The Sentinel has been stealing artwork!

The Washington Post: "Cartoon plagiarism and the case of the unknown Maryland cartoonist"
Bethesda Magazine: "Rockville Council Member Accuses Newspaper Of Stealing Political Cartoons"
Daily Cartoonist: "Sentinel Newspapers Apologizes for Plagiarized Cartoons; May Continue Using Cartoonist"
iMediaEthics: "Cartoon Plagiarism in Maryland Newspaper"
Help crowdsource the plagiarism detection by clicking here!

The Montgomery Sentinel has been systematically stealing artwork for its editorial cartoons, butchering it, removing the original artist’s signature, and having someone else sign it as their own.

Now, I wasn’t 100% sure whether this was the result of some sort of licensing arrangement I had never heard of, or if cartoonists see this sort of thing all the time.

Neither appears to be the case. I alerted several cartoonists to what the Sentinel is doing with their artwork, and they were uniformly shocked.

I received this from cartoonist Mike Shapiro:

Thanks for alerting me to this incredibly odd situation. I’ve been working as a cartoonist since ’87 and this is one if the craziest things I’ve seen. I’ve identified 11 other cartoonists whose work Mr Charles is using. He also has taken a few of my characters and put them in a cartoon with the work of a colleague who may, or may not, be amused.I appreciate the heads-up. I’ll contact the other cartoonists whose work I’ve spotted. Perhaps if enough of us contact the editor he’ll realize this is not okay.
Mike Shapiro

And this from Pulitzer Prizewinner Walt Handelsman:

Wow!!! Thanks. That is crazy. Never had that happen before! I will follow up and let you know what happened. Thanks again.

I used a simple Google reverse image search to confirm and document the thefts.  A few examples:

1. This cartoon (found here), which ran in the January 9, 2014, print and electronic versions of the Montgomery Sentinel…


…is a mangled knockoff of the Jeff Parker cartoon that Cagle Cartoons sells here:
2. This cartoon (found here), which ran in the March 27, 2014, print and electronic versions of the Montgomery Sentinel…


…is a mangled knockoff of the Walt Handelsman cartoon found here:


3. This cartoon (found here), which ran in the September 4, 2014, print and electronic versions of the Montgomery Sentinel… 

…is a flipped and mangled knockoff of a Chris Riddell cartoon (found here):


4. This cartoon (found here), which ran in the July 31, 2014, print and electronic versions of the Montgomery Sentinel…
…is a mangled knockoff of the cartoon that CartoonStock sells here:
'... And this guy in the fancy suit is a big fan of my work, too.'
5. This cartoon (found here), which ran in the November 14, 2014, print and electronic versions of the Montgomery Sentinel… 


…is a knockoff of the Mike Shapiro cartoon (found here):


6. This cartoon (found here), which ran in the June 5, 2014, print and electronic versions of the Montgomery Sentinel… 


…is a mangled knockoff of a David Willson cartoon (found here):
These were just the thefts I found using Google’s reverse image search.  Other cartoons, which feature artwork stolen from a number of different sources, would have to be tracked down another way.  For instance, the figure to the right in this cartoon:
…is clearly recognizable as the work of New Yorker cartoonist Leo Cullum, which takes some nerve to pass off as one’s own.  But because it’s several artists’ work pasted together, a reverse image search is not helpful.The Sentinel’s full cartoon archive is here.  A .zip file of all their online cartoons is here.I will note for the record that I am the target of many of the Sentinel’s cartoons.  I don’t mind being razzed in political cartoons, even razzed hard – as a former journalist and political history buff, I wear it as a badge of honor.But even those fully protected by the First Amendment have to play by the rules. I am far less offended as the target of these cartoons than I am as a guy who spent a lot of time in his 20s making sure Congressional Quarterly’s publications had full rights to every scrap we ever published.

The Sentinel’s editors can take all the hard shots at me they want to (and I celebrate their right to do so), but they had better not steal when they do so.  It’s breaking the law and it hurts the profession.  I am truly offended by the Sentinel’s laziness and its disregard for the intellectual property of its journalism colleagues.

I informed the Sentinel’s editor, Brian Karem, in person several months ago that his newspaper is stealing art from all over the Internet and passing it off as its own; he seemed unconcerned and said he’d maybe mention something to “William Charles” about it.

Usually, newspapers excel at shining sunlight on issues; in this case, this newspaper needs some light shined on its thieving ways.  I realize it’s tricky, because newspapers don’t ordinarily like to call their competitors to account. So sometimes a blog posting will have to do.

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