Syphilis. The Spanish Inquisition. Ariana Grande’s ‘No Tears Left To Cry’—there are some things you just can’t joke about. But these trinkets are zilch in comparison to the bad boy of the courtroom. That’s right, we’re talking about the decidedly not funny Mr. Copyright Law. C’mon, if season two of “Westworld” has taught you nothing, it’s that you don’t fuck with IP unless you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
The opening argument
Cartoonist and notorious funny man Hugleikur Dagsson learned this unfortunate lesson first hand last December, when he was unceremoniously awoken from his slumber by an ominous letter. Okay, it was an email.
The dire directive informed our fair artist that his famous t-shirt, which features an Icelandic stick figure—you know he’s Icelandic because he’s wearing a Icelandic football costume—yelling “HÚ”, was infringing on his patent. Apparently, this sneaky entrepreneur had managed to copyright a sound: HÚ. We can only assume he was part American.
“He said that we should either back down or pay him,” Hugleikur writes to me over Facebook chat. You can almost feel the teary emojis coming through his keyboard. Hugleikur immediately consulted his lawyer. “We felt like we had a moral high ground so we kept printing those shirts,” he says. Unfortunately, our impressive aural tycoon had come to the table with legal backing too. Drama!
Hugleikur then did what any self-respecting modern Renaissance man would do and took the problem straight to Facebook, retelling his tale of attempted extortion alongside a sales pitch for the contentious tee, with a cut of the profit going to the Icelandic Cancer Society. It went viral, with millions—ok maybe thousands—horrified. “Facebook buried him,” Hugleikur admits. “I admit it was kind of a dick move to throw the guy under the social media bus.” He virtually shrugs. “But sometimes you have to fight a dick move with a dick move.” The internet army came through, and the HÚ-magnate backed down.
While Hugleikur still sells the tee, he’s put the past in the past and is moving on to bigger and brighter shirt pastures. “I felt I was becoming a sell-out with the old shirt and wanted to take the concept to a darker and dirtier place,” he says. “So now you can buy a HÚ shirt with a slaughtered whale saying ‘HÚ’ and a man who is fucking a sheep saying ‘HÚ’.”