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Pro Bono: Good for Picking Up Chicks (Tracts)?

As some of you know, Columbia has a minimum 40 hour pro-bono requirement that I sometimes fret about. And yet, there's a lot of opportunity to be creative here.

For instance, observe what has happened to Mr. Howard Hallis, a professional artist and web designer. In a fit of inspiration, Mr. Hallis decided to parody one of the comics of Jack Chick.

Who is Jack Chick, you ask? Well, he's some form of minister notable for writing missionary comic strips compelling the faithless to Jesus. When I first stumbled across these, I pretty much assumed they were already a parody, along the lines of Landover Baptist. But no. It seems that Mr. Chick has been spitting forth these comic strips, and other pamphlets, longer than I've been alive. His zeal for 'proving' that Allah is a false 'moon god', Jews are going to hell, and Catholicism is an unholy lie is merely strident enough to seem like parody. (I mean, his 'argument' against communion is titled The Death Cookie. Who would have thought he wanted to be taken seriously?)

You can find a more-complete-than-you-ever-needed list of Chick Tracts here. My friends first introduced him to me because of his observation that all roleplayers are spell-casting cultists out to take your soul. Beware, my readers, it appears that they're able to cast 'mind bondage' spells. (Well, that explains some things, then.)

So anyway, Mr. Hallis responded to this by creating the 'Cthulhu Chick Tract', a work in the style of the Great Master Jack but from the point of view of the worshipper of the Great Old Ones:

MINISTER: Soon the seas will turn red with the blood of the human race, as the unspeakable terrors com from beyond the gate, which is Yog Sothoth, to devour all in their path! la! Shub Niggurath! la! la!

UNBELIEVER: So if we're all gonna die, what difference does it make? Who cares? Nothing I can do about it... or is there?

MINISTER: You're right, George... It's hopeless. But there is one thing we can hope for... TO BE EATEN FIRST!"

Unfortunately, Mr. Chick's employees seem as humorless as his comics. Mr. Hallis's ISP was sent a cease and desist letter claiming the following:
In accordance with your responsibilities under copyright law, I am asking you to take immediate action to terminate this illegal activity which is occuring on your network. It has been our experience that most of the time when people steal copyrighted materials such as this, they do so without the knowledge or approval of their internet service provider, and that when made aware of the violation, most ISPs take the material down promptly. I trust that will be the case here.

Mr. Hallis then took down the offending piece, because in his words, "I'm taking their tactics of propaganda... their very format and art... and turning it towards something they consider evil. Now, everyones opinions of what is evil and not evil or funny and not funny are subjective, but when they own the copyright to those images, they are fully within their rights to ask me to remove it from view." Thankfully, due to the magic of the Internet, it's not actually gone from view. You can see it here, among other places.

I've not taken any courses on copyright yet, but I have to wonder if Mr. Hallis is correct. After all, the work is obviously a parody, and a parody of Mr. Chick. Not that I can cite things like the Clerk normally does to support the view (without further research), but at least instinct tells me Mr. Hallis might have a case. It's certainly something to look into on a rainy Sunday.

Which brings us back to the pro bono requirement. It wouldn't be so bad if I could spend my forty hours defending people from otherwise ridiculous legal harassment. I'll have to find a firm or organization that would offer me the work, but at least I'd learn something, and be pleased with what I accomplished.

UPDATE FOR THE CONTEXTUALLY IMPAIRED: Just to make it completely clear--as I've already gotten some misguided 'fan mail'--the fact that I'm linking to Mr. Chick above does not constitute any endorsement of his views. Quite the opposite, actually, as I would have thought context made obvious. Note also that the link to Armed and Dangerous doesn't constitute approval of his views, either: I merely linked to him because he's willing to host a copy of Mr. Hallis' comic.


Jack Chick is my hero - he's hilarious! If you're lucky the next time you're walking around Times Square you'll find a nice man with a megaphone handing out Chick comics. Make sure you thank him profusely and tell him how his simple-minded cartoons brighten your day! http://www.weirdcrap.com/chick/
Although the context suggests that he feared lawsuits, Hallis could have been referring to moral rather than legal rights; merely because the law permits us to parody others' work (or in the Chick worlview, turn their good into evildoing) does not mean that we ought to do so. After all, Chick put in the effort to create these comics, and Hallis 'stole' the drawings instead of taking the time and talent to make his own. And really, how much talent does it take to make drawings equal to Chick's?
i need your hand help oky

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