Deciphering the YouTube ecosystem with curation, news, and analysis.
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In this edition, putting the Fat Jew controversy in the context of larger discussions happening in the digital video ecosystem.

Did you see this article this week? 
Disney and Maker Studios’ Big Deal May Be Smaller Than They Thought. I have to say, I felt particularly vindicated when I saw it. In February of this year, I wrote an edition of the newsletter entitled, "Disney Reserves $198 Million for Maker Studios Payouts." A prominent venture capitalist with a large stake in Maker pressured me to retract the article, saying that my skepticism was unfounded and incorrect because they still had a whole year to earn the rest of the payout (and indeed, they have until December 2015).
 It was a disheartening and even slightly scary experience, but I stood firm and refused to retract because I thought there was some validity in the line of questioning. Turns out that Re/Code agrees with me. Healthy skepticism is always a good thing!

Finally, are you searching for a job in digital video? I'm creating a job seeker database for the employers who approach me looking for candidates. Add your information here.

It's been a bad week for this guy. (


The Fat Jew, a.k.a. Josh Ostrovsky, has had a very bad week. It began when THR announced that he had been signed by CAA. Comedians whose jokes he has stolen (excuse me, "aggregated" or "curated") over the years in order to build his audience had a lot to say about his plagiarism and success because of it

He's become a lighting rod for the conversation about intellectual property, the Internet, and the very significant money at stake for a social media "influencer."

While I am being quite snarky above, I believe there really is a talent in curation and audience building. An argument for The Fat Jew is often that his captions add value to the original joke, which is laughable to most of the comedians who work so hard to be both original AND funny. You can't copyright a joke, but these are more than jokes; it's often the interplay between an image and the text that creates meaning. Curation is a talent that is not new to the Internet (all art is derivative) but...I digress.

A phenomenon that is particular to the Internet? The evolution of a meme. I love the sociological elements of meme-making; creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new or valuable is created, and creativity on the internet is inherently collaborative. At what point is a joke plagiarized? Can you plagiarize or steal something that cannot legally be copyrighted? Is avoiding plagiarism about giving credit where credit is due? Does the medium matter? If you make money by creating a meme, how much should you give to the person whose photo you "stole" to make the meme?

The question that oddly no one is asking in regard to The Fat Jew: What is the role of the platform in preventing plagiarism?

Hank Green wrote a really important post about Facebook "Freebooting," or the act of uploading someone else's video as your own. Individuals, corporations, and media companies are all doing it on Facebook, and it's a huge problem. YouTube created ContentID to solve this problem, but only at the behest of the courts and major media corporations whose content was being stolen. Facebook has yet to announce a compelling solution, or even plans for one.

It matters in particular because Facebook is now directly monetizing videos by running in-video ads. They've been monetizing all content (photos, your status updates, videos) all along through display and retargeting ads, but copyright seems to have come into sharp focus because of their plans to compete with YouTube by monetizing with video ads. 

Here's another complex issue: The Fat Jew is certainly monetizing on Instagram and Twitter, but not necessarily via the platform. Instead, brands partner directly with him to create sponsored content and the platform never participates in the revenue stream. This monetization strategy is especially infuriating for struggling comedians whose jokes he steals; they're trying to "make it" by the cult of their personality, too. 

Of course, the platforms all benefit from these very popular accounts; they maintain and grow the user base and ultimately the value of the company.

The creator of a popular "parody Twitter account" recently told Buzzfeed, 'I’m definitely in this for the marketing aspect, and at the end of the day, obviously the revenue...I’m not a writer. I do not write most of my content. I find it [in] other places.'...Obviously, going at content creation with a purely revenue-centric mind-set can be problematic. Orr, Rhodes, Asa, and the parody account owners like them all face a tremendous amount of criticism for plagiarism. Orr said rampant plagiarism on Twitter is Twitter’s problem, not the people who use it. 'Unfortunately Twitter limits us. I don’t think in 140 characters we can add a source,' Orr said. 'Should Twitter allow for a place to link for a source, I’m sure everyone would be definitely open to that and do it.'”

What is Instagram or Facebook or Twitter's role in preventing plagiarism? Why is no one asking Instagram what it plans to "do" about The Fat Jew?

Does a platform have responsibility to fight plagiarism only if they are directly monetizing on that content? Only if it's video content and not a photo or the written word? Only if it is reposted / lifted without any transformation? 

How do we define plagiarism in a way that fosters creativity and at the same time protects creators?

NBC Playground - WOLFGIRL - Mike Bernstein


1. Facebook Should Pay All of Us "For the most valuable innovation at the heart of Facebook was probably not the social network (Friendster thought of that) so much as the creation of a tool that convinced hundreds of millions of people to hand over so much personal data for so little in return. As such, Facebook is a company fundamentally driven by an arbitrage opportunity—namely, the difference between how much Facebook gets, and what it costs to simply provide people with a place to socialize. That’s an arbitrage system that might evaporate in a world of rational payments. If we were smart about the accounting, we’d be asking Facebook to pay us."

2. YouTube is the Sleeping Giant of Livestreaming "Blau is fond of calling live video “the next selfie,” which is both horrifying and probably accurate."

3. YouTube Is a Viable TV Alternative For Advertisers, But Some Are Wary of Commitment "...clients like the fact that they only pay for ads on YouTube that people don’t skip. “There is a growing recognition in the industry of the power of getting people to choose to consume your ad,” Mr. Johnson said. As opposed to TV ads, which generally interrupt people’s viewing experiences."

4. NBCUniversal Announces Its $200 Million Investment In Buzzfeed “We look forward to collaborating on television content, movies, the Olympics, and joint partnerships with ad agencies and brands.”

5. Minnesota’s Internet Cat Video Festival Attracts 13,000 Attendees "This year’s Internet Cat Video Festival, hosted at CHS Field in St. Paul, began with Mayor Chris Coleman throwing out a ceremonial ball of yarn(!!!). Afterwards, the 13,000 festival attendees enjoyed clips of cats displayed on the stadium’s digital scoreboard, including a video of a cat scaring away a bear and a spoof of Jurassic Park with dinosaurs replaced with furry little felines."

6. King Bach, DeStorm Power Set To Host ‘Punk’D’ On BET ...good prank to announce the show, but I guess this means no more sexy music vids??

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Sickly yours,