Q.: I’d be interested on your thoughts about Tumblr, specifically the problem Kris has talked about regarding people removing author attribution. Should cartoonists be making their info harder to remove (example, the Something Awful watermark: )?
Furthermore, could Tumblr be a good way to host a webcomic? I’ve been wondering if the de-attribution problem might be alleviated a bit if the user could just share to their “tumblog” right on your site, rather than having to download the image like they do now. A good example of a tumblr hosted comic is Paul Southworth’s “Isaac Splode” (isaacsplode.tumblr.com), although I have no idea how successful it’s been for him.
A.: Kris Straub has written a perceptive piece on the phenomenon of Tumblr swiping that makes for excellent background reading.
The issue is this: Some people are swiping content from Web sites and posting them on their own Tumblr pages — and in some cases they’re removing the copyright notation.
My personal opinion is that it’s annoying and irritating, but I’m not sure it rises to a very high level of urgency. The exception to this would be if the person’s Tumblr page were swiping every one of your comics, every day, in an attempt to masquerade as the creator of the content. In a situation such as that, the Tumblr owner becomes the same as a comic swiper, and I would recommend the same approach — a firm-but-friendly email to the person asking him or her to stop.
Amazingly, I’ve had a 100% success rate with this approach.
Consider this. Perhaps the Tumblr-swiper is removing the copyright notation to try to protect himself from possible repurcussions of posting copyrighted work. In other words, if there’s no copyright on the image, it’s free to post… even if he was the one who removed the copyright.
If this becomes a problem for you, I would strongly recommend a friendly outreach encouraging the sharing — provided the copyright remains intact along with a link to your site. There’s every possibility this perceived foe could become a valuable ally.
Of course, the other possibility is that the Tumblr-swiper doesn’t act as a scraper, but instead posts one, choice selection from your work that goes mega-viral of Tumblr — with no attribution.
If you think that’s a serious threat, I would encourage you to embed the copyright/URL notations into your comic — possibly placing them over part of the image to make them harder to edit out.
Of course, no solution is going to be completely effective. If a Tumblr-swiper is content with erasing a copyright, he’s probably equally content with covering it with a white box.
Finally, according to Tumblr’s own TOS, this sort of issue seems to be covered in two separate sections:
Redundant Content. Tumblr is not intended to be an all-purpose content aggregator. Users who import or aggregate content in a less-than-meaningful way are likely to be suspended.
Copyright. Using copyrighted material does not constitute infringement in all cases. In general, however, users should be careful when using copyrighted content without the permission of those who created it. It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).
Reading that, I would assume that a viable option, is all else fails, would be to approach Tumblr itself for assistance.
Overall, however, my general perception of the matter is that it’s not a widespread-enough infraction for most of us to worry about.
Hosting on Tumblr?
I’m afraid I just don’t see the benefits of hosting one’s Web site externally. It doesn’t seem to easily allow for advertising. And I firmly beleive that you’re better off as a webcartoonist when you’re in full control of every aspect of your site. Hosting externally like this goes completely against my grain.
That being said, Tumblr — like Facebook and Twitter — seems to have some pretty strong promotional juice behind it, and tapping into that be sharing an occassional comic — the right way — could have potential.
But the end result should be to generate and direct traffic to your own site — where you can do things like community-building and advertising-delivery that are so impotant to your core business.