This last week we have seen two high profile examples of how you can screw up and make a total idiot of yourself on the internet. With social networks like twitter and Facebook, news spread quickly, and if it is perceived that there is something unfair going on, expect furious people to share it. When you or I, with perhaps a couple of hundred Facebook friends and twitter followers, post about it, it will still spread, but slowly. But when people like Jamie Oliver (2.5 million followers) or Neil Gaiman (1.7 million followers) tweet about it, things start spreading like wild fire.
The first example is The Case of The Thief Suing His Victim. Most of you are probably familiar with the online cartoon The Oatmeal. Matthew Inman, the guy behind all the funny cartoons, complained a year ago that a website called FunnyJunk was full of his drawings. FunnyJunk allow their users to post material (from a quick glance it looks like a large part of the contents is copyrighted material), and then when complaints are sent to them just blame the users, while cashing the checks for all the advertising on the site. Matthew blogged about FunnyJunk doing this about a year ago, and described their business model:
Here’s how FunnyJunk.com’s business operates:
1.Gather funny pictures from around the internet
2.Host them on FunnyJunk.com
3.Slather them in advertising
4.If someone claims copyright infringement, throw your hands up in the air and exclaim "It was our users who uploaded your photos! We had nothing to do with it! We’re innocent!"
5.Cash six figure advertising checks from other artist’s stolen material
Last week, Matthew was served with papers, demanding him to pay FunnyJunk $20,000 or be sued. FunnyJunk had hired Charles Carreon as their lawyer, who wrote that letter.
Matthew responded publicly here: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/funnyjunk_letter
I highly suggest reading the whole thing. It is extremely amusing.
So Matthew sets up a fundraiser. Not to raise money to pay off FunnyJunk, but to split even between the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. He raised the $20,000. In 64 minutes! The amount collected by "Operation BearLove Good. Cancer Bad." is currently at $169,000. However, the lawyer, Charles Carreon, is trying to shut down the fund raiser, according to MSNBC. He is also complaining that he was not expecting an outpour of hate and people being upset at him, or having his mom accused trying to seduce a Kodiak bear (the drawing is supposed to be of the mom of the FunnyJunk admin/owner, not the lawyer, by the way). Very strange that someone who market himself as a cyber attorney is so clueless to how the internet works. He should lookup the Streisand effect, as well.
Even other lawyers chime in. The law-blog PopeHat.com uses some strong words:
So, The Oatmeal tried to turn this into something good ?something that would benefit wildlife protection and cancer research ?and Charles Carreon had a snit and tried to shut it down because it was embarrassing to him and his client?
Fuck him. He’s vermin. He’s not forgivable. Let any good he has ever done be wiped out. Let the name "Charles Carreon" be synonymous with petulant, amoral censorious douchebaggery.
Another lawyer, who supposedly knows Charles Carreon, is also quoted on the same page:
Despite my earlier charitable comments, I can not find any words to defend trying to shut the fundraiser down. I can’t even gin up a minor benefit of the doubt on that one. I can see an ill-considered demand as a mistake in judgment while hoping to gain an advantage for your client. But taking a shot at the fundraiser would not do that ?it would just be lashing out to hurt bears and cancer patients? 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.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of this. The twitterverse seems to have the consensus that Charles Carreon just committed career suicide.
The second example is The Case of NeverSeconds. A nine year old girl, Martha Payne (who blog under the name VEG), started a blog called NeverSeconds, where she posted pictures of her school lunches, as well as described them (contents, taste, etc). This is a great blog!
Picture by Martha Payne, from this blog entry.
The blog went viral recently, and children in other countries are sending her pictures of their lunches. Martha is also raising money for Mary´s Meals, a charity trying to feed poor children. UK newspapers started writing stories about the blog and how the schools should serve healthier (and bigger) meals for the kids.
However, on Thursday Martha posted a message titled "Goodbye.":
This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I´ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don´t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary´s Meals either.
The school board decided to stop Martha from taking pictures. Supposedly one of the newspapers who picked up the story about her blog had called for the lunch ladies to be fired. So it was not even something Martha did.
This story was picked up by UK and international news outlets, and celebrities like Jamie Oliver and Neil Gaiman posted on twitter in support of Martha. Her charity went from ,000 to (currently)
7,000strike> 8.000 (and it keeps going up) in a few days! Donate you too.
After a media- and twitter frenzy, and after the members of the
school board of Argyll and Bute were contacted by the education secretary of Scotland, the ban was lifted today. The school board first posted this statement, still trying to shift blame to Martha. They then retracted that and posted another statement. I suspect that the first statement is how the council really felt, that government officials should not be allowed to be criticized. They were probably forced by higher-ups and more outrage to withdraw the first statement and replace it with another one.
This is a great example on how NOT to act when criticized. Basically a hug PR fiasco.
So there you have it, two great examples of a website/lawyer and a group of politicians who dug themselves a hole, and then kept digging. I have a feeling that that school board will be gone at the next election. And that the FunnyJunk lawsuit will be thrown out of court quickly, if it even get there. By the way, Matthew Inman have retained Venkat Balasubramani to handle the case:
I have discovered that The Oatmeal is represented by none other than Venkat Balasubramani, who will lay a motherfucking smackdown if you make him. While The Oatmeal´s response is funnier, Venkat brings his A-Game here.
Let´s bring out the popcorn! But first, go and send some money to the bears/to stop cancer and to feed the children.
Update: Martha is back! Monday she will take a new picture and post. Also, her fund raiser is now up to 2,300″…”