This week a short film called HowardCantour.com by actor, Shia LeBeouf, was posted on the website Short of the Week. Not long after its posting, viewers identified the film as a copy of Justin M. Damiano, a comic written and illustrated by Daniel Clowes. Clowes is a prolific writer and illustrator, and is the mind behind such famous works as Ghost World and Eightball (later adapted into the film Art School Confidential). While HowardCantour.com originally premiered at Cannes in 2012 and continued to be shown at other film festivals, it was not until the film was exposed to online audiences that the copying was detected, and LeBeouf was questioned as to the movie's concept.
Clowes gave no permission for the creation of the film, and LeBeouf failed to credit Clowes in any way. LeBeouf responded to the accusations regarding the film via Twitter, and these responses (and admissions) are reposted in Short of the Week's update regarding the film. Short of the Week removed the film from its website out of respect to Clowes.
While many have labeled LeBeouf's work a theft, and plagiarism, it bears mentioning that the work may so closely resemble the original--having been called a "near direct adaptation"--as to constitute an unauthorized derivative work, thus infringing on Clowes' copyright in Justin M. Damiano. It remains to be seen whether Clowes will take any legal action.
As Short of the Week points out, while the internet has often served as tool of intellectual property infringement, in the form of illegal music downloads and the like, but in this case, it was online viewers who were responsible for bringing LeBeouf's copying to light and promoting respect for artists' original works.