Intellectual property

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Cartooning is a tough business.

Not that it’s really that tough, but sometimes it is hard to come up with a good joke. If you have been reading Broadside for a while, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

So I read with amusement about a touchy dispute between two nationally syndicated cartoonists concerning intellectual property. Specifically, it dealt with the repeated use of the same gag.

It all started about nine years ago when Stephan Pastis, author of “Pearls Before Swine,” penned a cartoon in which one of the characters (the mouse – I think his name is “Mousy”) is talking to “Piggie” and asks him, “If you could have a conversation with one person, living or dead, who would it be?” Piggie answers, “The living one.”

Fast forward to 2011, and Marcus Hamilton, one of the nicest guys in the world, draws a Dennis the Menace cartoon with almost the exact same joke.

What ensued was a slightly awkward conversation between two heavyweights in the industry. (You can read the exchange here.)

Marcus eventually wrote a letter explaining that the gag had been submitted by a writer and that had he known the joke had been used he wouldn’t have printed it – or at least he would have given credit.

The creations of the mind are jealously guarded in the industry. It is called intellectual property.

The ironic part of this is that the joke itself isn’t original. I drew almost the same cartoon myself many, many years ago…long before Pearls was even in print. But I’m not going to make a federal case out of it. I consider it a professional courtesy to give not only Marcus Hamilton, but also Stephan Pastis a pass on this. But just to prove my point, I dug up an old copy of it. Look at the date and you’ll see it was done way before the Pearls version, and you will see how a good joke lives on and on. (Click here to see the original.)

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