If the past few days of Shia LaBeouf-related news weren’t puzzling enough, here’s more: Following the revelation that his short film HowardCantour.com was nearly wholly lifted without credit or permission from Daniel Clowes’ comic Justin M. Damiano, the subsequent discovery that his multiple apologies were copied from sources ranging from Yahoo! Answers to Kanye West, it appears the text of the “About” page of LaBeouf’s Campaign Book website was directly ripped from the description of Dan Nadel’s soon-to-close PictureBox — something noted by Nadel himself on The Comics Journal.
The Campaign Book:
Why is PictureBox? Because I love the things I love and I want to champion them. I tend toward outliers and I’m obsessed with the history of visual culture writ large and small. But look, ostensibly PictureBox is a publishing company. I publish around 10 books a year (graphic novels, prose, design, art, etc.) as well as assorted specialty items like DVDS, CDs, and prints. Each project comes from my own tastes and relationships, and are rooted in what I believe in. Since it’s just me running this thing, you’re pretty much seeing me through those books and this site.
Yep, that follows the HowardCantour.com formula in being virtually identical, other than proper names, down to the “s” capitalized in “DVDS” but not “CDs.” Nadel’s commentary, as seen on TCJ: “Pretty amazing. And sad.” (In case you’re wondering, the earliest archive.org capture of PictureBox’s text in that form is Dec. 24, 2010; The Campaign Book’s is April 23, 2012.)
To recap, HowardCantour.com was produced in 2012 and released online Monday — shortly thereafter BuzzFeed published a post on the similarities between the short and Clowes’ Justin M. Damiano comic, quoting the famed cartoonist saying he was “shocked” by the film, and “actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.” That night, LaBeouf took to Twitter to apologize, using words which were found to be in part taken from a four-year-old Yahoo! Answers post. He later posted further apologies to Twitter, which were taken from more famous sources — including Tiger Woods, Kanye West and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
HowardCantour.com star Jim Gaffigan’s manager told CBR News, “Jim was an actor for hire on this project and had no creative input. We were all as surprised by this news as everybody else.” BuzzFeed also unearthed that LaBeouf’s self-published 2012 comic releases Let’s Fucking Party and Stale N Mate, borrowed “heavily” from Charles Bukowski and Benoît Duteurtr.
In further developments: The Hollywood Reporter has posted a defense of LaBeouf on its Hollywood Esq. legal blog, straightforwardly titled “In Defense of Shia LaBeouf.” In it, writer Eriq Gardner states his opinion that, at least in the letter of the law, HowardCantour.com is, “at worst” an “illegal derivative,” as LaBeouf created a film, and not a graphic novel. Gardner also writes that if Clowes pursues a lawsuit, “copyright infringement cases are notoriously tough for plaintiffs to prevail.” The piece ends with comparing this situation to a lawsuit against the 2007 film Disturbia, which starred LaBeouf: The rights-holders to Alfred Hitchock’s classic Rear Window saw one too many similarities in the latter film and sued, but ended up losing in court.