Potential ShutDowner Inadvertantly Becomes ShutDownee

Sean Howard's A Modest Destiny webcomic site was shut down temporarily today, in an odd twist of events brought about through Howard's unhappiness with some Penny Arcade forum-goers.

According to the PA site, Howard had written to the PA boys asking (demanding?) them to crack down on PA forum-goers who were using AMD characters as avatars. Included in this letter was the statement that Howard had already "shut down six web comics that were using his art", thus potentially implying that the same could happen to the PA site, if this alleged copyright infringement was not dealt with quickly.

Ironically, Mike "Gabe" Krahulik's mention of the letter and incident on the PA site, complete with a link to Howard's webcomic, inadvertantly temporarily caused a shutdown of Howard's site due to a CPU-usage, traffic overload.

While complete details from both sides are yet to be made available, Krahulik brought up some very salient points on Copyright and Fair Use. Meanwhile, Howard has not commented on the issue on his own site, which has just recently come back online — with the exception of saying that "Penny Arcade's recent linking to this site has 'wanged' us."

[UPDATE DEC. 12 (11:26pm): Howard posted a response of sorts to the whole incident on his site today. Essentially, the response consists of a copy of a letter sent to someone else, where he tries to explain his side of the story.  An interesting coincidence(?) to take note of, as well — as of this writing, the PA site appears to be down, and has been down for at least one hour.]


  1. Earth to Howard:

    If people are using your characters as Avatars, it means they like your strip. What’s more they’re likely to be evangelizing for you. Why would you antagonize them like that? Nothing is more bitter than a fan who feels that he has been betrayed.

  2. Call it a hunch (thump thump) but my immediate suspicion is that the pretty damn mediocre AMD suddenly got 900000000% more readers today than it ever had before.

    Maybe Howard is just demonstrating some good marketing savvy.

    I think Man-Man should threaten to sue Penny Arcade next…

  3. Ow. Now all I can see is an article on said phenomenon: “Wang of Steel, Webcomic of Kleenex”.

    (Phenonmenon? Phenomena? Never can remember the singular/plural for that)

  4. Phenomenon/single. Phenomena/plural. Use the Sandra Bullock/Kermit cover of “Mahna Mahna” as a mnemonic — two mahnas -> plural -> phenomena.

  5. People use creator’s characters as avatars all the time, and it’s hardly copyright infringement. I think avatars safetly fall under the free use clauses, since no one is making a profit off of the creator’s works by using their images as avatars. And I’m no lawyer, but I don’t see any judge taking a law suit this amazingly petty seriously. I agree that this sounds like a thinly vieled bid for attention.

    -Brian Daniel, creator of Ram, Fur Will Fly

  6. Same thing happened to me last year. Every time those boys link to somebody, it’s like Superman making love to Lois Lane. WHOOM.

  7. Word McWordyWORD.

    This guy has a reputation as a whiner and a sore loser, though, and nobody really takes him seriously.

  8. damn, i should sue penny arcade for being sexy JUST LIKE ME.


  9. Maybe Sean can answer this one for me… What’s so important about dictating absolute control over such petty derivatives as forum avatars that it’s worth making yourself look like a jerk and potentially damaging your comic’s fanbase?
    You do know that there are a lot of readers who read both AMD and Penny Arcade, right? Why would you ever want to deliberately force a division among readers and make them decide which comic they’re going to side with? You’ve succeeded at damaging your own public image.
    You may have everyone’s attention now, but as soon as this all blows over, you’re going to go right back to being a nothing.

  10. What is so important about controlling how his fanbase uses his artwork that it’s worth dragging his own image through the mud? He’s lost a lot of respect from his own piers, and he’s going to lose a lot more in readers who enjoyed both comics. Smooth move, Sean.

  11. I think Gabe was right in telling this guy that he should learn to better pick his fights, but why did he feel the need to make such a big deal out of it and crush him?

    The guy draws a little sprite-comic. He was never a real threat to anyone. So why the need to crush him?

    I just don’t understand why he wasn’t just ignored.

  12. I’m not entirely sure that they were trying to crush him. I don’t think they really anticipated crashing his server.

    But I would say that it was inevitable. I had seen AMD on buzzcomix a bunch of times and knew who they were talking about, but I clicked anyway. Human curiosity.

    I will say it was pretty dumb on the AMD guy to be so undiplomatic about it. Sure AMD is pretty popular, but when dealing with the big dogs you need to exercise some tact.

  13. i think the issue had more to do with recognition and distribution.. fair use still requires you to name who owns the art.

    and AMD is hardly mediocre, I personally find it pretty entertaining.

  14. Fair use is fine. But last I checked even sites like 8-Bit Theater (www.nuklearpower.com) gave credit to the ORIGINAL people/company that made the art.

    Sure, I can take Sean’s pixel art and change it around. But it was still _HIS_ art. You guys don’t have a problem arguing against someone like Sean. But if Brian (of 8-Bit Theater) never gave credit to Square for the original art and such, damn straight they’d be all over his ass about it.

    Funny — people enjoy picking on each other but then bitch when a big company does the same.

  15. I think oen reason why Sean is pissed is because he maqde the art spent the hours designing it and the art itself has become one of the reasons why ppl read it so if some1 stole the art then they would get a readers boost just by simply using his style. In the case of avatars who cares but! the problem was the peron who posted the copied art claimed it was their own! Thats where sean has the problem u need to ask his permition like with nething u use thats not yours. It isn’t really the fact they r using it i think its more that Sean was not told and the thers claim it to be their own!

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