Cartoon Movement has a simple objective: to promote professional editorial cartooning and comics journalism by publishing high quality cartoons and comics for a global audience. What sets our platform apart is that we pay cartoonists for the work they publish with us. When we started Cartoon Movement one-and-a-half years ago, we anticipated that reselling cartoons to other media would be one of our main sources of revenue. We have built what we feel is an impressive client list including the Guardian, the New Internationalist and Amnesty International (Denmark).
We also anticipated that we would have to be vigilant with regard to our content being used elsewhere on the Web without us knowing about it. From the outset we decided we did not mind people sharing our cartoons on their blogs or on Facebook (what we define as personal, non-commercial use in our FAQ), but that we wouldn't allow companies or organizations to use our content for free.
In most instances when our content is reposted without our permission by another commercial organization, no credit or link to our site is provided, making it difficult to find. Our network of cartoonists has proved invaluable in tracking where our content is used, keeping an eye out in their respective countries. But as our site grows, so does the unauthorized use of our content, and the tools available to fight it are meagre.
This weekend, Iraqi cartoonist Saad Murthada informed me he had seen one of my cartoons in Al Nas, a daily newspaper in Baghdad. After some investigation, it turned out that Al Nas has been publishing a daily cartoon from Cartoon Movement for at least the last two months. We publish cartoons at 800 X 560 pixels, which is not sufficient for print, but is apparently good enough for this publication.
In a case like this, our options are limited. Realistically, the only option we have is to write a polite letter asking them to stop (which we have done), and offering them a subscription so that they can use our content for a certain monthly fee. If they decide to ignore us, there is not much else we can do. As a small organization, we lack the time and resources to pursue any form of legal action.
Our experiences with online and offline media using our content without our permission are reasonable good for the most part; often they will apologize and pay our invoice without protest. Some have even made this (dubious) process into official policy: L'Espresso in Italy often posts cartoon slideshows taken from various websites, only paying a republication fee when the website(s) in question find out about the use of their content.
In some cases the organizations in question will just ignore our pleas, and continue to publish our content without any reference to us. The most blatant example of this is ToonsOnline, a website that steals cartoons from artists around the world. They have even put '© All Rights Reserved' on the bottom of their website. I'm not sure about their business model, but I do know they’ve managed to build quite a fan base over the backs of hard-working artists. Another example is humorpolitico.com.br, a site that publishes a cartoon daily. They make money with advertising, and have published our cartoons without our permission on more than one occasion. I sent them several messages, but have yet to hear back.
I have no doubt Cartoon Movement will survive, and I have no doubt this practice will continue, but it is sometimes frustrating not to be able to take decisive action against it.