Oatmeal beats the internet

If you’ve ever wondered what $211,223.04 looks like, here it is – Oatmeal photographed the amount raised before sending it to charity.

In more good news the legal suit against oatmeal was dismissed (or withdrawn)?

And FunnyJunk’s search engine is still broken, searching on the site lists only 7 results for xkcd, 5 of which are recent comments (I use xkcd for this test as it’s a unique search term).

But using the Google “site only” search gives a result of 47,000 results…

and leads me to a part of the site called www.funnyjunk.com/channel/xkcd. So they can create a URL with xkcd in it and STILL their search engine can’t find it. Clearly the search engine has been deliberately broken.

Playing with search this time revealed an interesting comment

So apparently FunnyJunk had altered their site to censor words connected to Oatmeals claim. I’m not a lawyer, but wouldn’t this count as “acting in bad faith”? In any case it is proof of highest order douchebaggery. And Oatmeal won.

FunnyJunk.com broke its search engine

For a good analysis of the legal side of the Oatmeal vs FunnyJunk check out Popehat.

There’s a battle going on between FunnyJunk.com and Oatmeal. It comes down to the publication of Oatmeal’s copyrighted content on an aggregator site. Oatmeal made a grumpy post about it, FunkyJunk responded with lawyers. OK one lawyer. To which Oatmeal posted a grumpier post including a wildly annotated image of the lawyer’s letter.

But part of the lawyer’s claim is that the links Oatmeal posted do not link to any copyrighted content on FunnyJunk. This list includes content from other internet humor greats such as Dilbert, Hyperbole and a Half, and XKCD.

He’s right, those links are empty. So I used the search engine on the FunnyJunk site, I chose the term “xkcd”, I figured this was the most distinctive term to search on. However I repeated the experiment with other online comics and got the same outcome. As I suspected using FunnyJunk’s search engine for the term “xkcd” gives no results.

But there’s a search trick you can do with Google, to search within a website, and if I do this I get a very different outcome;

Google can find 43,000 references to XKCD on the FunnyJunk site. But is it really XKCD content? I clicked on one link;

It seems to be a whole page of XKCD’s comics, the distinctive style is evident even in the thumbnail images. I clicked on one just to check…

Oh yes, that’s a pretty famous comic,  you can see the original on the XKCD site. You’ll also note that the “top funny junk” on the left hand side is “oatmeal vs. FJ”, which FunnyJunk can’t find with its own search engine.

FunnyJunk’s argument is that the site only collects user-uploaded content and will remove any content that is uploaded against copyright following any DMCA request. Which is, I think, correct under the current law – they are not required to check content or take action until and unless the content owner makes a complaint. But why should an artist such as Oatmeal, who is trying to make a living by his work, have to also scan the internet looking for incidents where his content is stolen, and re-used by another site to make money? This is exactly the reason that our copyright laws need updating for the internet age (and no, SOPA is not the answer).

In the meantime, it seems that FunnyJunk has broken its own search engine, programming it to ignore terms used in Oatmeal’s original complaint. But the content is still there. Meanwhile the lawyer is demanding 20K, it’s not clear what for.

Oatmeal set out to raise 20K to donate to charities (bears good; cancer bad) rather than send to the lawyer, and reached that level in about an hour, it currently stands at over 120K. If you want to add to the pool of funds “against douchebaggery” as Oatmeal so elegantly puts it go for it – here.

Postscript 25 May 2016

FunkyJunk’s search engine works again. A search on “xkcd” gives search results of the distinctive comics.

A search for “the oatmeal” gives a number of results from The Oatmeal, the first result is part of his campaign against Funky Junk. I wonder what would turn up if I searched for “irony”. 


Copyright Math

There’s lots of debate on the state of copyright. I happen to think that the current situation is not good for creative people and does not protect their originality. We get sucked into the “free content” concept, but while content distribution is free, it’s not free to create and promote. We’ve yet to figure out a way that rewards creation of content and supports free distribution – SOPA wasn’t even close. There are vested interests on both sides of the argument, so I really appreciated this light-hearted take on the numbers being used in the case to protect copyright.


Stolen Content

I picked up a tweet this morning, regarding a “crazy one-in-a-million photo”.


So off I went to the relevant page in flickr – where the owner claims “all rights reserved” for this photo.


There’s a pretty funny discussion on English grammar in the comments but more interesting was this comment from a sharp-eyed flickr member.

Is this a case of copyright violation?

Flickr, which is owned by Yahoo, states in the terms of service agreement.

the relevant passage in Yahoo’s terms of service agreement


Investigating further it seems that all the images on xdvxas’s photostream are stolen from somewhere else, xdvxas has obviously had a lot of comments on his behaviour and provides this “handy guide” to his philosophy.


What xdvxas has missed is firstly a semantic argument. Olde Worlde pirates stole, those operating in the Carribean were after gold being exported from Mexico to Spain. The original meaning of piracy is “robbery at sea”. The term gained some respectability in the 20th century as pirate radio stations sought to break government stranglehold on broadcasting frequencies, and of course the movies have romanticised our notion of pirates even futher.

The second thing is that his model makes some sense for physical goods, but it doesn’t apply to intellectual property. In the cases of intellectual property the “making a copy” often dilutes the revenues stream of the person creating the goods in the first place. Given that xdvxas is operating in the murky waters of social media where sharing is the new mantra perhaps we should turn it around.

In the real world your reputation is worth something, we choose who we work with and who we do business with based on that reputation. In the online world the same dynamic is at play, by publishing works and not giving fair attibution, you’re claiming a reputation you don’t deserve. You’re stealing someone else’s reputation for creativity, you’re stealing their thoughts and presenting them as your own.

I’m starting to feel sorry for xdvxas, he’s missed the point of sharing on social media, it’s apparent he does not have any original thoughts of his own, and his attempt to pirate someone else’s reputation has backfired. On almost every photo someone has posted a link to the original photo.


image pirate via pixabay