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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 12, 2012 at 3:57 PM

TheOatmeal’s snarky legal fund reaches more than $120K

Seattle entrepreneur turned cartoonist Matthew Inman has a Midas touch.

Inman co-founded search marketing company SEOmoz and built and sold an online dating site before dedicating his time to TheOatmeal.com, a humor site featuring his cartoons.

The site started about three years ago and within six months was making enough money for Inman to live on and stop working as a contract employee.

TheOatmeal grew into a cult favorite online, where fans showed their loyalty this week.

Inman asked for their support after getting into a copyright spat with humor site FunnyJunk.

Inman blogged a year ago about how FunnyJunk was apparently posting his material without even providing a link back to TheOatmeal.com.

On June 2, FunnyJunk’s lawyer sent a threatening letter, accusing him of falsely maligning FunnyJunk. The letter threatened a defamation suit and demanded $20,000.

But instead of sending FunnyJunk the money, Inman decided to reply with a cartoon drawing depicting the lawyer’s mother. He also started an online campaign to raise $20,000, which he was going to then send to the National Wildlife Federation and American Cancer Society.

“I’m hoping that philanthropy trumps douchebaggery and greed,” he said on the fundraising site, at Indiegogo.com.

We’ll see how this pioneering approach to copyright litigation shakes out.

In the meantime Inman’s campaign echoed across social media and blew past his $20,000 goal. So far he’s raised more than $120,000 for the charities.

“To see it hit the goal in 60 minutes and then go up over $100,000 in 24 hours was pretty awesome,” he said. “I’m going to let it run for one week and then I’ll take all the money and get a picture of it and then donate it to charity.”

He’s simultaneously working with a lawyer to respond the old-fashioned way.

I’ve asked FunnyJunk for its side of the story and will update if I hear back.

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