The Montgomery, Maryland Sentinel yanked all cartoons by a William Charles after another cartoonist said Charles was stealing his work, the Sentinel said in a May 30 letter to readers.
“All cartoons signed by Mr. Charles have been pulled from our website until we can determine their originality,” the Sentinel‘s letter read. “Only 100 percent original cartoons will be posted on our website or printed in the newspaper.” Charles is a pseudonym.
The Sentinel apologized to “any cartoonist whose artwork appeared without his or her knowledge” and noted that the cartoonist is unpaid.
“We take every reasonable measure to insure there is no copyright infringement on cartoons. If we find we’ve been misled, we take every effort to maintain the integrity of the newspaper,” Karem told iMediaEthics.
While the Sentinel didn’t say which cartoonist was ripped off, the Washington Post identified Jeff Parker, Walt Handelsman, Mike Shapiro and the late Leo Cullum as victimized cartoonists.
Shapiro confirmed to iMediaEthics that he complained about the plagiarized cartoons and said he learned about the plagiarism from local council member Tom Moore of Rockville, Maryland, who flagged on his blog his concerns about the lifted work, that he found “11 other cartoonists whose work Mr Charles is using.”
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“Obviously, the theft of my work and the work of the other cartoonists involved is disturbing,” Shapiro told iMediaEthics. “I’m a little surprised by the attention it’s received. Hopefully it might serve to dissuade others from trying something similar.”
Shapiro added, “I do not feel The Sentinel’s response was sufficiently strong.” He explained: “The To Our Readers note leaves open the possibility of the cartoonist in question returning to The Sentinel. This seems unacceptable.”
In addition, Tthe Sentinel indicated to the Washington Post that despite the plagiarism, it may allow the anonymous submitter to continue submitting. “He’s definitely on the chopping block; that’s two strikes against him,” the Sentinel‘s executive editor Brian Karem said to the Post.
iMediaEthics asked Karem about this and he said yesterday “we will not publish anything by the cartoonist again.”
Shapiro also questioned the Sentinel’s statement in the letter to readers indicating the paper didn’t know who the cartoonist was and noted that the cartoonist in question has contacted him but “did not reveal his/her identity.” The Sentinel’s Karem told iMediaEthics that the paper does know the person’s identity.