A feud between humor site FunnyJunk and online comic strip creator Matthew Inman, also known as The Oatmeal, is escalating into one of the oddest battles to date stemming from online copyright infringement.
The dispute started last year, when Inman complained publicly that his material was being uploaded to FunnyJunk. "I realize that trying to police copyright infringement on the internet is like strolling into the Vietnamese jungle circa 1964 and politely asking everyone to use squirt guns," he wrote. "I know that if FunnyJunk disappeared fifty other clones would pop up to take its place overnight, but I felt I had to say something about what they're doing."
Things took a turn for the worse earlier this month, when FunnyJunk's lawyer, Charles Carreon, accused Inman of defaming FunnyJunk and infringing its trademark. Carreon also demanded that Inman remove all references to FunnyJunk from the Oatmeal and pay $20,000.
Some people probably would have ignored that letter, while others might have responded directly to Carreon and yet others might have tried to go to court proactively.
Instead, Inman posted Carreon's letter and also asked for $20,000 in donations. But he didn't say he wanted the money in order to pay Carreon. Rather, he publicly said he was going to donate half of the money to the National Wildlife Foundation and the other half to the National Cancer Society.
Within one day, Inman raised more than $100,000.
Carreon obviously wasn't happy with that turn of events. This week, he filed a federal lawsuit against Inman -- as well as the National Wildlife Foundation, the National Cancer Society and the fundraising platform IndieGogo, which hosted the effort for Inman.
Carreon says that Inman violated a California law that requires commercial fundraisers to register with the state attorney general's office. Carreon also accuses Inman of trademark infringement for allegedly creating (or inciting someone else to create) a fake Twitter account with Carreon's name.
Inman responded in a public letter to Carreon that his lawsuit is "meritless" and will "probably just get dismissed."
"Maybe start your own charity fundraiser as way of apology. I'd donate," Inman writes.