Share and Share Alike

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 8, 2007

Filed under: Notices 19 comments

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately along the lines of “Hey, can I have your permission to use some images from DMotR on my website / forum sig / desktop / walls / wedding invitations, etc. I thought I’d tackle this in a post for other people who may have similar questions.

When it comes to “borrowing” from the comic, you don’t really need my permission. The comic isn’t “copyrighted” by me. I didn’t get permission from New Line Cinema before making the comic. You have the freedom to take as many liberties with the comic as I took with the movie. This isn’t me giving you permission, this is me saying I can’t give or deny permission.

I do like getting links, but if you make off with images from the comics and don’t provide a link back here you’re not “violating copyright” or “stealing”. The very worst that can be said of that sort of behavior is that it’s rude.

In any case, I’m not going to make a big deal out of it. If you want to use it to make something new, knock yourself out. Send me a link if you like. If it’s cool, I’ll mention it here and everyone can enjoy it.

For example, someone is taking the entire series and translating it into French. Makes me wish I understood the language. Translating humor is probably the most difficult form of translation. (I’m betting it’s even harder than translating rhyming lyics, although it’s not like I would know.) I give this guy credit for taking a hard job and sticking with it. It’s even more difficult here because he’s stuck with my original word bubbles, which means he has to come up with translated dialog which is both funny and roughly the same size.

Anyway, if you want to use the comic, feel free. Because you are free.

UPDATE: Lots of people are pointing out that I do indeed have copyright on this. Fine, fine. In any case, you want to make some derivative work? Help yourself. Make something cool. Drop a comment and tell us about it.


From The Archives:

19 thoughts on “Share and Share Alike

  1. SteveDJ says:

    While you certainly don’t have rights to the movie images that you ‘borrowed’, you do have full rights to the dialog that you wrote. Some of those one-liners are going to become classics! You may not want to be so quick to give up rights to those… :)

  2. Under the Berne convention copyright is automatic unless explicitly waived.

  3. Phlux says:

    I noticed you’re using a Creative Commons license on CB. You might consider doing as SteveDJ suggests above: use that license on your dialogue that you wrote.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I don’t know about the issues of putting a creative commons license on something that’s already a “remix,” but I agree that you could look into it.

  5. Davesnot says:

    people are so greedy. The idea, I suppose, is you could be giving away millions of dollars. Like if the inventor of the LASER, whose estate gets a few cents for everything that uses it (like CD and DVD players) had decided not to patent it.. Come on, folks.

    Great, classic jokes are great, classic jokes.. a copyright wouldn’t mean people couldn’t tell them.. or even that they’d have to give Shamus credit.. sheez.. we’re so worried that we gave away something that we don’t give anything.. and that is a bit sad.

    Thanks, Shamus, for such a good series of jokes. They’ve helped me relive similar moments. Moments that are sure to happen again in this world… and sure to be funny.

    Now.. can I take a video of me reading your comic and laughing a grilled cheese sandwich through my nose and then send the video to America’s funniest home videos and win $10,000??? or would George Carlin sue me because he’s told a joke about passing a grilled cheese sandwich through one’s nose (which I hear is a miracle worthy of priestly debriefing).

  6. Patriarch917 says:

    As someone who knows a little about copyright law (law student with a published article about it), I would say that the screenshots are still owned by New Line. The selection and arrangement of the screenshots and the accompanying text are copyrighted by Shamus (copyright exists automatically when the work is created).

  7. Nathaniel says:

    IANAL, but I would say that DMotR is clearly protected parody, and therefore is in fact your copyrighted work. Or am I misunderstanding fair use, and it doesn’t give you copyright, just license to use it?

  8. Nathaniel says:

    I should have refreshed the page before posting… Patriarch has answered my question.

  9. Zaghadka says:

    I think you should trademark “I hate this campaign” (or one of it’s many hilarious derivatives) if someone hasn’t already beat you to it.

  10. MOM says:

    Wedding invitations?!
    Also, all you folks wanting to use Shamus’ stuff could say thank you by buying a mug or t-shirt or something. Would be nice and helpful to the starving artist.

  11. Shawn says:

    True Story:

    A few years ago, a girl on LJ read and really liked Doors and Windows. This was cool. She even went through the strip and took some of my artwork and cropped them down to a half dozen or so icons.

    She posted these icons to her journal, with this big long rant about how people couldn’t use the icons without her permission and she demanded credit if you took one blah blah blah.

    This just boggled my mind.

  12. Man, I really hate watching someone shoot themselves repeatedly in the foot because they can’t be bothered to understand copyright law.

    I think that having a permissive attitude in allowing other people to freely use your copyrights is generally a grand thing, but publicly waiving your copyright into the public domain because you can’t be bothered to understand that you do, in fact, own the copyright?


    That’s literally painful for me to watch.

    Justin Alexander

  13. Ansob. says:

    I’ve just flicked through the first few pages of Le Meneur des Anneaux and I have to say, it actually got a few giggles out of me. From what I’ve seen so far it’s as funny as the original, and not so much translation as transposition into French.

    Considering the person responsible for that rather admirable work has you credited quite properly and given the quality of their work, that’s one translation you can definitely be proud of.

  14. Piou says:

    Agreed, the translator even found a way to “transpose” the monthy python jokes !

  15. Snook says:

    I was laughing with just my small understanding of french. Maybe post a permanent link here to the site for the frenchies who find it?

  16. Christian Groff says:

    I guess I have to agree with everyone, but let me add a couple of coppers. Copyright isn’t about taking someone’s ideas for your own use. If I wanted to make a comic and use some quotes from DMotR, I could do it with impunity…as long as my distribution of said quote was free and not used to profit.

    The reason people slap disclaimers on their fanfics is not because it’s illegal to use those characters for their fanfiction – it’s to prevent the people who made those things they rip off from their favorite video game/book series/TV show from slapping them with a sub-poena. But there’s really no need for disclaimers.

    I mean, if I wanted to write a fanfic where the characters from “Knights of the Dinner Table” did a DMotR-style campaign, it’d be fine if it were another webcomic. But the instant I tried to make it into a real comic book of my own and sold my first copy to a friend, I’d get slapped silly into poverty not only by Shamus, but by the people who made Knights of the Dinner Table, because I stole the copyrights and used them for profit.

    Shamus is giving us implicit permission to use his comic for personal use, but woe be to the fool who tries to create a comic book out of it and sell it to the masses!

  17. Davesnot says:

    Having a copyright doesn’t stop anyone.. I closed up my photography biz.. I was shooting kids racing BMX bikes.. their parents would buy one photo and then take them to Kinkos and make bunches of color copies.. one kid said they handed it to the employee and that guy made the copies.. of course the photo was stamped with all the appropriate stuff..

    Now, I suppose I coulda sued.. I was certainly in the right… two villians.. my customers (no good suing your customers) and the kinkos.. big pockets there.. and big lawyers… it woulda been throwing good money after bad.. just enjoy the fact that you created something that people liked.

    Trade mark for “I hate this campaign”.. really?? that’d cost you a lot.. and for what.. come on folks. Don’t waive the rights in public.. but sheez.. Shamus has the right idea here.

  18. Marijana says:

    rhyming lyics? just nitpicking…

  19. baac says:

    Late to the party, I know, but…

    You can’t defend the copyright on a work based on a restricted copyright without the permission of the original copyright owner. This strip is a derivative work, and unless Shamus has a letter from the current LotR rights owners and New Line, no subsequent claims of copyright will stand up.

    Those familiar with the Iron Crown situation regarding MERP will know what I’m talking about. All ICE’s work was original but it was based on LotR, and therefore when they lost their permissions, the company had to stop publishing and went bankrupt.

    Fair Use in the US is murky at best, and generally can’t be defended for commercial cases. (Were you to publish these comics in a book for profit, for example.) Generally, it only applies to educational or documentary work, and even then there are extensive restrictions. Parody and Fair Use laws are generally as good as your lawyers, and courts in the US have a really hard time deciding what’s ‘fair’, and will lean towards original copyright owners 95% of the time.

    I suspect that Shamus has been left alone by New Line and the LotR copyright owners because: i) he’s not publishing for profit; and ii) attacking your fan base is best done with some caution. I suspect if he starts printing t-shirts or making mugs, he’s going to get a C&D letter.

    Basically, it’s a golden goose situation. The comics are brilliant and everyone should enjoy them, but if they start appearing all over the net and on commercial goods, someone is going to phone their legal department.

    I’ve learned these lessons the hard way. Copyright mistakes cost a lot of money and are really hard to defend. Just answer these two questions: Did you have the permission of the copyright holders to publish this strip? Was monetary gain derived from that illegal usage? A No/Yes answer combo means case closed, no mitigating circumstances.

    I ran an image in my mag once by accident (my source said they had permission, but didn’t) – one single copy protected image – and it cost $7,000, without legal fees.

    Just FYI…


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.