"Now, Gary Larson, in a nice enough way, has asked us to remove the page. What I don’t get is his logic. His argument is all about his emotional attachment to his cartoons, his desire to exercise control over their usage and the fact that they are 'his children.' Sure. But what about the 20 Larson books I have in my library? Why isn’t he concerned about them? I’ll be honest and say I don’t think I’ve dusted them in over a year, and one or two may have torn pages. Does that make him sad?
"Why can’t he just be honest and say, 'Hey punk, if you didn’t pay for the pictures, you can’t use them.' I did actually pay for them - the pics on the site were all scanned from legal copies of his books that I own."
There are only a couple of comments from readers on his blog. Both are on Graeme's side. And, although the blog entry is from October 2006, I only recently saw it, and I wanted to talk about getting cartoons for free on the Web, and the rights of cartoonists.
Graeme feels he's entitled to take the work from Larson becuase he's bought a lot of Far Side merchandise over the years, and "contributed to what I assume is a fairly wealthy man’s fortune." And he assumes that having bought the book entitles him to using the man's work to his own ends.
OK, a lot of people clip out a cartoon and put it up in their office or school locker.
Taking cartoons is one thing. Taking them for profit is another.
"A website I own hosts a number of talks that can be used in youth groups. ... One of the talks was about how to use Gary Larson’s cartoons to teach young people about God. It was a fun talk, and it included some examples of his cartoons."
And Graeme has stumbled on the whole key: fair use.
At the Carnegie Museum, in one of the back rooms, there's a cartoon of mine (above) that someone taped to the door. My dad's a docent there, and when I saw it, I thanked him. He told me that he didn't put it there. Well, that's nice. Someone else -- someone not related to me -- saw it in WSJ and liked it enough to bother to clip it and tape it up to cheer up the messy Museum break room.
Now, if someone was, for instance, using the cartoon to sell something -- that would not be OK with me.
This person would be using my cartoon as a tool to help them personally profit.
"As an author and presenter myself, I accept that people use my work," Graeme writes. " ... I don’t pursue the copyright I own and am entitled to. Is that just me? I’d like your opinion."
Well, that's his business. But as far as cartoonists are concerned ....
A cartoonist giving away his or her cartoons is a hot topic and has lit up some pro and/or amateur cartooning boards. But some do offer their cartoons for free to Web sites. How do you make a living giving away your cartoons?
One side of this debate says EXPOSURE IS GOOD and the other says YOU KNOW, PEOPLE CAN DIE FROM EXPOSURE.
And then there's the YOU'RE RUINING THE MARKET BY GIVING AWAY YOUR CARTOONS!
If someone's taping up a cartoon of mine in their school locker or their MySpace page, then that's fine with me. That's personal use. But if someone is using another person's creation without permission for business purposes, then that's wrong.
I don't think it's wrong to a cartoonist give away their cartoons. It's their business. And most of the gag cartoonists who do give away their work are only giving away a portion of their output. (I can't speak for Web cartoonists who tend to put 100% of their product out there for free.) A lot of businesses give away stuff (free t-shirts, pens, 2-for1 coupons). It's a way to drum up business and remind people you're out there. But I also believe that it's up to the creator to choose which way to go on this issue.
But it's flat out wrong to use cartoons for a commercial purpose without making an agreement with the cartoonist.