Gary Larson and Our ‘Far Side’ Cease & Desist
Here at ComicMix, we can admit when we’ve made a mistake — luckily for us, we don’t make mistakes very often.
Nevertheless, we want to inform you that we were caught red-handed this week, having posted a cartoon from The Far Side in our Jan. 1, 2008, post commemorating the end of the popular Gary Larson series.
After receiving a "Cease and Desist" notice from FarWorks Inc., the copyright owner for all of the Far Side art, we’ve removed the Far Side art from the article.
However, while C&D orders are a fairly common practice these days and the letter from FarWorks was pretty much your standard fill-in-the-blanks notification, a message tacked to the end of the C&D caught our eye. It’s a form letter that looks to be authored by Gary Larson himself, explaining the philosophical implications of his stance against unauthorized use of Far Side art, as well as an anecdote or two in typical Far Side form.
We’ve pasted the message here to save you the trouble of posting Far Side art all over your website and waiting for a C&D of your own:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I’m walking a fine line here. On the one hand, I confess to finding it quite flattering that some of my fans have created web sites displaying and / or distributing my work on the Internet. And, on the other, I’m struggling to find the words that convincingly but sensitively persuade these Far Side enthusiasts to "cease and desist" before they have to read these words from some lawyer. What impact this unauthorized use has had (and is having) in tangible terms is, naturally, of great concern to my publishers and therefore to me — but it’s not the focus of this letter. My effort here is to try and speak to the intangible impact, the emotional cost to me, personally, of seeing my work collected, digitized, and offered up in cyberspace beyond my control. Years ago I was having lunch one day with the cartoonist Richard Guindon, and the subject came up how neither one of us ever solicited or accepted ideas from others. But, until Richard summed it up quite neatly, I never really understood my own aversions to doing this: "It’s like having someone else write in your diary," he said. And how true that statement rang with me. In effect, we drew cartoons that we hoped would be entertaining or, at the very least, not boring; but regardless, they would always come from an intensely personal, and therefore original perspective. To attempt to be "funny" is a very scary, risk-laden proposition. (Ask any stand-up comic who has ever "bombed "on stage.) But if there was ever an axiom to follow in this business, it would be this: be honest to yourself and — most important — respect your audience. So, in a nutshell (probably an unfortunate choice of words for me), I only ask that this respect be returned, and the way for anyone to do that is to please, please refrain from putting The Far Side out on the Internet. These cartoons are my "children," of sorts, and like a parent, I’m concerned about where they go at night without telling me. And, seeing them at someone’s web site is like getting the call at 2:00 a.m. that goes, "Uh, Dad, you’re not going to like this much, but guess where I am. " I hope my explanation helps you to understand the importance this has for me, personally, and why I’m making this request. Please send my "kids" home. I’ll be eternally grateful.
You have our most sincere apologies, Gary. Sorry about that whole "kidnapping your kids" thing. It won’t happen again.
Gary Larson is a CLASS act.
That is the coolest C&D letter I've ever read and we saw a bunch of them running Weblogs, Inc. Gary Larson scores some big points with that. What a great way to take the edge off of a legal smack-down.It almost makes me want to put up more Far Side cartoons just to see if he'd write us a new one. ;-)
D'oh! Now you'll get a cease and desist letter for reprinting the copyrighted contents of Larson's cease and desist letter!Seriously, I can understand his ire regarding the wholesale mass reproduction of his works on the Internet for no other reason than to reprint a bunch of his cartoons, but in your case, supporting a newsworthy, Larson-related event, I think it was clearly an issue of "fair use." And I say this as a cartoonist of 40 years who is well aware of the ins and outs of the copyright laws.So if I have a Web site and I want to review a Larson anthology, I can't scan in image from the book — including the cover illustration (if applicable) — to use in my review?Or if I write an article or scholarly piece about Larson, I can't use any of his cartoons to illustrate the article?Horse patooty!And why just you guys? Google "Gary Larson" and click on "images" — how many of his cartoons are posted on the Internet that aren't even close to anything that could be construed as "fair use?"I've a good mind to videotape myself shredding my two volumes of "The Complete Far Side" in protest and posting it up on YouTube!Oh, wait… if any of the cartoons from the volumes were visible as I shredded the pages, I'd probably get a cease-and-desist letter for the video, too. Nah… I love your work, Gary, but you are big-time wrong on this one!
Yeah, I'm going "anti-Larson" on this one, despite my long enjoyment of the strip. Heartfelt [if incredibly misguided, sorry – Comics are Not Children – and emotional attachment to them as such is… well… um… insane?] metaphors aside, your use in the article fell clearly under "fair use."At what point will creators realize that the archaic business models with which they may have grown up are done? And as a consumer, I honestly couldn't care less.Clearly, ComicMix knows the future, hence the free comics online, and I for one can't wait for Demons of Sherwood to come out in a TPB [please, please, please] so I can support the creators I enjoy and read it all in one swoop.
Yup, you bet. Them's the plans. Certainly, if enough people read it online — that's a wonderful way to gauge support and interest.
I am actually stunned by this. It seems incredibly petty and certainly uncalled for in this case. It's not as if you were reprinting his work wholesale. As someone said above, if I write a review of one of his books I'm not allowed to use a picture to illustrate it. I wonder if he sends these things to print media or is it just the web. The whole thing seems really overblown to me and in spite of the sentimental tone, I feel somewhat disappointed in someone whose work I admire.
I'm willing to bet it's fair use, too. I wonder what he would say to a paper that used a comic of his to illustrate an article about him — is he only scared of the web?
This strikes me as another "We have to go after everybody" situation. If they don't at least send a letter to everyone they see posting a FS cartoon, even ones doing it as illustrations for news items, then someone could come along, claim they're not protecting their copyright and post the whole collection. That may well be why Gary wrote the letter, to sort of soften the blow a bit. Or at least that's what the lawyers say will happen. It's the same reason the NRA can't allow any gun control laws (because it's just one step closer to them coming into our homes and taking all the guns away) and why the conservationists won't allow us to tap our oil reserves in Alaska (because then they'll just uproot all the forests and shoot them into space like in that movie)It's good old american over-reaction and over planning. We plan out our chess moves far in advance, trying to anticipate every play…and then our opponent comes out and hands us a tennis racket.We're seeing this happen with more frequency with the Internet making dissemination of info easier. Remember the hoohah when Warner Brothers sent letters to eight-year-olds over their Harry Potter websites? Or back in the Valiant days when Marvel rattled their chains at Shooter over "X-O Manowar" because of the use of the letter X? And the whole comics on bittorrent thing?A friend of mine makes rubber stamps, and he did a series of stamps of great authors – Hemingway, Twain, etc. But when he did one of a kindly old man with a mushy smile named Guisel, he got a letter from the Dr. Seuss folks telling him to stop. I believe he's still in negotiations with them.
Despite the personal tone of the note Gary Larson tacks onto his cease and desist notices, I doubt Gary Larson saw the article on ComicMix. My guess is that Gary Larson has hired a law firm to issue cease and desist notices on his behalf. That firm has probably subcontracted some college student or intern to do regular Google searches of Gary Larson's name and see if any web sites pop up using a Gary Larson cartoon. All those web sites that show up get a cease and desist notice. It's mechanical. Nobody is taking the time to judge whether the cartoon was in "fair use." So getting mad at Gary Larson personally for slapping a cease and desist on ComicMix seems silly.Gary Larson probably gets a monthly or quarterly report that says the law firm sent out so many number of C&D Notices and gets billed so many hours for each one. If a judgment call is made as to which uses of his cartoons are "fair use," that would take more time; they would have to hire somebody with more experience and responsibility to search the net than just some part-time college student or intern. And Gary Larson would end being billed less hours because fewer C&D Notices were sent out. There is no incentive for the law firm to be reasonable.I do think, "My Cartoons are My Children" is a bit of hyperbole. I would be pissed if I were one of Larson's actual children. But, it's still a cute note. "My cartoons are my diary" is a much better analogy. And I haven't heard the name Richard Guindon in YEARS. Guindon is a cartoonist almost as hilarious and surreal as Larson! Excuse me, I need to go search Guindon's stuff out on Amazon.com.
Another fine opportunity to continue the enjoyment by reading the ads after reading the post. Also a fine opportunity to use correctly the 11th grade literature term: ironic juxtaposition.
These comments are becoming a Far Side! You chew out Larsen for wanting to protect what he created, because you moochers can't get it for free! Pathetic! Here's how the web works. This site operates thanx to advertizing. It takes Larsens hard work, re-publishes it, they start generating hits, who gets the money? Larsen? Hell no! You people are bitching about not getting something for nothing. News for you, pay for it you cheap free downloading b@stards! He has a 2 volume complete set of all his work that you can buy and for that much entertainment $80 is cheap! So stop your "I'm on the web so everything should be free!" moronic mentality and respect the people who make a living at doing what none of the rest of you can do, be creative!
These comments are becoming a Far Side! You chew out Larsen for very politiely I might add) requesting respect in protecting what he created, because you moochers can't get it for free! Pathetic! Here's how the web works. This site operates thanx to advertizing. It takes Larsens hard work without his permission, re-publishes it, they start generating hits, but who gets the money? Larsen? Hell no! You people are bitching about not getting something for nothing. News for you, pay for it you cheap illegaly downloading moochers! He has a 2 volume complete set of all his work that you can buy and for that much entertainment $80 is cheap! So stop your "I'm on the web so everything should be free!" moronic mentality and respect the people who make a living at doing what none of the rest of you can do, be creative!
Voice From the Far Side, I don't think you carefully read the article or comments you characterized as "moochers." "pathetic" and "moronic." You would be hard pressed to find any web-site more creative or more in tune with the rights of creators to maintain control of their works. There is a BIG difference between between illustrating an article with a small bit of an artist's work and the wholesale republishing of his oeuvre. In the article, ComicMix put a DIRECT LINK to Mr. Larson's available work on Amazon.com, encouraging people to BUY it! I call that FREE ADVERTISING for Mr. Larson.http://www.comicmix.com/news/2008/01/01/hail-and-…I think what ComicMix did fell under "fair use." Still, they didn't argue the point, they apologized and removed the cartoon. Then several comments intelligently discussed the finer points of "fair use" and cease and desist orders. Nobody was bitching about not getting something for nothing. I think the general bitching was because Mr. Larson and his legal team had not taken the time to recognize the difference between an ally and an adversary. I think Voice From the Far Side may be too pathetic and moronic to see the difference as well.
Calm, calm… We thought it was fair use. Gary and his crew didn't, and asked us to remove it. We did. Name calling isn't needed, on any side. Save that for the Newsarama forums.
Sigh. . .folks, the Gary Larson letter is from long ago. And those of you who are complaining are the ones that make C&D;letters–something Gary didn't do when he originally emailed people with that message–inevitable.Gary didn't demand–he asked . And people complied, out of respect.Do I think it's wrong to post other people's work? No, not always. But as an artist myself, I think we need to respect those who actually create the works–even if we may not agree entirely with their philosophy stance. It's their work.I have no qualms at all about people who download Metallica's music, because that respect between artist and fan was not maintained. Not so with Gary. He is indeed a class act.
Glen, you are right. I shouldn't have tossed Voice From's pejoratives back at them. That was crass at best … and maybe even a bit pathetic and moronic. (grins)I find it interesting that Anonymous would on the one hand give the blanket statement that we need to respect an artist's wishes, regardless of their philosophy; and then rationalize that Metallica has lost his respect, so he feels no qualms at all about people who copy their art. What did Metallica do?There are all sorts of justifications for copying someone else's work. Sometimes it's "fair use." Sometimes it's "well everybody does it." Sometimes it's "Microsoft is already gouging the public on the price of 'Office,' they should expect a bit of 'sharing'." You can substitute, THE MUSIC INDUSTRY or MARVEL COMICS or MOVIE CORPORATIONS for MICROSOFT. Sometimes it's sharing. Sometimes it's research. Sometimes it's just theft. Sometimes there are gray areas.Suppose a wedding couple makes a Power Point presentation of photos of themselves, scores it with the song, "Bless the Broken Road," by Rascal Flatts and plays it during their wedding reception. My brother-in-law did this. Heck. I made the Power Point! We bought a copy of the CD with the song. We copied that song into the Power Point. There was a "public performance" of the song during the Power Point presentation and no royalties were paid. No money was directly earned either, although they may have had a dollar dance later. I can't remember. I think a copy of the Power Point presentation was given to the bride and groom's parents. I may still have a copy of the Power Point somewhere on my hard-drive. So several "unauthorized" copies of the song were made. I don't feel guilty. We ran credits at the end of the Power Point and named the song and artist. What I'm saying is, this my have been outside the letter of the law, but inside my personal moral boundaries.Now, I have a cousin who also recently got married. During his wedding ceremony several contemporary songs were performed by friends. And the couple recessed down the aisle to pop recordings like, "All You Need is Love," and "You Really Got Me." All in all, fine and fair by me.Later, at the reception, each place setting had a home-made CD of the original artists recordings of all the music that had been used during the wedding. This was in a nicely printed sleeve. A semi-pro job. It was a nice souvenir of the wedding. BUT … although my cousin is a devout Christian and to my eyes very moral, I couldn't help thinking that he had just stolen about 150 copies of 12 different artist's songs!I'm not guilt free. I have done my share of plagiarism and software or music piracy. Some of it was legitimate, within my moral code, if not always the law. Some was not. But I like to think I know when I'm rationalizing my theft with excuses like, "they already have enough money," or "they don't have my respect."I'm sorry. My musings have strayed FAR and WIDE from the FAR SIDE. Gary Larson is a true artist. He has my respect. His work speaks volumes. Some of those volumes are on sale here:http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Far-Side-1980-1994…
Whos is this "Gary Larson" and "The Far Side"? Have never heard about this author and his "comics". And now I know that I never want to know anything. Let him be forgotten, in the hsitory of mankind.Tne only reason tha I'm reading here is from a link about about "copyright issues".
Sigh. Kids these days…
I agree with you there even though I'm probably an age you would consider to be covered by "kids these days"… But personally I love The Far Side and I think Gary Larson is a comic genius (every piece of his that I've seen, I have loved… even the ones that were never published in papers in the 10th Anniversary book).I'm just glad that my parents have some of his books, otherwise I might never have known about The Far Side…
I love you, Gary, but I am disturbed by your selfishness. You stopped creating, and now don't want us to share your genius with others. Whatever happened to "art for the sake of art"? Now it's not art anymore. To you it's just profit.
Gary Larson's publisher is very clever. They see a potential market for online cartoons and rather than developing the idea into a profitable business, they crush it and walk away.Rather than stopping the cartoons altogether they could have allowed the site to show a few cartoons each week. They could have a site of their own linked to Larson's products. Some people who would call it….marketing.Instead they give the middle finger to Larson fans with the protection of sending Larson out to do their bidding. Mr. Larson you could guide, correct and deploy a mutually beneficial change to what has happened. Even if your publisher is too stupid to realize the lost potential, I trust that you are not.
No one has mentioned that the "letter" may not have been written by Gary Larson, at all. Anyone think the lawyers and/or representatives decided to ghost write a letter in order to serve their short-sighted interests?… I mention this because a cartoon Gary L. drew made reference to Dr. Jane Goodall. Some idiot on her "staff" took offense and sent a threatening letter, under the guise of being from Dr. Goodall, personally, to Gary. It was only straightened out, much later, by a series of coincidences. Sound familiar????
No, it was from Gary or someone empowered to act for him.
I know that this is old old news – but if the cartoons are Mr. Larson's children and he doesn't want them out on the internet late at night, why the h$#l will he sell them to you? If he has an emotional attachment to each and every cartoon why can you buy books of them at the effin book store? Sounds like Mr. Larson (and rightly so) has an emotional attachment to his little dollar bill children – THAT I can understand.