsoever about encouraging people to donate to those causes as part of a gesture of defiance and contempt against Charles Carreon and the petulant, amoral, censorious douchebaggery he represents.

3. Spread the word. Tell this story on blogs, forums, and social media. Encourage people to donate as part of a gesture of defiance of Charles Carreon and entitled butthurt censors everywhere. Help the Streisand Effect work.

4. Do not, under any circumstances, direct abusive emails or calls or other communications to Mr. Carreon. That helps him and hurts the good guys. I don’t take his claims of victimhood at face value — not in the least — but such conduct is wrong, and empowers censors.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part IV from Popehat.

Feel free to copy this entire post and repost it (even without attribution) anywhere you can.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

34 Comments

  1. Patricia
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:47:04

    I’ve been following this situation as it develops. It’s fascinating. One nitpick: the offending site is FunnyJunk.com (not FunkyJunk.com).

  2. Sofie
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:52:31

    WOW…just…WOW. There are no words. I’m heading over to donate now.
    Thanks, Jane.

  3. Jane
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:54:11

    @Patricia: Thanks Patricia. It’s become “FunkyJunk” to me because of Popehat’s usage. I didn’t realize my error until you pointed it out.

  4. Mireya
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:03:54

    Boy, is that F’d up or what … o.O

  5. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:12:27

    FunnyJunk, FunnJunk, FunkyJunk. Where is Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch? Surely they want to get in on this lawsuit also.

  6. Elise Logan
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:24:39

    I love Randazza’s quote. I blogged about it today. Hickepedia turned me on to Popehat a couple of weeks ago, and I find them wildly interesting.

    This whole thing is such a CF that I haven’t any idea where to even begin to comprehend Carreon’s actions. It’s a level of WTF that is truly, wildly, EPIC in its jerk-dom.

    I said on my blog and I’ll say again here: Go Team Oatmeal.

  7. Darlene Marshall
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:34:51

    Many years ago when my hubby was in law school I learned you could sue anybody over just about damn anything. Winning was a whole different issue. Even at that low standard this case is bizarre in the extreme, and I’m just sorry The Oatmeal is having to deal with this.

  8. Las
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:42:10

    When I got to the part about Carreon suing the charities…this guy’s just messing with us, right? He has to be.

  9. Meri
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:46:59

    I figured Popehat must be involved, and it’s good that they’re helping Inman – though a shame that he’s in a position where he needs such legal help.

    As for the rest, the mind boggles.

  10. Christopher Ambler
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 12:01:52

    We’re sending Carreon an indulgence for being a petulant, amoral, censorious douchebag. Hopefully it’ll help his immortal soul, though we suspect it won’t do much good for him in the here-and-now. Please note, we’re sending this as a gift, no strings attached.

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151015106580935&set=a.192871065934.167136.655960934

  11. Fran
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 12:27:59

    Pleasantly surprised to see this here. I love the Oatmeal, and have for a long time. I remember all the 2011 stuff too, and I was so disappointed to see FunnyJunk take action against the Oatmeal—what were they thinking!! They were allowing their users to give them credit for someone else’s comedy!! And they think they’ll win a law suit? Anyway, I’m so pleased to hear someone else is helping Inman and the charities ect.

  12. azteclady
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 12:53:11

    Holly hell (and taking you at your word, Jane–reposting elsewhere)

  13. Leslie
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:02:21

    Thank you thank you for your blog!!
    I went to have a look at Popehat and read about the wonderful Martha Payne. A 9 yr old blogger who writes about her school lunches and was banned from photographing her food. Thank you, I’m going back to read some more.

  14. A tale of the stupid: The Oatmeal, FunnyJunk and Charles Carreon (via Dear Author) « Her Hands, My Hands
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:07:08

    […] and Charles Carreon (via Dear Author) 18 Jun Reposted in toto with full permission from Dear Author (because I really can’t improve on […]

  15. DS
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:12:18

    There’s been a series of interesting posts about this on Techdirt.com. I haven’t read the last post in detail but apparently Carreon thinks there’s some sort of trademark infringement because he trademarked his name ???? This is the sort of behavior you usually get from a lawyer before the announcement of a medical leave.

  16. Maili
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:19:58

    Your deadpan humour frames Carreon’s latest bizarre move so well. Thank you.

  17. SonomaLass
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:30:53

    @Leslie: The Argyll & Butte case, of the 9-year-old girl blogging her school lunches, has been resolved. The staggering public reaction caused the council to change its mind about banning the photos.

    The Oatmeal is one of my favorite humor sites on the web. I hate to see him having to deal with this crap, but of course he’s handling it with his trademark humor. The charity angle was inspired.

  18. Karen Knows Best
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:36:37

    […] Cross posted with full permission from Dear Author […]

  19. The Case of Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk et al | cara ellison
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 14:18:33

    […] has a summary of an interesting case that I think all bloggers need to be aware of. I am reposting Jane’s work here, and I encourage you to check the DA website for the links that I’m not copying. The Oatmeal […]

  20. Shayera
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 14:44:22

    Matthew Innman has an update today: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/carreon

  21. Tellulah Darling
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 14:55:14

    Just *sigh*…

  22. Julia
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 15:07:45

    I can’t even form any coherent words for the amount of fail that is emanating from that guy. I think this definitely will go down as a one hell of a flame war.

    I don’t visit The Oatmeal as much as I would like to, but when I do I usually leave laughing. It’s sad that this had to happen. Sad and crazy.

  23. Chance
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 16:31:36

    You can’t just incite people to email someone!!!

    http://www.ragingblog.com/2009/05/pornographers-infringe-emily-trademark-and-mattel-is-silent-how-swell-is-that/

    Oh wait, Charles Carreon did.

  24. Oatmeal vs. FunnyJunk and Charles Carreon « Angela Benedetti
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 17:11:25

    […] from Dear Author, with permission courtesy of […]

  25. Susan
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 17:47:28

    This is so ridiculous that I really want to laugh. (And that flaming shitball/rhino/chinchilla/unicorn undergarments quote isn’t helping with the straightface.) But it’s really so sad when normal people going about their lives get roped into someone else’s delusional vindictiveness. Unfortunately, there’s no way this ends well for anyone.

    It reminds me of that DC attorney/judge who filed the $67M lawsuit over his pants:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson_v._Chung

  26. Courtney Milan
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 19:11:33

    Jesus, what a piece of shit lawyer. Every time I see a lawyer flaming out, I hold my breath while checking what law school they went to, hoping it wasn’t mine. (It wasn’t.) (Not that that means anything.)

    He’s posted the complaint on his website now, so you can tell that his primary complaint (as in, the only one that wouldn’t be laughed out of court) is failure to comply with California’s charitable fundraising regulations. Except that is going to be laughed out of court, too. Like a complete asshat, Carreon didn’t bother to do the slightest bit of research. It took me five seconds to determine that the statute in question doesn’t create a private right of action. It says:

    Cal. Gov. Code 12598. (a) The primary responsibility for supervising charitable trusts in California, for ensuring compliance with trusts and articles of incorporation, and for protection of assets held by charitable trusts and public benefit corporations, resides in the
    Attorney General.

    And also:

    Cal. Gov. Code 12591. Nothing in this article shall impair or restrict the jurisdiction of any court with respect to any of the matters covered by it, except that no court shall have jurisdiction to modify or terminate any trust of property for charitable purposes unless the Attorney General is a party to the proceedings.

    In other words, private parties can’t sue to enforce the statute under which Carreon is suing.

  27. Kinsey
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 19:37:33

    I’ve met lots of crazy lawyers in my 20+ years in BigLaw, but somehow it always seems to be the solos who flame out this spectacularly. (Altho there was that partner in Dallas who threatened physical violence and made sexual slurs against opposing counsel because of some deposition scheduling confusion. A bad case of big swinging dick syndrome. He got fired.)

    What blows my mind is that Carreon and his wife (who seems to be as crazy as him) have this bizarre website where their “humor” posts include photoshops of Condoleeza Rice with lots of dicks pointing at her face. So the idea that he’s been traumatized by a cartoon of a fat lady humping on a bear is kinda ludicrous.

  28. Ann Somerville
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 20:05:35

    I’ve been following this over at BoingBoing too.

    So the Oatmeal is the victim of egregious copyright violation, and then revictimised by an obsessive lawyer with the most elastic morals you’re likely to see outside politics.

    Lovely.

    At least the Oatmeal wasn’t targeted by an obsessive convinced they’re a serial [should that be ‘cereal’] killer.

    Normally one would hope the nearest and dearest of people like the Carreons would intervene before things got to this stage, but I suspect they would consider such intervention ‘proof’ of their persecution, and just double down on the crazy.

  29. Kaetrin
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 22:15:05

    What bugs the heck out of me in this kind of situation is that the defendants have to waste their precious time and money defending such a ridiculous suit. Even if it should be thrown out of Court super quick (let’s hope), it’s still going to divert their attention and funds from what they want to be doing and what they do best.

  30. Mary Anne Graham
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 09:10:55

    …”uploaded without attribution” is, I think, the key. Many folks post links, but those serve to drive traffic to other sites because when the link is clicked the reader goes to the source site.

    There’s no shortage of lawyers with big egos in my profession, unfortunately. IMHO the bottom line of this one is that paying homage to an ingenious creator by linking to them is one thing – stealing someone’s creative process or product is something else entirely.

    Tribute is good; theft is bad!

  31. CdnMrs
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 09:11:17

    […] from Dear Author, with permission courtesy of […]
    What kind of monster sues charities?

  32. Karenmc
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 11:22:56

    I’ve been following this elsewhere, but hadn’t seen Popehat’s contribution. I love it when people reach out to help against the stupid (and now I know about The Oatmeal and Popehat, FTW).

  33. Funnyjunk and The Oatmeal… | S h i l o h W a l k e r
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 13:47:54

    […] via Dearauthor, posted with permission: The Oatmeal is a satiric cartoon site run by Matthew Inman. About a year ago, he noticed that his […]

  34. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity languishes in the dark
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 02:02:47

    […] The Oatmeal vs. FunnyJunk. […]

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