Gary Larson, creator and cartoonist of The Far Side © recently sent me an email. Now, under normal circumstances, I would have been ecstatically thrilled at this. The man is one of my heroes, and his self-imposed retirement from drawing Far Side cartoons a few years ago left my world that little bit emptier. I’ll be honest and say that I am still kept up at night trying to figure out a few of his cartoons I still don’t get. Before I die, I’ll work them out. But this obsession is testament to his skill! I have all his books, and most of the reprints and best of’s as well. I have had numerous desk calendars, bought a veritable pile of Far Side greeting cards, and may have even had Far Side branded underpants at some stage…
My point – I not only am a fan, I have also contributed to what I assume is a fairly wealthy man’s fortune.
So, it surprised me to receive a letter from him. Or, more precisely, from his lawyer (see the letter below). A website I own hosts a number of talks that can be used in youth groups. The site hasn’t been updated in about 7 years. One of the talks was about how to use Gary Larson’s cartoons to teach young people about God. It was a fun talk, and it included some examples of his cartoons. It was written by a friend of mine.
Now, Gary Larson, in a nice enough way, has asked us to remove the page. What I don’t get is his logic. His argument is all about his emotional attachment to his cartoons, his desire to exercise control over their usage and the fact that they are “his children”. Sure. But what about the 20 Larson books I have in my library? Why isn’t he concerned about them? I’ll be honest and say I don’t think I’ve dusted them in over a year, and one or two may have torn pages. Does that make him sad?
Why can’t he just be honest and say, “Hey punk, if you didn’t pay for the pictures, you can’t use them”. I did actually pay for them – the pics on the site were all scanned from legal copies of his books that I own.
Anyway, you read his letter, and let me know if I am being unreasonable to be just a little bit disappointed. If he had said, “Go to PayPal and make a donation”, I would have done that immediately. But I must say there is a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. But maybe I am just too much of an Internet idealist that believes there comes a time when what you’ve put “out there” just has to be trusted to the universe. As an author and presenter myself, I accept that people use my work, and I don’t pursue the copyright I own and am entitled to. Is that just me? I’d like your opinion.

From: Andrea Fryrear [mailto:afryrear@creators.com]
Sent: 09 October 2006 05:37 PM
To: jsh@acenet.co.za
Cc: info@youth.co.za; Graeme@codrington.biz
Subject: The Far Side copyright infringement
Importance: High

October 9, 2006
Jonathan Stanton-Humphreys
Youth Talks Database
jsh@acenet.co.za

Via E-mail: jsh@acenet.co.za
Via E-mail: info@youth.co.za
Via E-mail: Graeme@codrington.biz

Re: Notice of Infringement of The Far Side Cartoons:
http://www.youth.co.za/talks/index.htm
Dear Mr. Stanton-Humphreys:
Creators Syndicate, an international newspaper syndicate, syndicates Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoons to foreign newspapers. In addition we handle all reprint permissions requests for The Far Side following guidelines long established by Mr. Larson and his company FarWorks Inc. (copyright owner to all Far Side images). In short, we approve or disapprove requests to reproduce Mr. Larson’s cartoons, and carefully monitor the ways in which they appear.
We are writing on behalf of FarWorks, Inc. and Gary Larson about your posting of nine Far Side cartoons on your website http://www.youth.co.za/talks/index.htm. While Mr. Larson is certainly flattered to know you are a fan of his work, we have to be concerned about any unauthorized use of The Far Side name and cartoons, especially when they appear online.
FarWorks has a serious problem with unauthorized uses of The Far Side worldwide. As a result, it does not allow online publication of works from The Far Side. No matter how insignificant a few uses may seem, it still amounts to making versions of the cartoons available in digital form for anyone to download, which makes it virtually impossible for Mr. Larson to control future uses, something that is very important to him.
Please read the letter from Mr. Larson below, and respect his wishes by removing the cartoons from your website. Many thanks in advance for your cooperation.
Sincerely,
Andrea Fryrear
Permissions Department
Creators Syndicate
5777 W. Century Boulevard, Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Ph: (310) 337-7003
Fax: (310) 337-7625
E-Mail: afryrear@creators.com

Enclosures: A note from Gary Larson
A note from Gary Larson
RE: Online Use of Far Side Cartoons
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I’m walking a fine line here.
On the one hand, I confess to finding it quite flattering that some of my fans have created web sites displaying and / or distributing my work on the Internet. And, on the other, I’m struggling to find the words that convincingly but sensitively persuade these Far Side enthusiasts to “cease and desist” before they have to read these words from some lawyer.
What impact this unauthorized use has had (and is having) in tangible terms is, naturally, of great concern to my publishers and therefore to me — but it’s not the focus of this letter. My effort here is to try and speak to the intangible impact, the emotional cost to me, personally, of seeing my work collected, digitized, and offered up in cyberspace beyond my control.
Years ago I was having lunch one day with the cartoonist Richard Guindon, and the subject came up how neither one of us ever solicited or accepted ideas from others. But, until Richard summed it up quite neatly, I never really understood my own aversions to doing this: “It’s like having someone else write in your diary,” he said. And how true that statement rang with me. In effect, we drew cartoons that we hoped would be entertaining or, at the very least, not boring; but regardless, they would always come from an intensely personal, and therefore original perspective.
To attempt to be “funny” is a very scary, risk-laden proposition. (Ask any stand-up comic who has ever “bombed “on stage.) But if there was ever an axiom to follow in this business, it would be this: be honest to yourself and — most important — respect your audience.
So, in a nutshell (probably an unfortunate choice of words for me), I only ask that this respect be returned, and the way for anyone to do that is to please, please refrain from putting The Far Side out on the Internet. These cartoons are my “children,” of sorts, and like a parent, I’m concerned about where they go at night without telling me. And, seeing them at someone’s web site is like getting the call at 2:00 a.m. that goes, “Uh, Dad, you’re not going to like this much, but guess where I am.
I hope my explanation helps you to understand the importance this has for me, personally, and why I’m making this request.
Please send my “kids” home. I’ll be eternally grateful.
Most respectfully,
Gary Larson

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