The Geek Tingle
Apr 22, 2010
Possibly the most geeky thing about me, if I can pick just one thing, is that I get all tingly when I hear about new business models. For example, I got a tingly feeling the first time I heard about iTunes. I get the same feeling every time I buy a book in less than a minute from Amazon.

I'm also fascinated when an improved user interface causes an entirely new product to be created from something old. For example, auctions have been around forever, but eBay made it so easy that they created an entirely new way of doing business.

I get shivers when I see stuff like that happening, and I don't know why. Business models haven't been around long enough to affect human evolution. I have to wonder what genetic defect I have that causes me to enjoy learning about business models as much as I enjoy food or laughing.

Maybe you noticed a new button below the Dilbert comic on the home page labeled "License Me." Now you can search for a particular strip by key word or date, click a few buttons to describe how you want to use it - for anything from a PowerPoint presentation to a web site to a publication to a coffee mug - enter some credit card information, and you're all legally licensed in minutes. For example, you can license Dilbert for your business presentation for as little as $19.99, which is the same as free if your boss is paying for it.

The old way of licensing Dilbert was so cumbersome that I spent a lot of time convincing people they shouldn't even try. My end of the conversation usually involved something like "Just use it without permission and don't tell me about it." When pressed for an explanation as to why doing such a seemingly simple thing would be a nightmare, I launched into my explanation of copyright protections, lawyers, contracts, approval processes, and all the phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and cursing involved to get a tiny license for a limited use. It was a good way for me to experience self-loathing with a dollop of someone else loathing me at the same time.

In recent years, United Media streamlined the process, but it still involved e-mails, sometimes phone calls, explanations, contracts, and too much time. It was never as easy as common sense demanded.

As a consequence, Dilbert was probably in second place for the most stolen item of the past 20 years, at least by businesses. (Money was in first place.) And who could blame anyone for using Dilbert without permission? I would have done the same thing. Humans have some sort of hardwired sense of rightness, and stealing something that's too much of a hassle to purchase legally feels okay to most people. I feel exactly the same way.

The License Me button is for the benefit of companies that prefer to be legal in all things. It sets a good example. And at long last, it is easy to be legal. I call that a new business model.

It makes me tingle. I swear it does.

(Note: Dilbert will always be free for personal use, such as hanging on your wall or emailing to friends.)

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Dec 19, 2012
We are trying to license a strip to put on our firm's holiday card - we received an email back saying this site does not have the licensing rights for Dilbert cartoons, and referred us to the Iconix Brand Group in NY. They referred us back to dilbert.com. How do we obtain a license? Sounds like a subject for a strip itself...
May 13, 2010
"stealing something that's too much of a hassle to purchase legally feels okay to most people"

I foresee a time when there will be just two places you can purchase something - somewhere cheap, but that requires you to jump through some sort of irritating hoop to use, like actually turning up in person to the place where the stuff is so you can buy it, for example, and somewhere more expensive, but which allows you to enact the purchase in the blink of an eye.

What baffles me is that right now, there appear to be two places you can buy most things, but the more inconvenient ones are also, confusingly, MORE EXPENSIVE than the convenient ones. I cannot understand how this situation can continue for more than a month.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 27, 2010
So as an author who has licensed your work for my past 3 books (technical books on database design, which I used the ever so famous Mauve strip for,) this makes me wonder if I should pay next time :)

In all actuality, I would prefer to get it legally and include several more strips in my book... I mean, a strip here and there is just advertising for you, right?
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 25, 2010
I had a wall of Dilbert comic strips at my last office.

One of my office walls was cork. Since I was in marketing at the time (I have evolved since then), I was expected to dream up lots of inexpensive ways to maximize exposure. The wall was supposed to provide all the motivation I needed to pin up ideas for all to see. I usually kept a few half-@$$ed ideas tacked up there.

My PHB would come in once in a while and review the ideas. He would pass judgment with a thoughtful stroke of the chin, and a low "Hmmmm". This, I later learned, was his way of saying, "Thank you for creating ideas that I am incapable of" and "I plan on stealing these and giving you zero credit" as well as "I need money to suit my trophy wife and keep my 2 spoiled sons in college for the rest of their lives."


Anyway, back to the wall. I had nearly a 1/2 year of Dilbert tacked to the cork. I would rotate them as needed. And each one was a direct insult to the boss -- in an indirect way, of course. He would come in, read a few, laugh, and walk out. I would think, "You are soooo clueless, dude! These are about you!" I remember one strip that was about the CEO selling out stock options and buying a Hummer. My boss did this buy, but bought a Yukon instead. Another was about buying a private jet and telling his employees to "eat mud and die!" The boss did this too, only his "jet" was a twin prop instead.

What did Spandau Ballet sing in the '80s? "So true! Funny how it seems..."

Thanks for not sending the lawyers after my wall, Scott!

"Eat mud and die!"


Apr 25, 2010
Did you even try to license a song for public performance? Forget it. They want the event to buy a license for any song or something. In end, I doubt anyone paid them anything. RIAA and friends are really incompetent at representing their clients.
Apr 24, 2010
If I may put you on the couch for a moment, it might not be business models that you're in love with, but efficiency. Streamlining a process, neatening it up, making it more easily available to more people; there's something cool about it that makes me tingle as well.

Reminds me of Mencken's desire not for genius, but competence, because it's so rare. As I get older, I've come to admire competence, and your "license me" button is one groovy idea.
Apr 24, 2010
Kickass concept. Is the idea to see how it goes on your site and then market it as a business-to-business idea - i.e. make the interface and payment infrastructure available to other online businesses with copyrighted licensable often-stolen material - like other cartoonists, music publishers, etc.? If it's done properly, I think it could go really well.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 24, 2010
How do we license my mash-ups? Do you get 2/3 to my 1/3 by frame ratio, or do we split it 50/50 since you just did the set-ups for them and I nailed the punchlines (or can I just have 100% of the imaginary proceeds on those?)
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 23, 2010
The only downside is that I've been charging my boss $19.99 for stolen Dilbert comics I've used on weekly updates for the past year now and forging the licensing agreements...now he will inevitably find out what they are supposed to look like and fire me....and I was just starting to get used to being Vice President of the United States :(
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 23, 2010
You Rock!
Apr 23, 2010
Sounds great. When I do licence a comic (ie, finish paying), do I also get to download a Dilbert image that says "officially licensed" (or something to that effect). Yes, I know such an image it could be duplicated, but it's one thing to not licence something, and another to falsely declare that you have licensed it. It would also help your new business model if people who license then advertise they licensed (and then talk about how easy it is to license).

But mostly I want to be able to brag that paid money for something I could have stolen.

Also, on a go forward basis are you indexing comics by subject? I'd love to be able to see law related strips (as in lawyer getting in the way, or breaking laws). Didn't a character get arrested once?
Apr 23, 2010
"I get shivers when I see stuff like that happening, and I don't know why. Business models haven't been around long enough to affect human evolution. I have to wonder what genetic defect I have that causes me to enjoy learning about business models as much as I enjoy food or laughing."

I recently read that all humans on earth now are believed to have evolved from approximately 1000 breeding pairs of humans following a cataclysmic volcanic eruption a long time ago.

What If that happened now and the only breeding pairs left were all cubicle dwellers? Taking the leap they were still capable of procreation, do you think 20,000 years from now humans would all reside in small, square dwellings and look towards small boxes in front of them for guidance?
Apr 23, 2010
SCOTT Says: "I'm also fascinated when an improved user interface causes an entirely new product to be created from something old".

Really? Google created conversations in gmail out of simple mails and presented so neatly that every geek jumped on followed by the masses. All you could see is hard to find too many ways to reply.

You have exceptional writing skills and excellent sense of humor which you also know how to translate to business opportunity. Geek Tingle? Well leave the Geek out of it please.

Apr 23, 2010
Fantastic - You deserve to make tons of money.
Apr 23, 2010
"Dilbert was probably in second place for the most stolen item of the past 20 years, at least by businesses." Assuming you can call them a business, the schmucks that have been ripping off Bill Watterson's Calvin could probably give the PowerPoint Rangers cribbing your strips a run for the money.

Great idea though - I love seeing friction removed from the market as well. However, there doesn't seem to be any category for non-profits to use the strips; I work for a K-12 school district and can at least fantasize about using your strips in presentations to our School Board.
Apr 22, 2010
I know people who illegaly download simply because it is the only way they can get stuff. They would buy it if they could, and do, if it becomes available. When you are not in the big geographic areas, USA, Europe etc. the distribution networks often don't bother with the less popular stuff.
Apr 22, 2010
Why do I have the feeling that I just got hypnotized into spending $20 for something that any idiot would know he can use illegally but utterly consequence free? "And of course you don't feel any guilt...no guilt at all...and if you should feel any guilt, all you need to do is press that button, and all that guilt will just go away...so you know you don't need to feel any guilt, because you can press that button..."
Apr 22, 2010
I feel better knowing I'm not a criminal for having my 3 favorite Dilbert comics on my cubical wall (boss with his password on his forhead, keys locked in the yugo, and the bodies wrapped in plastic). Yes I have a sick sense of humor, and I'm proud of it.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2010
Given my evil nature, I may or may not just continue to misappropriate certain comic strips I find pertinent to my business presentations. (I given exactly 0 business presentations in all my years, and no actual cartoonists were harmed in the typing of this opinion.)
Apr 22, 2010
Nice post & thanks to the new search I was able to find a strip from 1996 about battery back-ups that I had sent you an email about and bought a mug. Ca-ching!
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