Fair Use Will Be Eaten First

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Howard Hallis' brilliant Lovecraftian parody of Jack Chick's fundamentalist tracts has been removed from Hallis' website. Seems his server got a nasty legal letter from Chick's outfit, which evidently has never heard of parody and fair use. You can see the letter here.

Fortunately, there's still a copy or two of the satire floating about on other sites. Read it while you can.

[Thanks to Eric Dixon for the tip.]

NEXT: The Kane Mutiny

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  1. Regardless of the fact that some of the art was recycled from the original, Fair Use can still apply. IANAL, but according to my understanding of the law, this is a clearcut case. The case of Campbell v. Accuf-Rose Music, Inc. dealt with these exact issues when 2 Live Crew did a parody of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that 2 Live Crew were within their Fair Use rights. This case is even more clear cut, as there is no commercial element to cloud the picture.

  2. “All your base are eaten first”

    Anything with Cthulhu in it has my support.

  3. Speaking of Cthulhu, where’s a good place to start with Lovecraft? Anyone?

  4. If you want to start with Cthulhu, try the immortal “Call of Cthulhu.” But to my mind, the best Lovecraft story would have to be “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”

  5. I strongly recommend a visit to Jack Chick’s site:
    http://www.chick.com It totally blows my mind. It is so outrageous it takes me to kitsch nirvana.

    My favorite is the tract demonizing D&D. It reminds me when I was in Catholic high school during the heady 80s. The priests forbade our nerd club to play D&D because of the hype. So we played Cthulhu instead >:)

  6. Durango95,

    I am partial to “The Doom That Came to Sarnath” and “At the Mountains of Madness”. If your interests are more specific, “The Call of Cthulhu”, “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Shadow Out of Time” are pretty much the essential works in the Cthulhu mythos.

  7. Seems faintly reminiscent of Ed Baker’s, “The Christian Decision”:

    http://www.somethingawful.com/edbaker/christiandecision/ep-001/index.htm

  8. Bowdlerized Lovecraft?

    What really annoyed me about this fake-Chick tract is that Abdul Alhazred was referred to as the “Mad Monk” and not as the “Mad Arab”. PC Cthulhu Cultists?!? IA!

  9. the best Lovecraft story would have to be “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”

    Damn straight.

    And I second the recommendation of the Jack Chick site. My favorite comics there are the ones espousing crazed conspiracy theories about the Vatican. This one probably goes the farthest — easily offended Catholics should probably skip it:

    http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0054/0054_01.asp

  10. The best Chick pamphlet has to be ‘Happy Halloween!’ It was the first Chick pamphlet I’d read, and had no idea what to expect. I thought that it was something fun and scary to give to kids on Halloween. Within the first few pages young Timmy gets hit by a car – totally unexpectedly. His friend who saw him die says to his Sunday School teacher “At least He’s in heaven, right?” Nope. She tried to get him to accept Jesus Christ, but he didn’t. One of the last panels is poor Timmy in a lake of fire.

    The best parody has to be Antlers of the Damned (don’t read if you’re easily offended):

    http://www.drunkanddisorderly.net/spacemoose/antlers.gif

  11. If Hallis really wanted to, he could redraw the strip himself, or get an illustrator to do it, in the Chick style. Then he would be in the clear. Recaptioning someone else’s work, no matter how squirelly, doesn’t seem fair to me.

    Kevin

  12. for what it’s worth, jack chick doesn’t give away his tracts. he sells ’em cheap, but he does sell them. it’s his customers who give them away…

  13. “Seems his server got a nasty legal letter from Chick’s outfit, which evidently has never heard of parody and fair use.”

    Nor evidently has Mr. Hallis. What a chickenshit for taking it down. I agree it was brilliant parody. But what’s the point of offending with biting satire if you turn tail and hide the first time they bark?

  14. Who would have thought that psycho-fundie Christians could be so humorless?

    And what Warren said…Mr. Hallis is a coward…or more likely, his lawyer is.

  15. I downloaded it when you first linked it on H&R. I’ve still got it on file. It’s only about 300k, if anyone wants a copy.

    On a related note, John Zube (of libertarian microfiche fame) is promoting CD-Rom samizdat as a cheap and effective way of distributing literature, and getting around net surveillance and censorship. There’s no “server” to shut down your hard drive if anyone complains (unless Orrin Hatch gets his way, that is).

  16. What is the basis for defending the copyright of something that contains no original characters and is distributed en masse for free? There must be tons of “prior art” arguments as Chick is simply restating protestant dogma. The fair usage is clear, here.

  17. Somewhere, Young Dan Pussey’s pissed.

  18. Whoops. Didn’t notice that the actual art was lifted. As an artist I can sympathise with Chick (as dirty as that makes me feel). A lot of original comic art gets lifted and reused without compensation these days.

  19. What is the basis for defending the copyright of something that contains no original characters and is distributed en masse for free?

    You don’t lose copyright for distributing something for free, although it would be hard to collect damages for copyright infringement. Chick’s little comics actually contain a number of original characters, and the art and dialogue is generally original.

    There must be tons of “prior art” arguments as Chick is simply restating protestant dogma.

    “Prior art” applies to patents, not copyrights.

    (All of which isn’t to say that that “Eaten First” isn’t protected — I don’t even think there is any use of copyrighted material that would necessitate invoking fair use or use as parody doctrines. There is no infringement, period.)

  20. Double whoops. Didn’t know the art was lifted (see Jeff’s 12:28 p.m. comment).

  21. I think Hallis should have stuck to his guns and defended his fair-use rights, but I don’t blame him for deciding it wasn’t worth it. Here’s what happened to someone else who ran into trouble with Chickie lawyers.

    http://www.weirdcrap.com/chick/attack.html

    I think it really comes down to several points, all of which Chick fails. One, it’s not like this is so propriety that he’s not putting it online. If that were the case, (like if this were artwork from an issue of “Sandman”), Chick might have been worried that someone would have enjoyed the artwork without buying his tract. That’s kind of absurd in a case like this – if we want to “enjoy” his artwork, we can do so for free on his own website.

    The other relevant question is, would Hallis have received financial benefits from publishing Chick’s artwork? I don’t see how. If this were like the sort of case that motivated the original copyright laws, like if he was selling his own pirated copies of Chick’s original tract or one of his own with Chick’s artwork appropriated for the task, then Chick would be well within his rights to demand Hallis stop. But Hallis’s parody was only available on the web, and not for pay. I can’t see how its existence in any way would have affected Chick’s bottom line.

    In short, no harm, no foul.

  22. Jesse:

    The Catholic tracts are good, but my favorite is the one slamming Buddhism (I’ll give them this.. they are equal-opportunity haters). It depicts demonic buddha statues.. BUDDHA!!

    The fundie in the comic makes a scathing point that Buddha “is dead and in the ground”. Uhhh.. yeah.. exactly. Any buddhist would tell you that. 🙂

  23. All Hallis needs to do is redraw it himself. A typical Chick tract calls for 30 or forty small illustrations. The one Hallis was stealing from was drawn by Jack Chick himself, Chick is a clumsy draftsman, and he wouldn’t be very hard to imitate.

    For what it’s worth, lots of other people have printed and sold parody tracts without any legal trouble: Dan Clowes and Jim Woodring are two of the more prominent ones. (Woodring’s was illustrated by David Lasky.)

  24. “Dreams in the Witch House” also belongs on the list, although it isn’t part of the Cthulhu mythos.

    There was a movie recently based on “Innsmouth,” but I forget the title. It pretty much departed from the original story line, but it was still good. One of the best gross-out scenes was in a house inhabited by a guy who’d gone completely through the fish-transformation. He was swimming around his living room in standing water about 3 ft. deep; and it looked like the sewer had backed up into it.

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