I send out a new email newsletter every week through MailChimp (sign up here), and decided to back up my old newsletters here. This is Clattertron Newsletter #7 – Content Theft from August 23, 2015. 

I read an article on the Daily Cartoonist about a Twitter account re-purposing the political cartoons of Graeme MacKay and others. The account took MacKay’s cartoons, erased his name and information, and replaced the text with their own (aimed at forwarding their own agenda, which was different than the original cartoon’s).

robber crime photo

Free stock photo via pexels.com.

This sort of thing infuriates me to no end. As does sites who only exist to make ad revenue off of posting content stolen from other websites (ex: reposting a comic with the artist’s name/url edited out, or not giving any kind of credit/link).

Both scenarios are something I worry about. Constantly. I can’t decide which is worse though. Someone else editing my comics to their own needs (without permission), or someone posting my comics to their ad blanketed site to make a ton of money off my hard work.

Here’s a great a breakdown of the effect of content theft websites on artists by Rachel Dukes and another about artist attribution by Lucy Bellwood.

I’ll be honest: if I make a $1 or so a day off ads on clattertron.com, that’s a good day. My traffic isn’t great by any stretch, even with the money I spend on advertising to bring in new visitors. Then along comes a content theft site, who grabs a comic from someone like me, and makes a bunch of money because they get thousands of visitors a day. This specific example hasn’t happened to me, yet, that I know of.

But, I went through similar issues back in my photo blogging days. Websites would steal my photos and use them without permission, often removing my URL. Or worse, hot linking my photos so it ate up my bandwidth.

Hell, even a website for a place here in Lansing did this to me—used photos from my website for a slideshow on their front page, without permission, and removed my name/URL. Another website based in Lansing copied and posted my blog post’s text and photos too, and made it look like I wrote for their website when I did not.

Three years and change in, I’m at the point of walking away from this webcomic thing, or any kind of website thing in general (I’ve been running websites of my own for almost 10 years).

Really.

My traffic isn’t where I would like it to be, and getting people to look beyond the walled garden of AOL 2.0, Facebook, is a challenge. There are too many avenues for content these days: Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram—I see comics (and similar content) posted to each every day.

It’s too much, really.

Speaking of Facebook, a Terry Pratchett fan page did upload one of my comics. A friend saw this and let me know. Now, they didn’t edit my comic at all, so my URL and name were still on the image.

But, they didn’t link to my website either or say (overtly) who made the comic, which would be ideal. I went to the post, thanked them for featuring my comic, and threw a link to the comic’s page on my website. My comic on their page got 34 Likes and 4 shares. I’m lucky if the comics I link to on the Clattertron Facebook page get even two Likes.

I try to mention the artist and include a link for other comics and images I see shared by others on Facebook without a link or credit. I’m sure my “friends” might not always appreciate it, but I do what I can.

Where do I go from here? I don’t know.

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Daniel J. Hogan is a geeky cartoonist and writer living in Michigan. Daniel is available for freelance writing and cartooning commissions (Contact Daniel). This post contains affiliate links, unless it doesn't.

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