Web cartoonist rejects lawsuit and raises money for charity. (Credit: Twitter/Oatmeal)
(CBS News) -- Online cartoonist Matthew Inman, who created TheOatmeal.com, says he was threatened with legal action unless he paid $20,000 in damages to a website that he claims had been reposting his original content for years.
Inman says that for three years, the website FunnyJunk had hosted his work - without branding, permission or attribution. Approximately a year ago, Inman asked the site's admin to take down comics that originated at The Oatmeal.
"I first contacted them about a year ago after I found a handful of my comics uploaded on their site with no credit or link back to me," Inman claimed in a blog post. "They took down the offending images, but since then they've practically stolen my entire website and mirrored it on FunnyJunk."
After going back and forth with FunnyJunk, Inman says he ultimately decided not to take further action.
The dispute seemed to be settled, so Inman thought. But earlier this month, Inman received a letter from FunnyJunk's lawyer Charles Carreon, requesting Inman take down this section of a blog post:
"This is a false accusation of willful copyright infringement," Carreon wrote. "FunkyJunk hosts only user-uploaded content pursuant to a rigorous DCMA policy that includes termination as a sanction for repeat abusers."
FunnyJunk's lawyers threatened to file a federal lawsuit unless Inman agreed to pay $20,000 in damages and take down all references to FunnyJunk.
As far as the allegations that FunnyJunk infringed on Inman's copyright, Carreon says his client did nothing wrong.
"FunnyJunk does not post anything. It works no differently than YouTube," Carreon said. "Every DCMA notice that he sent was honored. There's no copyright infringement going on here."
Inman decided the reject the threat of a lawsuit and went off the beaten path in his response to FunnyJunk. The Oatmeal founder planned to raise the $20,000, take a photo of the money and send the photo along with a lewd drawing as a response - then donate the $20,000 to charity.
Inman said he would split the funds between the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. In about 24 hours, the fundraiser, named "BearLove Good. Cancer Bad," raised $118,000 on the site Indiegogo.
Carreon claims both Inman and Indiegogo are violating California codes by misrepresenting the name of the charities. Carreon alleges that Inman stands to profit from the fundraiser.
Inman told CBS News that both charities have expressed their support and that he would donate all of the proceeds to charity. "If it does go to a lawsuit, I'm hoping to get a lawyer pro bono," Inman said. "I won't use any of the money on legal fees."
As far as going after FunnyJunk for the remainder of The Oatmeal's material on the site, Inman just wants to put the case to rest.
"It's been up there for years," Inman said. "At this point, it doesn't matter. I just don't want to go to court. My initial goal was just to make them go away and raise money for charity."
The campaign has currently raised about $150,000. Inman said he would pick two additional charities to receive funds from the campaign.