The webcomics blog about webcomics

The Streisand Effect

So normally I don’t expect to first find [web]comics news from my habit of following the Popehat twitterfeed.

Let me back up a moment.

Popehat is a group blog, dealing mostly with legal issues (particularly First Amendment and free speech issues), where most of the content comes from a gentleman of approximately my own age named Patrick White. I don’t agree with every position that White holds, and find myself at near-visceral levels of disagreement with some of his co-authors; some of them are pretty absolutist in their libertarian beliefs¹, but at least I know what I’m getting into when I see the author’s name at the top of posts².

Regardless of any political disagreements, I have the utmost admiration for the work that White has done in defending First Amendment rights, as well as his remarkable facility with creative profanity³ and the snarktacular edge to his writing that verges on the sublime. I first became aware of White (and Popehat) during the Matt Inman/Charles Carreon dustup, and I certainly wish I’d known of him when we at Fleen received a lawsuit threat from Todd Goldman back in 2007 (followed by, as of today, 2664 consecutive days of governing ourselves accordingly).

So it was via the estimable Mr Hat that I saw a comic book artist named Randy Queen (whom I had never heard of), who created something called Darkchylde (which I have never read), has his boxers in a knot over the inclusion of some of his more choice images on the Escher Girls blog (dedicated to identifying and critiquing crappy artistic representations of female anatomy) at Tumblr.

So he sent a DMCA takedown notice, which Tumblr complied with without notifying the blog’s owner (this may or may not have happened if the images were hosted on a privately-owned domain), who goes by Ami Angelwings. Despite having an extraordinarily strong counterclaim (the blog was pretty much engaging in the definition of Fair Use), Ms Angelwings opted to not contest the takedown, and posted about what had happened in a pretty damn measured and calm way.

But Mr Queen couldn’t let that stand, so he issued a second DMCA takedown notice, this time against the post that truthfully reported the fact that the first takedown occurred. Now remember, the DMCA is a legal tool that allows content owners to force the removal of their work from other sites on the web that infringe on their property rights; it is not a tool to fight tender feelings. Queen has no copyright interest in being identified as suffering from butthurt. Nevertheless, Tumblr has apparently removed all repostings of the challenged blogpost, although (as of this writing) the original remains up.

You know how sometimes people don’t know when to stop digging? Since Angelwings won’t go away and shut up about what is (factually and verifiably) happening to her, Queen is now threatening to get lawyers involved and throwing around the word defamation. Just in case the various sites that the image up top links to decide to take down the image of the email that Queen sent to Angelwings, here’s a local copy. The part that gets to me is this:

Instead of simply removing the content you do not have the right to electronically distribute, you wish to push further, and publicly challenge my right to protect the perception of my IP as it exists today. [emphasis added]

Where to start, where to start? Hey, Randy, hate to break it to you, but the perception of your IP is not something you have the right to protect. I’m happy to refer you to Eric Burns-White for a remedial lesson in the Death of the Author, but let’s try a more direct approach. Right now I’m perceiving your IP; try to protect it. Nope, not working. I’m perceiving it all I want, and forming my opinion about your grasp of anatomy, composition, panel layout, and the rest. Better yet, forget the IP and try to protect the perception of you, Randy Queen, because as of right now typing your name into Google results in a host of critical press before it gets to your actual IP.

I’m counting four critical stories before the Wikipedia article about your comic and that ratio is not going to improve any time soon. Hell, the io9 story titled Comic Artist Uses DMCA to Bully Escher Girls is presently the #2 Google result for DMCA. Queen has earned the ire of pretty much the entirety of comics press, and guaranteed that the next several projects he tries to launch will garner coverage that includes some variation on:

Randy Queen, who in 2014 attempted to strongarm the Escher Girls Tumblr into removing references to his DMCA takedown notice but was met with a widespread backlash, has announced …

That’s if he can get coverage at all; after all, if Queen can protect the perception of his IP, what role is there for the comics press to review or pay attention to his efforts? Unless he can find a comics news site that will run the review Queen writes of his own work, we have no guarantee that he won’t come after us next. Cut your losses, Randy — your email “got hacked”, you’ve “had a bad reaction to medication that caused temporary erratic behavior”, or some other face-saving walkback is your best shot now.

Or, you know — keep doing what you’re doing, because that always works.

Spam of the day:

will white wine vinegar go bad

There’s an interesting philosophical hook to this question, atcherly — on the one hand, you could say that white wine vinegar has already gone bad, in that it’s no longer fit to be described as white wine, but on the other hand, it’s achieved the best possible vinegarness and doesn’t deviate or degrade from that state. For more on this I refer you to the master.

¹ A philosophy that I find to have some interesting ideas on the surface, undergirded by immense illogic. I will, however, credit those Popehat contributors with whom I disagree with a remarkable degree of internal consistency, a strict adherence to logic, and a willingness to engage contrary opinions in good faith. I ain’t ever drinking their Kool-Aid, but I imagine that arguing with them over a beer or two would be both highly entertaining and likely educational.

² This happens less so on the twitter account, where it’s not always evident who is writing.

³ My life was forever changed the day that I saw White invite the TSA to snort my taint.

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