S.F. Digital Civil Liberties Group Defends TheOatmeal.com Creator

Categories: Tech
bear-love.jpg
Matthew Inman, TheOatmeal.com
Here's a phrase you don't read in a federal lawsuit very often:
...a carnivorous, prehistoric flying reptile that first rips the intestines out of a man's anus, then flogs him with his entrails, then steals a pineapple from a boy, tears his head off, flings it [at] a girl and knocks her head off, then grinds up the girl's head in a wood-chipper, blends it into a pineapple, and drinks the grisly cocktail.

It's the latest step in an Internet-beef between Matthew Inman, creator of the comic website TheOatmeal.com, and Charles Carreon, attorney for humor website FunnyJunk.com. Carreon is suing Inman for conducting an illegal charity fundraiser, whose main purpose was to "revile Inman's legal adversaries."

Today, the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization focused on protecting civil liberties in the digital world, announced that it will defend Inman.

"This lawsuit is a blatant attempt to abuse the legal process to punish a critic," EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry said in a statement.

A little background:

In 2010, Inman wrote a blog post claiming that the website FunnyJunk.com, which is made up of user-uploaded content, had hosted some of his comics without citing him or linking to his website. FunnyJunk denies this, accusing Inman of defamation, and demanded that he pay them $20,000 in damages or face a lawsuit.

Soon after, "Inman crafted a unique response, which included some comic art," EFF wrote in the statement.

He counter-attacked with the "BearLove campaign." Instead of raising money to pay the alleged damages, he said he would try to raise $20,000 and send it to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation. And he would send FunnyJunk drawings of a comically obese, bug-eyed woman in lingere seducing a grizzly bear, with hearts in the background and text stating "BearLove Good, Cancer Bad." As Inman wrote, "Instead of sending the owner of FunnyJunk the money, I'm going to send the above drawing of his mother."

The campaign has since raised some $170,000.

SF Weekly's Dan Mitchell covered the issue earlier this week.

FunnyJunk's attorney, Charles Carreon, filed a lawsuit against Inman for holding an illegal charitable fundraiser, for defaming Carreon, and for cyber-vandalism.

Carroen accuses Inman of creating, or having an associate create, a fake Twitter account, @Charles_Carroen.

"The fake tweets," the complaint states, "were abrasive and provoking to other Twitter users, and engendered immediate negative responses, having the effect of intensifying public hostility toward [Carreon]." In those tweets, @Charles_Carreon calls one user and "Idiot" and says to another, "Sir, you are a dumbass."

The suit, filed last Friday in federal court in San Francisco, also alleges that Inman, or an associate, used his e-mail address to sign him up for porn websites, such as Saboom.com and Tube8.com.

The meat of the lawsuit, though, claims that Inman, and his fundraising platform IndieGoGo.com, have not filed the necessary disclosures and reports to legally solicit donations on behalf of charitable organizations. Inman has also not registered with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts.

Carreon also names the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife fund as defendants in the lawsuit because they did not "disavow their association with the BearLove campaign."

The suit adds that "Inman's conduct disparages the image of charitable fundraising, and he is not qualified to be a commercial fundraiser." It then goes on to cite as evidence things Inman has said in interviews and created in comics -- things that many people might find funny, though a bit edgy. For instance, he said that his Twitter account "is like Hitler's port-a-potty. It's the worst thing you've ever seen, just awful stuff that I say to my critics on there." He also says that "the persona I have online is sort of this crass, bloated, obese, drunk monster."

And that brings us back to the carnivorous, prehistoric flying reptile.

Within the source code of TheOatmeal, according the suit, there is an image of a pterodactyl and the text "I am a motherfucking pterodactyl! Here to ptero-you a new asshole!" An accompanying link leads to a video of a pterodactyl that first rips the intestines out of a man's anus, then flogs him with his entrails, then steals a pineapple from a boy, tears his head off etc.

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