When Someone Steals Your Work (updated 6/4/14)


A friend recently discovered one of my comics (Are You Burnt Out?) posted over on Cheezburger with my logo removed from it. Essentially, somebody took my signature off my painting.

Turns out, some folks in the UK decided to crop out my logo and post the comic as their own. Somebody else who thought it was funny, and didn’t know it had been ripped off, posted it to Cheezburger. My friend found it and let me know and I reached out to Cheezburger. Cheezburger’s staff was amazing, updating the post with the fully-branded comic and linking back to us within an hour. It took a while longer, but the folks in the UK removed our comic too along with another image on the post which I suspect they may have also stolen.

This kind of theft (piracy is the correct term) isn’t exactly a new thing.

Last year, a FB page with 100K+ followers found an unbranded version of the Are You Burnt Out comic and reposted it. I found out when a total stranger recognized my work and let me know. That post had over 500 shares when it was deleted by the page creators. When they realized it was stolen, they removed it immediately and started sharing my other comics, which was really cool of ’em.

In fact, if you do a Google Image Search on Are You Burnt Out, you’ll see quite a few copies of the comic exist out there – WTF Marketing logo present or not. A Pinterest search reveals quite a few, too. I spent about an hour and a half today just going around and asking various site admins to either remove or swap the image for the full version, leaving comments pointing back to the original, etc. Many have complied and the Google Image search is shrinking down to just the branded ones.

I’m incredibly humbled when I read the comments, replies (especially the image replies), and see just how many people liked or upvoted various versions of the comic (branded or not).

Here’s a rough count:

  • 12,100 (!!) Shares and 389 Facebook Likes from QuiteRly – branded
  • 28,000 shares, 6,222 likes, and 314 comments on Facebook – unbranded, sourced from I Waste So Much Time (UPDATE as of 6/3/14)
  • 1,849 likes on Funsubstance – unbranded
  • 289 faves on Imgfave (where the Funsubstance pic was reposted) – unbranded
  • 578 “Awesome” tags and 59 comments on I Waste So Much Time – unbranded (UPDATE as of 6/4/14: DMCA request had to be issued to have this removed – the owners never got back to me. For the record: issuing a DMCA request is very simple, and it’s also the most soul-sucking thing I’ve ever had to do.)
  • 327 faves on yet another Imgfave post – branded
  • 227 hilarious comments and 1,344 points on Imgur – branded
  • 327 Facebook Shares on Uberhumor – branded, not linked due to NSFW ads
  • 70 upvotes and 15 comments on LOLsnaps – unbranded
  • 48 loves on Lockerz – unbranded (I had to follow up with the former founder Kathy Savitt, who is now the CMO of Yahoo to get contact info for the new owners. She graciously took time out of her busy schedule to help – thanks Kathy! — DMCA request issued on 6/4/14 after no response received)
  • 509 FB shares, 227 Pinterest shares from The MetaPicture (was unbranded, they corrected it)
  • … a few more sites which don’t have any stats shown
  • …and a whole page of hilarious follow-up image replies on FunnyJunk (I didn’t get back there to record stats before they removed it) – unbranded

Nearly 43,000 (UPDATED 6/4/14) shares tells me I’m doing something right. In truth, I’m kinda bummed those folks who only see the unbranded comic won’t get to see my other work. Chasing down every unbranded/stolen WTF Marketing comic would be a losing battle, for sure. It just moves so fast. And that bums me out, too.

See, I make these comics for you as much as I make them for me. I like to know that other people out there feel and think the same way I do. It’s like a little high-five for my soul each time someone shares one of my comics or laughs at one of my jokes – a little spiritual connection, even though that sounds kinda silly. When someone gets to discover more of my work, they might get another moment of not feeling like they’re the only one on earth who thinks the way we do.

On the product side, I make a little over $1 for every coffee mug or poster sold on Zazzle, which is not a ton. As far as content goes, “Have Sex” and “Hunt a Snowboarder” are about as risqué as WTF Marketing as a brand. So I don’t quite understand why someone would take my logo off… unless they wanted to take credit for it themselves. But I don’t know if that’s quite right.

So it got me thinking… There’s a bell curve of intelligence, right? So, Stephen Hawking and Einstein and these guys? They’re way up on the far end.

People like you and me? We’re right around the center (hey – no offense, I’m only guessing here). I don’t know about you, but sometimes I do pretty stupid things. Like this morning, I’m pretty sure I answered the door in my boxers. Hellooooooo neighbors!

As George Carlin liked to say, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” YouTube commenters? They’re way, way down on the other end.

So when I wonder why someone would take my signature off of one of my comics, I can only think it’s because they’re too stupid or desperate to be liked to know any better. Kinda like they’re thinking, “If I just tape over the name, I can share this and people will think *I’m* the funny one.”

Taking somebody’s signature off their work makes you look pretty stupid. And desperate. And that makes me sad – because that’s the exact opposite of what the comics, the Public Service Announcements, are about. I only want to make you laugh (even if I don’t get credit for it).

Let’s hear it: has your work ever been stolen? What did you do about it?