In the world of online content, anything is fair game if it can be monetized. The history of viral content began with people posting funny things, some of them making money of it, and then others cribbing–if not outright stealing–others’ content and also making money off of it (The Fat Jew is probably the best example of this). Digital copyright law may draw bright lines around piracy and reuse in certain cases, but tweets, jokes, and memes are murky territory.
Today we have an example of this from BuzzFeed Food, which posted a 38 second video to its Facebook page that animated “PDA”: Pizza, Donuts, and All forms of potato chips.
Funny joke right? What’s weird is that the text is practically identical to a tweet posted earlier this week:
I love PDA
All forms of potatoes
— Vivian Lee (@vivianwmlee) February 8, 2018
All they did was sub out “dumplings” for “donuts.” The author of this tweet, Vivian Lee (disclosure: she is a friend of mine) is not employed by BuzzFeed nor was she ever contact by the company. But after her joke went viral, it seems the food arm of the online media empire thought it could make some quick easy content using her joke.
This isn’t an uncommon thing to happen–many comedians and individual social media users have found their jokes ripped off by bigger companies–indeed, BuzzFeed has found itself in the crosshairs of joke plagiarism claims before. But this example shows just how weird and ruthless the quest to make money off of ephemeral online content can be. I reached out to BuzzFeed for comment, and will update this post if I hear back.
Let’s hope Lee gets at least one donut out of it.