I'm not sure I'm seeing any issue here. OK, so he was good at SEO. The fact is that he has always been very happy to have his comics republished, so long as they link back to the original site. Can't be fairer than that.
Funnyjunk didn't do that. However, he didn't take legal action. He wrote a blog, and exercized his right to free expression. Nothing about the blog was factually incorrect. The links are dead because the images have been taken down.
To be honest, he does come out looking flawless! If someone can point out what he's done wrong, I'm very curious. Certainly the letter he recieved from the lawyer is absurd... Starting from the top:
1. "FunnyJunk, LLC. ("FunnyJunk"), a competitor of TheOatmeal.com in the field of online humor". Where can you go with this? TheOatmeal isn't competing with them.
2. He took an old blog post from last year, then stated that the screenshot was "taken long ago". As is pointed out in the annotated letter, this means nothing.
3. Google cache shows that they had hundreds of images, many of them with the attribution removed.
Yeah Matt's a good guy. I've had coffee with him, worked with him very briefly, know friends of his, he's well liked in the Seattle community, etc. He's smart and talented. I'm watching this with interest because my lawyers have always told me to not fight a legal threat in the press (e.g. a trademark lawsuit I dealt with) because judges don't look kindly on it. But I'm not sure I agree with that so will be interesting to see how/if this unfolds.
His post was very clevery written to lead the reader to believe that Funnyjunk was stealing the images and that their statements that the users were uploading the images in question were a smokescreen. Could he defend this claim in court?
Sure. FunnyJunk, from what I can tell, has no designated agent to respond to DMCA takedown requests. Thus it cannot satisfy safe harbour provisions.
I would suggest that FunnyJunk get themselves some competent legal counsel, because right now it doesn't satisfy DMCA 512. According to 17 USC § 512(c)(2), safe harbor protections "apply to a service provider only if the service provider has designated an agent to receive notifications of claimed infringement".
FunnyJunk LLC. need to provide these details "by making available through its service, including on its website in a location accessible to the public". They need to provide at least "the name, address, phone number, and electronic mail address of the agent".
And I'm sorry, but the webform at http://www.funnyjunk.com/copyright/ doesn't do this. I can assure you, that there is absolutely no way to transmit a physical or electronic signature as they have stated on their page via their form.
Funnyjunk appears to be a comedy site with no sense of humour. Next thing you know someone might start a rolling TV news channel with no knowledge of current affairs, named after some kind of wild dog, and then where would we be? Although, to be fair, that could never happen, as nobody would be stupid enough to watch it.