Kris Straub – Jacked by One-Note Plagiarists?

I’ve been following Doctor Straub for some time now, because he’s just damned funny. And internet famous (like small indie bands of yore? It still feels exciting to be fan of his, because he deserves more fame than he has?). So I was disturbed to read that he suffers from little plagiarism indiscretions (if not monetarily, then intellectually). (edit: er. or maybe he just sees friends suffering from it, and it makes him think about it)

I love his chainsaw suit comics, and blaminations. He started with a strip called Checkerboard Nightmare, which I stopped reading because it reminded me too much of my own efforts with vidHero. Couldn’t really get into his kinda cold and boring starslip strip, but respect it’s attempt be his version of star trek. I do love star trek. Apparently he’s made some sort of Lovecraftian fiction verse as well, called Ichor Falls, which I’ve never taken the time to get into. But I loves me some Lovecraftian weird horror. And I enjoy the project he shares with 3 other dudes, covering the sad strange business of making web comics.

Anywho, he recently wrote an interesting blog about small-time joke/idea theft. Which doth gots me thinking lots. n’stuff.

my comment:

fascinating important issue.
I think the ultimate solution is to draw attention to the purported theft. Try to set up a dialogue with them. But if that fails, just make it clear to your followers which individuals you’ve identified as worthless thieves. make it public. (in a way, it’s sort of like classic Hoodoo: if you focus your hate, many people will likely pick up on it, and eventually the subject will suffer in subtle ways). Three thoughts:

* Broken Businessmen:
I’m sure it is frustrating to be a fountain of ideas/jokes/art, only to see others profiting off them. But there’s a different between being a creative and being a businessman. I think it used to be that you would expect a businessman to contact you if he was making money off your ideas. Just made sense, because you’re the golden goose. But nowadays, with the mass of internet enabled communication there seems to be a new sort of business man who finds it easier to just steal whatever is hip. He doesn’t expect more than one meme from a single person, so he doesn’t build a relationship with any one individual. (I’m thinking of all these one line joke thefts, bumper stickers, and web comic thefts). Maybe this only applies a small sleazy level of business though (cheap one-off gag gifts).

It seems closely tied to the idea of modern memes. I’m thinking about America’s funniest home videos, and Youtube. This new sort of businessman feels that human’s are just endlessly entertaining to each other, so he seeks to cash in on this endless stream of free entertainment.

Seems like a creepy practice to stop. but. I’m not sure how.

* A Plagiarism-ocalypse:
Also very interesting with regard to the way Google was defending their book scanning initiative. They claimed that once your work is freely available to all, there will be less plagiarism. because any plagiarist can be found. because your worldwide network of readers will do the work for you, to some degree. Trying to hide your work will only make the plagiarist’s gambit easier. (i’m thinking of this compelling hour-long lecture on YouTube, from an official Google talk, about the history of copyrights).

But your example seems in direct opposition to this. You’ve identified a plagiarist, but can’t do anything about it.

… Maybe it’s a sign that there is a big difference between one joke and an entire novel. it’s hard to justify the legal fees for a single tossed off joke. …

maybe it’s a sign that this is the price you pay for free publishing. no legal defense. If you want to go after people for stealing your art or a one-line joke – maybe you should wait and publish a bunch of them in a book. then you have something more substantial to defend. Kind of the opposite of publishing a compilation of your web comics after they’ve been freely given away online?
(by that point they’ve already been published for free?).

* Built Brand:
seems like all roads lead back to : creating a persona that is bigger than the joke. I’m sure Mike Stoklasa doesn’t care if someone rips off his Mr.Plinkett star wars reviews. because it’s nearly impossible to do it in his voice/style. He’s just another angry nerd criticizing starwars and star trek. But he does it well enough that the Plinkett persona now stands out above the jokes.? maybe.

I keep thinking “Didn’t the internet help kill off Dane Cook? didn’t enough people call him out for stealing jokes that his career is over?” seems like you just have to maintain your position, that someone is a fucking thief, and eventually word will get around. this is proven, yeah?


I also keep thinking of that line from The Social Network, arguably the core of the movie, when the creator of Facebook says something like “Look, a guy who builds a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who ever has built a chair, okay?”

I feel like : if I draw a “Dr.who meets Peanuts” joke, and you draw your own version, with a different punchline, welllll – maybe that’s fine? Separate but similar?
dunno. interesting stuff to think about.

more and more, i keep thinking “there’s a reason nobody sues bumper sticker makers.” Maybe it’s a sign of a bigger problem with web comics, tshirts, and stickers. Maybe need to make producgts that are more substantial if you want to have legal recourse? (to justify the fees).

or maybe we wall need that iPhone app “iLaw” i keep ranting about, to drive down legal fees.

edit: re-reading his blog post, i can see it is more about the layers of intellectual property that make pop culture art a very tricky business. I initially misunderstood, and thought it was more of a personal cry for help in solving a modern plagiarism problem. oop.

… on some level I want to go on developing my blog post until it is sort exemplifies this problem of plagiarizing Professor Straub’s post. heh. META*dies*


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