Lawyers for 20th Century Fox take copyright infringement of The Simpsons very seriously. During the early 1990s, lawyers were sent to vendors who sold bootleg Bart Simpson t-shirts. Towards the end of the decade, many Simpsons sites received cease & desist orders for the grave crime of hosting framegrabs. More recently, Fox lawyers managed to take down a series of Simpsons video parodies featuring OJ Simpson. Even creator Matt Groening, who has a collection of bootleg Simpsons merchandise, personally dispatches lawyers from time to time.
Ben Jones, an artist in the art collective Paper Rad, has recieved many acclaims for his work; Paper Rad’s avant-garde comics often appear in hip indie comics anthologies such as The Best American Comics and Kramer’s Ergot. Following the massive Kramer’s Ergot 7, of which Groening was a fellow contributor, Jones was asked to contribute to the upcoming Treehouse of Horror comic book. According to a 2003 Comics Reporter profile, this would not be his first Simpsons comic:
Effective as illustration, Ben Jones’ comics demand reading. As noted by several of his fellow cartoonists, on no planet should a comic about Simpsons characters Homer and Moe taking a walk, getting high and skinny dipping (“Ho and Mo”) work on any level for a single second, let alone be funny and affecting and a touch profound. In the Alfe stories, Jones’ most frequent recurring feature and among the first comics the artist tried to sell through Million Year Picnic, Jones uses a sizable, extremely odd cast to pay tribute to simple pleasures and the way kindness and patience act as buttresses against life’s intolerable cruelties. Jones is to the idea of friendship what the cartoonist Jack Jackson is to Texas history, its primary comics chronicler.
Additionally, The Simpsons is a recurring motif in Paper Rad’s ouvre, as evidenced by their website.
Yet, despite such egregious acts of copyright infringement, Jones and Paper Rad do not appear to have been punished for their actions. As far as I can tell from a Google search, the art collective has never received a cease & desist letter from Fox’s attorneys. In fact, with his contribution to Simpsons Comics, Jones appears to have been rewarded for his copyright infringement!!! He is being endorsed, at least implicitly, by Bongo Comics, Groening, and Fox, who are apparently turning a blind eye to his wholesale appropriation of their intellectual property. Is Jones receiving preferential treatment simply for being a celebrity? Is this really the message Bongo Comics wants to be sending to infringers?