One of the weirdest chapters in recent Internet history drew to a close this week, and I'm pleased to report it has a happy ending. The FunnyJunk vs. Oatmeal kerfuffle is over, and the good guys won. FunnyJunk has dropped its spurious defamation claims against The Oatmeal, and once again all is right with the InterWebs.
I've written about this case -- or noncase, as the case may be -- a couple of times now, but to quickly summarize for those who haven't been paying rapt attention: Wildly funny cartoonist Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal) accuses alleged humor site FunnyJunk of stealing thousands of his cartoons; FunnyJunk responds a year later via its attorney accusing him of libel and seeking $20,000 in pay-us-and-we'll-go-away money; Inman turns it into an Internet meme, raising more than $200,000 for charity and transforming FunnyJunk attorney Charles Carreon into a 2012 version of LOLcats.
[ Catch up on the FunnyJunk/Oatmeal saga with Cringely's earlier posts, "Why we need a code of ethics for the Web" and "The evidence is in: FunnyJunk missing funny bone." | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]
Carreon became Internet Enemy No. 1 the minute he tried to finagle 20 large out of the highly popular cartoonist and even more so after he attempted to keep Inman from donating the monies he'd raised to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and an army of self-appointed Net vigilantes jumped in on Inman's side, and things got nasty in exactly the way they always do on the InterWebs -- a mix of juvenile sneering, arch satire, and physical threats.
A handful of people created websites mocking Carreon in particular, so naturally, Carreon sued them. Then Carreon's wife Tara chimed in, accusing Inman of rallying the Internet against her and her husband and calling critics everything under the sun, including the inevitable Nazi comparison (thus combining Godwin's Law with the Streisand Effect, a nice two-fer).
Inman had promised to photograph the money and send a picture to FunnyJunk/Carreon before donating it; because of the lawyer's various legal machinations, he had the money sent directly to the charities and instead withdrew the same amount -- $211,223.04 -- from his personal account. Then true to his word, he photographed it and sent it to Carreon. He got a little artsy first, arranging the banded piles of banknotes to spell out FU in large capitals, as well as the alphanumerical equation "Philanthropy > Douchebaggery." (I think Sir Isaac Newton may have been the first to formulate that.) Then he returned the money to his bank.
I guess being a popular Internet cartoonist pays better than it sounds. Once again, it seems I have chosen the wrong profession.