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Trollface is a rage comic character wearing a mischievous smile that is meant to represent the facial expression of an Internet troll. The image is most commonly used to portray a character as a troll in rage comics, or alternatively, to identify oneself or another participant as such in online discussions.
The Trollface was originally drawn by Carlos Ramirez, an Oakland-based artist known by his deviantART handle Whynne, as part of a MS Paint webcomic webcomic about the pointless nature of trolling on 4chan’s /v/ (video games) board. The comic was uploaded to deviantART on September 19th, 2008.
In the deviantART post, Ramirez added a note revealing that he was attempting to draw a comic character known as the “Rape Rodent.”
In the following months, Ramirez’ drawing quick gained traction on 4chan as the universal emoticon of an Internet troll and a versatile rage comic character. For a brief time, the face became alternatively known as “the coolface” after a rage comic-style webcomic took off on 4chan and Ebaumsworld, though only for a brief period of time.
Throughout the first half of 2009, Trollface quickly gained favor with Redditors and rage comic artists in particular, in part owing to the rapid growth of the /r/f7u12 subreddit around that same time. On August 1st, 2009, the first Urban Dictionary definition for “trollface” was submitted by user A Terrible Driver. Thousands of additional webcomic and photoshopped instances featuring the face can be found Tumblr, Cheezburger, Reddit, Facebook, Quickmeme and Memegenerator among many others.
Copyright Infringement Dispute
On July 16th, 2011, a screenshot of an email sent to an undisclosed recipient from a man named Carlos Ramirez claiming to be Whynne was posted to Reddit. The email stated that the use of Trollface on Reddit violated his copyright on the image and requested the subreddit to be removed from the site.
You know what also makes me happy? Trolling reddit and seeing a shitstorm like this develop.
The background image for the f7u12 pages was changed to a picture of trollface with the text “HEY WHYNNE… U MAD BRO?”:
On March 3rd, 2015, Meme Run, an endless-running 2D platformer video game featuring a plethora of internet meme references, including the Trollface, was removed from the Wii U eShop following the issuance of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice from Ramirez as the copyright holder of the character (shown below).
Profitability of Trollface
On April 8th, 2015, Kotaku ran an in-depth interview article with Ramirez about his now-iconic rage comic character. In the article, the Trollface artist estimated that he has earned more than $100,000 in licensing fees, settlements and other payouts since registering with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2010, with monthly revenues reaching as high as $15,000 at its peak in popularity. In addition, Ramirez also offered a backstory behind the removal of Meme Run from Wii U eShop, quoted as saying:
“People message me,” he said, “‘Hey, look, your trollface was used here! You oughta sue these guys” I just say ‘Okay, I’ll look at it.’ And I look at it. If it’s a really minor thing, I can’t be bothered with it. It’ll take too much time, and let people have their fun. If they’re not making any significant money on it, it’s like, eh, not a big deal. If you’re publishing a game on a major platform and it’s using my image, it’s kind of hard to ignore.”
“It’s really troublesome when you’re making a game comprised entirely of memes,” he said. “It’s a big problem of copyright infringement, all across the board, and I guess I was the only one with enough time to go out of my way and shake it down.”
Search queries did not pick up until January of 2009, several months after the original deviantArt posting.