Get your Jamba on: Juice company puts the squeeze on a cult cartoonist

In the grand scheme of things, Get Your War On is pretty small potatoes. While the online comic strip's popularity grew last year with a series of animated segments that ran on Huffington Post, it has generally been the preserve of a small, rabidly-devoted group of fans. Consequently, when Jamba Juice decided to run an ad that imitated its distinctive look and tone, few people noticed.

Unfortunately, the comic's creator, David Rees, was one of them.

In the days since the story broke, Rees has gone to the mattresses, transforming this tempest in a teapot into a battle for the soul of the internet. Loudly proclaiming that "Juice sucks, drink wine," the cartoonist noted the similarity between the ad and his strip, argued that Jamba was trying to indicate his endorsement of their product, and demanded that the juicy company explain itself.

Surprisingly, Jamba acquiesced, sending out a press release indicating that the promotional campaign was highlighting the dull misery of office work, not attempting to steal Mr. Rees' style. In other words, the company's position is that it wasn't stealing from Get Your War On, so much as from The Office, Dilbert, Office Space and other, better-known cultural touchstones.

In spite of his martial tone, Rees has maintained a sense of humor about the incident. As he acknowledged in his initial call to arms, the images in his comic are taken from public-domain clip art; in fact, Jamba's only specific theft was of his distinctively-shaped word balloons.

In a larger context, however, Rees' aesthetic -- and the quirky humor that underlies his comic -- is, arguably, a proprietary creation, and Jamba's online ad campaign would have derived much of its effectiveness from his loyal readers. While it seems unlikely that Jamba can be legally called to task for its promotional peculation, it is also worth asking what, exactly, constitutes creation these days.
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