The thrill of going viral is that of a hard narcotic. When millions upon millions of people see something you have created, the surge of excitement pulses throughout your body and synapses fire in your brain. It’s vanity at its boiling point. Where the line gets blurred is when you start blatantly stealing things from other people for your own benefit. I’ve had my content stolen before. It happens. People don’t think there are consequences on the internet. There are.
You’ve probably seen the name “The Fat Jew” (Josh Ostrovsky) in the news lately. While it may sound like a surly Tarantino character, he’s actually one of the most infamous Instagram “celebrities” in the game. Justin Beiber loves him, which should be enough reason for you to hate him on prejudice alone. He’s gotten busted for stealing/posting jokes without attribution to the comedians who came up with them. The AV Club has a good, succinct write-up on it if you’re out of the loop.
While this sheds light on one of the most popular joke thieves on the internet, the problem still runs wild. Instagram account “fuckjerry” has 5.7 million followers (600k more than Ostrovsky). Go look at his account. I’m not going to link to his garbage, but just go look at it. It’s pretty much just screencaps of unattributed tweets and memes ripped from Reddit and 4chan.
“So what’s the big deal, Bri Guy? Why should I, Joe Internet, care?”
I’m not asking you to care. I’m asking you to have a conscience. Tall order, I know.
While it may seem like internet comedians are just a bunch of whiners just wanting credit for their joke, I get the outcry, but it’s not just The Fat Jew who’s ripping off your shit. It’s every godforsaken “parody” account that exists on twitter. You know those Fake Will Ferrell accounts? Every single joke on those accounts is stolen. Not a single one of them comes up with original content and they get away with it by classifying themselves as “parody” and “aggregation” accounts, which if you have ever read a dictionary or a book, know that neither of those words are associated with theft.
When you’re one tweet away from a book deal or a series pilot, there’s good reason for these writers and comedians to go all Krakatoa on guys like Ostrovsky and fuckjerry. They’re taking food off of the table and stuffing it into their own faces.
It’s not just limited to Instagram and Twitter. It’s Vine stars (who rank behind balloon artists and brunch DJs in terms of respectability as entertainers) who post blatant, word-for-word ripoffs of other material on Vine and Instagram. Hell, even theCHIVE has been accused of it. Yeah, what is generally considered the gold standard of web entertainment is often accused of content “aggregation,” which is really just a nicer term for “taking popular stuff off of reddit and tumblr, repackaging it as our own and making it even MORE popular.” What’s admirable though is that theCHIVE corrects their mistakes and gives proper attribution if/when they get called out.
Hell, I’ve probably been guilty of it. A quick Google image search for something as a featured photo and just slap it on a piece of content without realizing I was violating about a half dozen different copyright laws. Sure, it’s not blatant joke stealing, but it’s still a gray area of web morality.
Sourcing isn’t cool. Pretending you came up with something to get clicks is cooler. Creativity is so watered down on the internet now. Originality is no longer praised and comedy has degenerated to a point where “TFW”-quality reaction memes are now more popular than good, quality, original content.
Maybe that’s just the way it is for now. Tastes change and I’m hoping this is the beginning of a shift away from Instacelebs, Vine stars and Twitter fame whores. I’m hoping I’m right.
Joke stealing ruined Carlos Mencia’s career, although it can be argued that Carlos Mencia ruined Carlos Mencia’s career. Now it looks like it’s about to ruin the career of one Josh Ostrovsky and for damn good reason.
Don’t steal anything ever.
Featured image via who cares