Fighting Legal Threats With Humor & Charity: The Oatmeal Vs. FunnyJunk

What could be worse than a web site apparently using your content without permission? How about getting a legal threat from that same site demanding a $20,000 payment? Faced with this type of crazy situation, Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal, responded with the type of humor and out-of-the-box thinking he’s known for. He decided to raise money for a charity instead. After only a few days, Inman’s raised nearly $150,000 and generated plenty of chuckles across the web with his approach.

The Oatmeal Vs. FunnyJunk, Round 1

Inman makes funny web comics, quizzes and products that wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of the internet. Inman’s cartoons are usually over the top and scrutinize society, spelling, airplanes and more. Throughout the marketing community, his Facebook, Twitter and State of the Web cartoons are some of the most popular cartoons around.

Last year Inman wrote a post about FunnyJunk, an image board website, that was posting his content without attribution, he said.

Not too long after, an admin of the site responded and took down the posts in question, while also allegedly trying to overload Inman’s inbox by inciting their community to revolt. Inman told Today that after that exchange he would  ” just leave it alone, I thought … That’s how it was for a year.”

Round 2: A Charity Drive Is Born

Well it turns out that the popularity of the FunnyJunk post as well as the authority of allowed the post to rank just below for queries like “Funny Junk,” “,” “FunnyJunk,” and more. This apparently didn’t sit well with the owners of FunnyJunk as they hired Charles Carreon who threatened Inman with a lawsuit for defamation that asked for $20,000 and removal of all mentions and links to FunnyJunk.

This didn’t go over well with Inman who created a lengthy markup of FunnyJunk’s own letter that tore apart the papers that were served to him.

His goal? Instead of paying the $20,000, he would raise $20,000 and donate it to two different charities, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. Inman also stated that if he can successfully fund the campaign, he would send an image of FunnyJunk’s lawyer’s mom seducing a bear.  The fundraiser was deemed “BearLove Good. Cancer Bad.” and allowed donations though Indiegogo.

Inman did hit the $20,000 mark … in just 64 minutes. As of 9:00 AM today, the total amount to be donated is at a whopping $142,943:

Salon dubbed it “Internet Shocker: Kindness Wins,” CNET asked “Can Charity Squash Frivolous Lawsuits?” and the Internet simply responded by backing The Oatmeal.

FunnyJunk’s lawyer told Today “I’m completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat — I’ve never really seen it before.” He went on to note that the fundraiser may be in violating the terms of service of IndieGoGo, (something that will inevitably bring more backlash from the internet.)

Unfortunately, receiving legal threats is commonplace for webmasters in today’s world, frivolous or not. While the Oatmeal’s defense tactic may not be able to be pulled off by everyone, webmasters who have been bullied are celebrating across the country. Head over to IndieGoGo if you want to donate to Operation BearLove Good. Cancer Bad.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Legal | Legal: Copyright & Trademark | Legal: General | Top News


About The Author: is the Director of Marketing for Cypress North, a company that specializes in social media and search marketing services and web-based application development. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for 6+ years and specializes in Social Media Marketing. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.

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  • Max Kennerly

    FunnyJunk looks wrong on the facts, but the legal theory underlying his lawyer could have merit in some circumstances. It might arguably be defamatory for a content creator to accuse a user-generated content site of intentional infringement — which means a lot of other content creators who complain about UGC sites might want to be a little more careful with their language if they don’t have the same resources and platform as The Oatmeal to fight these threats.

    (FWIW, I’m not saying this is a good thing. I’m saying: as a content creator be careful in what assertions you make about sites infringing your content, you could expose yourself to a lawsuit.)More explained here:

  • Peter Hanley

    Awesome write up Max. Nice getting a different perspective on these sorts of things! Seems like Carreon is a bit passed his sell-by tbh.

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