The Oatmeal and FunnyJunk legal dispute
A legal dispute between webcomic The Oatmeal and FunnyJunk, a content aggregator website, began in 2011. The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman alleged in 2011 that FunnyJunk users repeatedly infringed copyright of The Oatmeal 's original content. In June 2012, FunnyJunk's lawyer, Charles Carreon, sent Inman a letter demanding US$20,000 in damages from him, alleging the claims he made were defamatory. Inman responded by publishing the letter on his site, along with a response and announcement that he would be organizing a charity fundraiser through Indiegogo, donating the amount demanded by Carreon to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation.
On The 15th of June 2012, Carreon filed a separate pro se lawsuit Carreon v. Inman et al against Inman, Indiegogo, both charities and a hundred Does for allegations related to The Oatmeal 's response and related actions by other individuals. Carreon dropped this case on July 3 of that year. Mashable named the case first among their list of "silliest tech lawsuits ever." Carreon was also sued by the anonymous operator of a blog parodying him after Carreon sent letters to the site's web host demanding they reveal its operator.
In 2010, The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman found that FunnyJunk was distributing copies of comics from his website without permission. He sent e-mails, resulting in removal of some but not all of the comics, and subsequently discontinued attempts at removal.
The FunnyJunk owner known simply as "Admin" responded with a message to all users claiming that “the Oatmeal wants to sue funnyjunk and shut it down! He thinks we're nothing more than dirty content thieves...Contact Oatmeal anyway you can!" and provided links to The Oatmeal 's e-mail and Facebook page. This triggered spamming by FunnyJunk users and a flame war with The Oatmeal readers.
Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad
|This section is outdated. (September 2013)|
In 2011/2012, FunnyJunk hired Charles Carreon to review its website. In June 2012, Carreon delivered a demand letter via process server to Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal claiming that The Oatmeal 's posts regarding FunnyJunk's alleged copyright infringement constituted defamation. The letter demanded the removal of references to FunnyJunk and US$20,000 in damages. Inman responded with a The Oatmeal blog post containing an annotated copy of the letter, and refusing to do so. Inman further proposed to raise the requisite $20,000, take a photo of himself with the cash, and send the photograph along with a satirical illustration of FunnyJunk's mother "seducing a Kodiak bear" to FunnyJunk. Rather than pay the damages, Inman proposed to donate the money to two charities, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. This blog post elicited more popular support for Inman and The Oatmeal than anticipated, and the fundraising effort "Operation BearLove Good. Cancer Bad." generated the $20,000 in 64 minutes and over $100,000 in under 24 hours, and at completion he raised $220,024. Inman also responded via counsel. On June 21, 2012, Carreon abandoned FunnyJunk's demands because of misinformation.
The incident spurred commentary by Dan Mitchell of the SF Weekly on how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act places the onus of policing violations on content creators and by Maxwell S. Kennerly Esquire of the Beasley Firm LLC on whether public accusations of copyright infringement are defamatory.
In the aftermath of the blog post, FunnyJunk took down all pages Inman linked as infringement and Carreon sought to hide his e-mail address due to a flood of e-mail. Carreon expressed surprise, stating: "I really did not expect that he would marshal an army of people who would besiege my website and send me a string of obscene emails." On June 14, 2012 Carreon replaced his contact page with one saying, "Due to security attacks instigated by Matt Inman, this function has been temporarily disabled." Inman, however, disputed the assertion that he had instigated an attack, noting in a blog post that Carreon's contact information had been redacted from his initial comic and that he had never directed anyone to attack Carreon. Carreon's website, Twitter account and WordPress site were all attacked, but he says "I welcome the opportunity to confront legally the misuse of a new technology." Carreon is trying to identify the operator of the impostor account @Charles_Carreon by subpoenaing Twitter and Ars Technica. As of September 2012, the account was suspended.
Carreon sent Indiegogo a request to halt Inman's charity fundraiser as a terms of service violation, alleging that the charities' names are misrepresented in violation of California law, and Inman will profit. Inman promised, "I won't use any of the money on legal fees." and "100% of it is going to charity." Indiegogo investigated the allegations and did not suspend the campaign.
When Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad ended, Matthew Inman said that he still plans to go with his plan of taking a picture of the money, sending it to Carreon with the satirical picture, and donating the money, though now both the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society get $105,611.52 each instead of $10,000 each. Inman negotiated to receive the sum in $20 bills from the bank. As of July 1, 2012 Inman has already withdrawn and photographed his own funds, posting the images on July 9. Glenn Fleishman participated in and reported the photo shoot. Inman sent FunnyJunk a framed print of the satirical drawing and a photo of the cash spelling out "F. U."
Carreon v. Inman et al
On June 15, 2012, Carreon filed a pro se lawsuit Carreon v. Inman et al in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland against Inman, Indiegogo Inc., the American Cancer Society, the National Wildlife Federation and a hundred anonymous Internet users for allegations related to the Oatmeal case. In the filing, Carreon says he donated to the fundraiser, which would give him legal standing for his lawsuit. Carreon stated that he wants to prevent charity fraud like the donations from being diverted from NWF and ACS to Inman, Indiegogo or other undisclosed charities. Inman responded to the lawsuit with a blog post, but was advised against giving interviews.
Indiegogo responded with a statement calling the lawsuit "frivolous." Lawyer Rebecca E. Hoffman of Bloomberg BNA said Carreon's case could "only be described as frivolity on top of frivolousness."
On June 21, 2012, the case of Carreon v. Inman et al was assigned to Judge Edward M. Chen. On the same day, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that it would represent Inman, stating, "This lawsuit is a blatant attempt to abuse the legal process to punish a critic."
On June 25, Carreon amended his lawsuit against Inman and the other defendants to include Kamala Harris, the state Attorney General of California. On June 30, Carreon also requested a temporary restraining order to stop disbursement of the donations. On July 1, 2012 Inman's and Indiegogo's attorneys filed opposition. According to their filings, credit card donations held by Indiegogo were disbursed directly to the National Wildlife Foundation and the American Cancer Society on June 29 while donations via PayPal were held in a PayPal account. Inman wrote checks to the charities against the PayPal balance and gave them to his lawyer. Inman withdrew and photographed his own funds, posting the images on July 9.
On July 3, 2012, Carreon filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in his lawsuit against all parties without prejudice. Carreon declared, "Mission Accomplished," in an interview with Ars Technica and told Comic Riffs, “Inman aborted his ‘publicity stunt’ to photograph himself with the proceeds that were intended to go to charity, the court took cognizance of the issues and ordered Inman to deposit evidence of his disposition of the funds, and Inman deposited the evidence of payments made to the charities.” Carreon wrote to MSNBC.com, "While it's not the largest sum of money I have ever had a substantial role in raising, it is the first time I've seen it go to charity, and I think it's great." Carreon went on to propose a mud wrestling match with Inman but Inman declined. Robert X. Cringely wrote that Carreon's actions in the dispute made him "Internet Enemy No. 1."
Doe v. Carreon
In June, a critic of Carreon set up the site charles-carreon.com, a blog that pretends to be written by Carreon while satirically criticizing him. The Charles Carreon Esq. character is obsessed with dinosaurs. On June 21, 2012 Carreon sent Register.com a letter demanding that they disclose the site's owner. Register.com acquiesced and briefly revealed the owner's name in the site's WHOIS information. "Satirical Charles" was represented by Paul Levy of Public Citizen pro bono. Levy filed a federal suit Doe v. Carreon to seek a declaratory judgment to protect the satirical site's owner in July 2012. After evading service, Carreon agreed in December 2012 to settle for costs of $725. He then "engaged in unnecessary, vexatious, and costly tactics" to determine the proper amount of attorney fees, but was ultimately ordered to pay $46,100.25.
On July 7, 2012, Carreon released a music video "Psycho Santa: The Heroic Exploits of Matt Inman / A Work of Perpendicular Fact" on his new site Rapeutation.com. Carreon alleges that he was the victim of a "Distributed Internet Reputation Attack (DIRA)" perpetrated by "large numbers of both human and digital Internet zombies" acting in concert. Carreon claims to have evidence of a denial-of-service attack.
- Anderson, Nate (June 3, 2011). "The Oatmeal vs. FunnyJunk: webcomic copyright fight gets personal". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Anderson, Nate (June 12, 2012). "Lawyer demands $20,000, so webcomic raises $100,000 from the Internet". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- McClelland, Jo (July 12, 2012). Top 9 Silliest Tech Lawsuits Ever. Mashable
- Anderson, Nate (July 17, 2012). Finding the mystery man behind FunnyJunk. Ars Technica
- Inman, Matthew (May 2011). "What should I do about FunnyJunk.com". The Oatmeal. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Inman, Michael. "An update on the FunnyJunk situation". The Oatmeal. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- Cavna, Michael (June 18, 2012). "FunnyJunk lawyer suing The Oatmeal cartoonist Inman over Indiegogo charity drive". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Hockenson, Lauren (June 12, 2012). "The Oatmeal Fights Legal Threat, Raises $20,000 in an Hour". Mashable. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- Inman, Matthew. "FunnyJunk is threatening to file a federal lawsuit against me unless I pay $20,000 in damages". The Oatmeal. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- Johnson, Eric (June 13, 2012). "Website war earns big bucks for charity". Komo News. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- "BearLove Good. Cancer Bad.". Indiegogo. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- Balasubramani, Venkat (June 11, 2012). "FunnyJunk -- The Oatmeal Response". Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Bradbury, Daniel (June 21, 2012). "The Oatmeal beat Funnyjunk, but other cartoonists aren't so lucky". The Guardian. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Bradbury, Danny (June 19, 2012). "Local Cartoon Spat Escalates to Your Mama Jokes, Death Threats, and a Fundraiser for Wildlife". The Stranger. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Mitchell, Dan (June 12, 2012). "Bear Seduction and the Copyright Conundrum". SFWeekly. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- Kennerly, Maxwell (June 11, 2012). "FunnyJunk v. The Oatmeal Threatened Lawsuit Going Nowhere". Litigation & Trial. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Golijan, Rosa (June 2012). "Cartoonist turns lawsuit threat into $100K charity fundraiser". MSNBC.com. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Thier, Dave (June 14, 2012). "Funnyjunk's Lawyer Accuses The Oatmeal of Instigating Attacks Against Him". Forbes. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
- Inman, Matthew. "Charles Carreon is officially suing me and and the charities I'm raising money for". The Oatmeal. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Thier, Dave (June 15, 2012). "Funnyjunk Lawyer Charles Carreon Isn't Afraid of The Oatmeal". Forbes. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
- Anderson, Nate (June 20, 2012). "Doubling down: FunnyJunk lawyer to subpoena Ars, Twitter". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Thier, Dave (June 21, 2012). "Charles Carreon Subpoeaning Ars Technica, Twitter in Oatmeal Suit". Forbes. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Ngak, Chenda (June 15, 2012). "The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman rejects legal threat, raises over $150,000 for charity". CBS News. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
- "BearLove Good. Cancer Bad.". Indiegogo. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Johnson, Casey (June 15, 2012). "Lawyer tries and fails to shut down The Oatmeal's charitable fundraiser". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- Faircloth, Kelly (June 15, 2012). "Nice Try, FunnyJunk: Indiegogo Says the Oatmeal’s Fundraiser is A-Okay". Betabeat. The Observer. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Inman, Matthew. "Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad has ended. Now what?". The Oatmeal. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
- Cavna, Michael (2011-02-25). "THE OATMEAL’s CHARITY DRIVE: Inman’s Indiegogo campaign closes with $220K — next: the money shot - Comic Riffs". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad has ended. Now what?". The Oatmeal. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
- Dave Thier (2012-04-18). "The Oatmeal Raises Over $200,000 for Charity Amidst Legal Disputes". Forbes. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
- Staff, Ars. "The Oatmeal fights back, snaps photo of cash, sends money to charity". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2012-07-02.
- Golijan, Rose (July 10, 2012). Cartoonist keeps odd promise to Internet, withdraws $211,223.04. MSNBC
- "As promised, here's the photo of $211,223 in cash we raised for charity". The Oatmeal. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- Fleishman, Glenn (2012-05-29). "Oatmeal Spells F U in Money Shots". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- "BearLove Giant Pile of Charity Money - a set on Flickr". Flickr.com. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- Biggs, John (June 17, 2012). "Can I Sue You People? Troll Lawyer Sues The Charities The Oatmeal Supports". TechCrunch. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Thier, Dave (June 18, 2012). "Lawyer Charles Carreon Suing The Oatmeal, American Cancer Society and National Wildlife Federation". Forbes. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Carreon, Charles. "Lawsuit Filing" (PDF). Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Johnson, Casey (June 18, 2012). "Angry "Internet lawyer" sues The Oatmeal, bears, and cancer research". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Anderson, Nate (June 18, 2012). "FunnyJunk's lawyer gave money to The Oatmeal's fundraiser". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Thier, Dave (June 20, 2012). "Charles Carreon on His Oatmeal Suit: "Being Unpopular Gets You Places"". Forbes. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Thier, Dave (June 19, 2012). "The Oatmeal and Indiegogo Respond to Charles Carreon's Lawsuit". Forbes. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Biggs, John (June 19, 2012). "The Oatmeal To Charles Carreon: "Come Back When You’ve Calmed Down"". TechCrunch. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Roy, Jessica (June 18, 2012). "Indiegogo Fires Back at FunnyJunk Lawyer’s ‘Internet Jihad’ Lawsuit, Calls It ‘Frivolous’". Betabeat. The Observer. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Kelly Phillips Erb (2012-04-18). "Indiegogo Responds to Federal Lawsuit (And I Explain What Crowdfunding Is)". Forbes. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- Hoffman, Rebecca E. (June 28, 2012). He let the world know about some infringement and now he's getting sued for raising $200K for charity. Wait, what? Bloomberg BNA
- "Carreon v. Inman et al". Justia. Retrieved 2012-07-01.
- "EFF Will Represent The Oatmeal Creator in Fight Against Bizarre Lawsuit Targeting Critical Online Speech" (Press release). Electronic Frontier Foundation. June 21, 2012. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Thier, Dave (June 22, 2012). "Electronic Frontier Foundation Throws Its Weight Behind The Oatmeal". Forbes. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Samaha, Albert (June 21, 2012). "S.F. Digital Civil Liberties Group Defends TheOatmeal.com Creator". SF Weekly. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- "FunnyJunk attorney ropes California Attorney General into The Oatmeal lawsuit". Ars Technica. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
- Farivar, Cyrus (July 1, 2012). FunnyJunk lawyer aims to halt distribution of "BearLove" money. Ars Technica
- "Inman's opposition to application for temporary restraining order | Electronic Frontier Foundation". Eff.org. Retrieved 2012-07-02.
- Golijan, Rosa (2012-06-12). "Internet cartoonist's charity fundraiser turns into free speech debate - Digital Life". Digitallife.today.msnbc.msn.com. Retrieved 2012-07-02.
- "Bears Good, Cancer Bad. Also Bad: Trying to Punish A Critic by Preventing Him from Giving Money to Charity | Electronic Frontier Foundation". Eff.org. 2012-06-28. Retrieved 2012-07-02.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (July 3, 2012). Charles Carreon Drops Bogus Lawsuit Against The Oatmeal Creator.
- Lee, Timothy B. (2009-10-04). "Carreon claims victory, drops his lawsuit against The Oatmeal et al.". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 (2011-01-04). "FunnyJunk Attorney Charles Carreon Drops Lawsuit Against Oatmeal Creator". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Kelly Clay (2012-04-18). "Funny Junk Drops Frivolous Lawsuit Against The Oatmeal". Forbes. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Cavna, Michael (2011-02-25). "‘THE OATMEAL’ v. FUNNYJUNK LAWYER: Why Charles Carreon dropped his Indiegogo charity lawsuit - Comic Riffs". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Golijan, Rosa. "Will lawyer and cartoonist continue fighting for charity ... in the wrestling ring? - Digital Life". Digitallife.today.msnbc.msn.com. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- Cringely, Robert X. (July 13, 2012). FunnyJunk vs. Internet: The good guys won. InfoWorld
- "About « censoriousdouchebag". Charles-carreon.com. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- Goodin, Dan (2012-06-18). "Defenders of The Oatmeal create parody websites to pick up the fight". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
- Farivar, Cyrus (July 3, 2012). Former allies turn on Carreon, sue to halt his threats. Ars Technica
- Anderson, Nate (12 April 2013). "The madness ends: Lawyer Charles Carreon to pay $46,100". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- "A Distributed Internet Reputation Attack or, What You're Left With After You've Suffered One". Rapeutation. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
- Hutchinson, Lee. ""Rapeutation": Charles Carreon still not done with The Oatmeal". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
- "A Distributed Internet Reputation Attack or, What You're Left With After You've Suffered One » Evidence of DOS Attacks". Rapeutation. Retrieved 2012-07-12.