Rain, Rain, falling down
Grey sky shadows, and my sad heart
. . . and so on.
Now, I am not personally offended by improbably-breasted women in comics. I recognize them for what they are: a cultural signal, like golf pants or McDonalds' Golden Arches. Their presence on a book or comic cover signifies that you will encounter nothing unfamiliar or unsettling therein. Anatomically incorrect breasts are the dogs-playing-poker of fantasy art.
Not everybody shares my view. For instance, the proprietors of Escher Girls critique the way that women are depicted in pop culture, including comics. They tend to criticize art like this example of Darkchylde:
I appreciate the existence of this dispute. How can you not like a blog with the tag "boobs don't work that way"? But even if you disagree with the criticism of pop culture tropes, you probably recognize the critics' right to offer it.
Apparently Randy Queen doesn't.
First Queen filed DMCA takedown demands with Tumbler seeking the removal of examples of his art from their critical posts. This, to start, was bogus, censorious, and petty. Escher Girls' posts are a classic example of Fair Use. "The fair use of a copyrighted work . . . for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." Showing a few examples of art from an artist in order to criticize in the art in a blog post is clear fair use.
But Randy Queen wasn't done. When Escher Girls' proprietor "Ami Angelwings" posted about Queens' DMCA takedown notice, Queen responded with bluster and threats, as Mike Masnick reports:
Dear Eschergirls and Kim,
I would encourage you to put a stop to all of this. I have no problem getting legal involved for defamation, and for your various allegations on your takedown notice thread, and am happy to send a formal cease and desist letter from my lawyer.
Instead of simply removing the content you do not have the right to electronically distribute, you wish to push further, and publicly challenges my right to protect the perception of my IP as it exists today.
At this point, I will ask you to please move along, as no good will come of this.
Additionally, instead of taking shots at art someone did 18 years ago while they were still learning – which are no longer representative of their current art style or direction for their character – I encourage you to spend your time and energy on creating your own characters and comics which you can mkae your own personal sacrifices to bring to the world.
Yeah, Escher Girls. Go invent your OWN enormous-breasted monster-creating teen and THEN come back to trash-talk.
This, of course, is perfectly ridiculous. Queen does not specify any potentially defamatory statements the Escher Girls made, nor could he. Saying that an artist's work is banal and soft-pornographic may not be kind, but it is a non-defamatory statement of opinion, particularly when it is accompanied by examples of the basis for the opinion. Moreover, correctly reporting that someone filed a DMCA against you is not defamatory, nor is characterizing the sender as a self-satisfied prat. To the extent that Queen is complaining about what commenters said in the thread about him at Escher Girls, his argument is defeated by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, under which Escher Girls is not liable for the statements of commenters. Moreover, typically, he hasn't specified what statements he contends are false. Remember the truism: vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of meritless thuggery.
You can still see the posts that upset Randy Queen here through the Wayback Machine. I suspect that as more people learn about his buffoonish threats, you'll see critiques in other places as well. He's well on his way to discovering the full force of the Streisand Effect. But Randy doesn't show any signs of learning his lesson. His more recent threat:
So, at this point it becomes harassment.
Instead of simply removing the content you do not have the right to electronically distribute, you wish to persist in character assassination, and alleged abuse of copyright claims via armchair lawyers.
Let’s say I take someone’s old copyrighted photography and ‘corrected’ it for them, as well as posted disparaging comments to circulate along with what may be someone’s first exposure to the work. Guess what? I don’t have the right to do that, it’s not my content. And based on the comments in this thread, it’s an easy argument to make that it is damaging.
There are people and animals suffering and dying in the world, and real human rights issues in certain countries, and this is what you take issue with? Art nearly two decades old? I think there are greater causes to champion with the limited time and energy we are given on this Earth.
For anyone this may apply to – instead of taking shots at art someone did many years ago while they were still learning – which are no longer representative of their current art style or direction for their character – I encourage you to spend your time, energy, and courage on creating your own comics, and then make the necessary personal sacrifices to bring them to the world.
If you think you can do better work, or have more success with it – I encourage you to do so. I promise I will never attack anything you create, and would only wish you only love and happiness.
Since you enjoy posting private emails, and needlessly escalating matters, I'm sure this will be next, and would again ask you to please stop.
I am sure there are more positive uses of both of our time.
All of this is typical in the entitled censorious jackass playbook: claim that calling out censorship is "harassment," claiming that your critics have no life because they are paying attention to the issue, there-are-children-starving-in-Fuckistan arguments, making vague and nonsensical claims about the law despite having less of a grasp of it than a poleaxed beagle, and disparaging your target's supporters. It's all strictly paint-by-the-numbers. But despite the frivolity of the arguments, when oafs like Randy Queen are willing to file bogus DMCA threats and bluster about lawyers and lawsuits, there is a genuine cost. Writers like the Escher Girls have to incur costs to respond and to learn about their rights, and many are chilled and deterred. That's in part because our system allows litigants to file bogus and malicious lawsuits with very little fear of suffering real consequences.
As always, you can help. You can help the Streisand Effect by telling this story. One kind attorney near Ami in Canada has already offered time and advice pro bono in response to my request on Twitter; I hope to thank her by name when I get permission. If Queen can dredge up an attorney to write a legal threat, or if he actually files suit, I am very confident that the free-speech-loving attorneys of America will step up. I'll light the Popehat Signal in a heartbeat.
Let's not put up with this nonsense.
Edited to add: Mike Masnick notes a development I missed — Randy Queen is now making bogus DMCA takedown demands against the Escher Girls post criticizing his previous takedown demands. That's basically cartoonish supervillainy. As Masnick points out, there could be unpleasant legal consequences to him.
Another update: Mr. Queen has apologized and has told Tumblr he withdraws his DMCA requests and has asked them to restore the content. It is good when people doing bad things stop. The point is made.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Gawker, Money, Speech, And Justice - August 18th, 2016
- Lawsplainer: No, Donald Trump's "Second Amendment" Comment Isn't Criminal - August 9th, 2016
- Why Openness About Mental Illness is Worth The Effort And Discomfort - August 9th, 2016
- A Rare Federal Indictment For Online Threats Against Game Industry - July 28th, 2016
- John Hinckley, Jr. and the Rule of Law - July 27th, 2016