Cartoonist Donna Barstow Attempts To Shut Down Criticism of Her Work

Here’s an email I just sent to the ISP that hosts “Alas, a Blog.” This is regarding the cartoonist Donna Barstow, who work has been criticized on “Alas” here and here. Donna sent an email to the ISP, which the ISP forwarded to me.

Part of Donna’s complaint is that two of her cartoons have been reproduced on “Alas” (which I think is fair use). However, it’s clear that her complaints relate to the entire posts, not just the copyrighted cartoons. For example, she complains about the charge of racism, calling it “defamation.” She also quoted some other ISP’s policy against “Threats & Harassment,” which I think is misplaced, since criticizing her work is not a threat nor harassment.

The email I sent the ISP:

Dear Ben,

Thanks for forwarding Donna Barstow’s email to me.

I believe I have a first amendment right to criticize Ms. Barstow’s cartoons, including reproducing a cartoon of hers under the “fair use” provisions of copyright law.

However, I hope it will help your situation that neither cartoon she refers to is currently hosted on your server. They are both “hotlinked” from the blog but hosted on another web server. So you can honestly tell Ms. Barstow that neither of her cartoons are on your servers, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with your ISP. I hope that will convince her to stop bothering you.

It is my understanding that political criticism of published, publicly available cartoons falls squarely under the “fair use” standard, and that I’m well within my rights to show my readers a political cartoon in order to critique its politics. As a professional political cartoonist myself, I’ve had the same thing happen to me countless times. Donna Barstow is attempting to use bullying and legal threats to shut down legitimate, legal criticism of her publicly displayed political cartoons.

I really hope you’re not going to give in to something like this. It’s a real threat to freedom of speech if ISPs are willing to remove political criticism removed from blogs if the person being criticized sends a strongly worded email.

I am certainly willing to discuss this further with you. Please email me if you have any further questions or concerns.

Best wishes,

Barry Deutsch


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22 Responses to Cartoonist Donna Barstow Attempts To Shut Down Criticism of Her Work

  1. 1
    BRG says:


  2. 2
    Doorshut says:

    Threats and harassment, really? I’ve always thought being racist drove people at least a little crazy.

  3. 3
    Jake Squid says:

    I can’t fault her for a lack of follow through. It’s still not a legal representative issuing a cease & desist, but she is going after the server like she said. Good for you Ms. Barstow! Continue to press for the legal rights that exist only in your own mind.

    In response, I will be sending a letter to the New Yorker threatening to cancel my subscription if they print any more of Ms. Barstow’s bigoted, unfunny work since, in addition to being an unfunny bigot, Ms. Barstow engages in the bullying of her critics. Bullying which, I imagine in my less coherent moments, is illegal. My letter will assume that Ms. Barstow’s entire body of work is bigoted or unfunny or both.

  4. 4
    L says:

    I wonder why she is so angry? Maybe it is a sign that some of the criticism hit home.

  5. 5
    Renee says:

    She came at me with the same thing. Her issue is about being called out for her racist cartoons. The answer is simple really, don’t want to be called a racist, don’t draw racist cartoons.

  6. 6
    Barbara says:

    Hey Donna Barstow, this is for you:

  7. 7
    Barbara says:

    Alas, my html didn’t work:

  8. 8
    PG says:

    Perhaps because the criticism was less severe, and it’s worth getting hits from the Gawker media empire, D. Barstow doesn’t seem to have demanded that Wonkette pull down its reproduction of one of her comics.

  9. 9
    Yamara says:

    Well this is interesting.

    Ms. Barstow seems to be hosting images of Scott Adams’ Dilbert characters on her site, and has since July 2008.

    I wonder if her praise for his work constitutes his permission.

  10. 10
    BananaDanna says:

    “I’m deleting all comments that talk about my drawing or cartoons.”

    She posted this on her site — on the comments section of the post of her Mexico cartoon. What does she want them to talk about there, Bigfoot?

  11. 11
    steve says:

    I have a point that picks quite well at PART of your agrgument.
    However I can say it quite so well as this lady.

    She can work up quite a head of steam while remaining completely rational.

    Hope you enjoy the logic and understand the reference to this argument

  12. 12
    Renee says:


    But she wants people to believe that it is all about copyright infringement. Clearly she does not want the criticism. Too bad. If you put yourself out there then you should expect people to be critical of your work. To me the woman is nothing more than a pearl clutcher.

  13. 13
    PG says:


    Your link is about a very different situation, and in a way that’s actually quite important for fair use. “Renegade Evolution”‘s objection is that those who criticize pornography are making a profit off selling it. Once you point out how Ms. Barstow’s work is being “sold” here, much less making a profit, the analogy might have some relevance. Part of the four-factor test is whether it’s for commercial use, and closely-related to that is another factor, “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” It’s vanishingly unlikely that Amptoons readers who otherwise would have bought Ms. Barstow’s work or viewed it on the sites to which she licenses it have had their desire to consume her work satisfied by seeing two of her cartoons. In contrast, the anti-porn folks who are selling porn are very much jumping into the ptoential market for the work.

  14. 14
    j.r. says:

    No doubt she’s a racist…

    the u.s. has experienced the same problems as mexico…I guess she doesn’t know about the mafia in new york and chicago where they used to kill each other left and right during prohibition…and what about the crips, bloods, hells angels, skinheads….those are all american gangs…lets not forget who snorts the coke that mexico brings in..

    what an immature old woman…

  15. 15
    Recordo says:

    The trouble with Donna Barstow, first of all, is she can’t draw. Nothing will fix that. Second, she is a copyist: she “borrows” from the minimalist styles of New Yorker cartoonists who somehow slip through that magazine’s doorway of class warfare. Third, she isn’t funny. Why her very thin soup gets published is a mystery. It isn’t sophisticated; it isn’t cynical; it isn’t political… it’s garbage.

  16. 16
    Recordo says:

    The emperor’s new clothes. That’s the metaphor that defines this no-talent garbage. Why it gets published in leading “intellectual” publications when the space would be better taken by a Pap smear, is beyond me. It must be my deficit. I’m not seeing the brilliance and the insight in DB’s scrawlings.

  17. 17
    Jake says:

    The captions to the recent cartoons are just not funny. I think her cartoons are terrible. How does she get published in The New Yorker?

  18. 18
    Recordo says:

    The New Yorker is a very political publication, not in its content, but behind the pages, among the editors. There is no way to predict how or why someone as bad as Donna Barstow gets published. It certainly isn’t on merit. She can’t draw. She isn’t funny. Her wit could use a few million years of evolution. But she has made a Friend at the New Yorker who thinks that the rest of us are simply missing the mysterious quality of Ms Barstow’s scribbles. I don’t think so. The snobbery and false pride that rules at the New Yorker is beautifully illustrated in D. Barstow’s awful drawings.

  19. 19
    sierraseven says:

    In browsing around the internet for more on Ms Barstow, I came across her appalling blog, “Why I Did It”. Her homophopic rant about “Glee” and her obsession with “Dancing With The Stars” are just a couple of highlights. Sheesh.

    Here’s her “Let’s keep score on the gay list so far on the show” post about “Glee”:

  20. 20
    Don O says:

    Shes at it again , but this time shes trying to poke a stick into the beehive for mocking her “art” lol. Its volentarily entering a circle of hell only one step up from, say, pissing off 4chan or ED, although one tends to follow the other.

    Some people really seem to enjoy punishment I guess

  21. 21
    Elusis says:

    She’s at it again! This time, she’s hired the same lawyer who represented FunnyJunk in trying to accuse Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal of being the party at fault when he (correctly) called them out for stealing his cartoons without attribution.

  22. 22
    a.p.owen says:

    Shit and flying monkeys. Ken’s ( previous life may have been tainted, but he appears to be trying to make up for it now…