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Batiuk lawyers force down Funky commentary blog (UPDATED)
WordPress.com received a cease and desist letter from attorney’s representing Funky Winkerbean and Crank Shaft creator Tom Batiuk demanding they remove two blogs: sonofstuckfunky.wordpress.com and stuckfunky.wordpress.com for violations of “unauthorized use of the Funky Winkerbean name, trademark, or comic strips.” The site was a daily commentary blog – similar to Comics Curmudgeon – that focused on the Funky Winkerbean feature. The letter also requests the blogging service to reveal the name, address, and email of the blog author. Since the blogs have been removed, we know WordPress complied with that portion of the letter.
After the wordpress blogs were pulled down, the blogger launched sonofstuckfunky.com and removed any comic images. Daily posts now link to the comic instead of embedding it.
The author writes that he’s unsure of his next move.
I’m still reeling from having the plug pulled, then was feeling great about being able to move the blog so quickly. Now I’m feeling pretty anxious. I don’t have a lawyer, I (obviously) don’t have a deep knowledge of copyright, and really don’t need to get sued.
This turn of events ought to tell you everything you need to know about Tom Batiuk’s sense of humor.
I will collect my thoughts and decide on the course of action going forward. In the meantime, thank you, friends, for your support.
The larger question in my mind is the affect this will have on a host of other commentary blogs such as The Comics Curmudgeon.
UPDATE: I sent an email to Josh Fruhlinger of The Comics Curmudgeon. His blog is one of the most popular comic commentary sites on the web. I asked what this development meant to his site.
If I had to guess — and this is a totally uneducated guess, but it makes sense to me — I’d say that the use of comics on my site falls under fair use because I don’t have the same comics every day. I don’t compete against (say) the Houston Chronicle for someone looking for their Mary Worth fix, since I don’t carry Mary Worth every day. Whereas a one-comic blog like Stuck Funky is essentially syndicating Funky Winkerbean without paying for it. But there are plenty of one-comic blogs out there that do the same thing and seem to be unscathed, so I’m not sure exactly what’s going on.
He notes that he has been running his site for over six years and has never had an issue with the syndicates or their cartoonists.
UPDATE #2 I was able to contact the blog’s author, “TFHackett” for a response. This is his response:
My main reaction was surprise; I found out about the blog being taken down the same way the readers did: I went there, and it wasn’t there. Only when I contacted WordPress support did I find out that it was due to copyright. If Tom Batiuk was aware of the blog’s existence, it would have been a simple matter for him to email me and tell me to stop posting the comics.
I’m a lifelong fan of the newspaper funnies, and also a fan of of many of the blogs that critique them. Son of Stuck Funky was spun off from another author’s blog, Stuck Funky (which was also cited in the C&D and has been disabled). After that blog’s author stopped posting daily updates, I brought the community with me to the new blog.
He continues that he hopes that by removing all comics and other intellectual property that it will end the legal dispute.