Say, you are a writer of comics, with a large fan base. What do you do if your fans use your copyrighted material? Do you sue them, thank them or work with them? Today we give you three approaches. Let’s call them the legal, practical-legal and practical approach.
Three cases to learn from:
1. Peanuts – The legal approach
Peanuts Worldwide, LLC is the copyright owner of the Peanuts comics (with a.o. Charlie Brown and his beagle Snoopy).
Peanutweeter is a website by Jason Agnello with a great idea: pair up a frame from a Peanuts cartoon and match it with a semi-random Tweet.
Peanuts Worldwide apparently did not think it was funny, unlike a lot of people, including a lot of Peanuts fans. So they sent a cease and desist letter.
Peanutweeter has taken down all of the comics, complying to Peanut Worldwide’s request. Agnello points out, however, that he believes the use is fair use, but doesn’t want to bother fighting this.
Legally the copyright owner may have case (although ‘fair use’ is a good point here), but there is also a practical site: this action has pissed of a lot of Peanutweeter readers and also a large number of Peanuts fans.
2. The Far Side – The practical-legal approach
Gary Larson is author/creator of The Far Side, a surrealistic and extremely funny comic. A comic with a large fan base. Fans that regularly have posted their favorite Far Side-comic on numerous websites.
Although Larson was charmed by this idea, he also was very protective of his copyright.
Without the assistance and legal threat of an attorney, he personally wrote all his fans and kindly asked them to remove any copyrighted materials.
You can of course still find examples of The Far Side on the internet, but most fans have complied with Larson’s kind request. As a real fan would.
3. Garfield – The practical approach
There is also another approach. Dan Walsh started the incredibly funny experiment “Garfield minus Garfield”: random Garfield comics, where Garfield was left out. Result: a existentially weird comic strip. Very funny.
Garfield creator Jim Davis enjoyed this so much and was very happy with the attention it got, that he and his publisher worked together to put out an official Garfield Minus Garfield book. This may be a better way of dealing with it.
Lessons to be learned: although you may have a solid legal case, never forget what negative buzz you may be creating with your actions. Especially when you are “attacking” your bread and butter: your fans.