Does anybody know if the people who made the memes staff are basing their merch on have been paid?
Or even like, gave permission?
Most of these blogs are still active – it just feels like we’re being mined for content and I don’t like that nobody seems to be talking about it.
I know we make hellsite jokes and whatnot but the implications for copyright here are legitimately awful. idk what I’d do if staff started making thousands of dollars off something I’d said but I would certainly be trying to find a new platform? you know? it’s not ethical.
So I am the source of the vanilla extract meme, which inspired tumblr to create a vanilla extract themed bottle.
Context for folks who need it:
The meme started when I made a poll titled “okay let’s bake a cake 🎂” and the options listed were all cake ingredients. Vanilla extract was the most voted for ingredient at 44%, making the proportions of the ingredients in the cake wildly off from what is expected of a normal cake.
From there “vanilla extract” became a popular option added to polls regardless of how relevant it was to the subject of the poll or the question asked, and it turned into a whole bunch of jokes.
A few days later, tumblr began selling vanilla extract themed water bottles. I was not aware that they were selling the bottles until people began tagging me in posts related to the bottle, and no, I was not asked for permission, nor have I been paid. However, I did request a bottle, and tumblr sent me a bottle for free, and I actually really love it since it’s actually a very good quality bottle.
Personally, I’m fine with tumblr using the meme as a source for merch. Admittedly I did find it a bit off putting to find out about it only after it was up on the online store and people began tagging me, but I don’t feel like I’m owed any financial compensation or anything. Would I have liked them to offer to send me a bottle free of charge, unprompted? Yeah, but they were very quick to answer my request for a free bottle, and I really do appreciate that they did send me one once I asked.
And given the nature of the meme, I don’t feel like I’m the “creator.” Am I the source? Sure, my poll was the origin of the vanilla extract meme, but it was a poll, so the result (44% vanilla) is a collaborative effort from the many, many people who voted on it. It could’ve easily gone any other way. Any other ingredient could’ve won. But people chose collaboratively to vote for vanilla extract, and the results were not something I could’ve achieved on my own, so to call myself creator of something like that doesn’t feel fair.
And because it was a collaborative effort, I feel as though it’s similarly unfair to claim any sort of copyright infringement took place.
But I can’t speak for everyone, and with more specific posts, things become way more complicated. I don’t know how the creator of the infamous tumblr shoelaces joke feels about the official tumblr shoelaces, or how the creator of “the color of the sky” feels about their gradient being slapped onto a water bottle. But personally? I’m fine with tumblr making money off of the vanilla extract meme.
I’ve been on this site since 2014, and it really does feel like one of the last few places on the internet where users have control over their experiences, so I’m all for tumblr making the money it needs to keep this place up and running. I think many of the things offered (merch based on posts or tumblr culture, ad free tumblr, the ability to gift your friends games like the crab rave or the horse game, or the decorative rainbow checkmarks) are really cool, and offer a better user experience. It sure beats putting important features behind paywalls or shoving more ads down your throat or any number of hostile ways other platforms and websites have been trying to make money these past few years. And if I’ve inadvertently contributed to tumblr being able to stay up for a bit longer, in any small way, then that’s great.
So again, while I can’t speak for everyone, I think it’s pretty cool that tumblr made merch inspired by a meme I had a hand in making.
You get copyright for specific creative works, in the US it says “fixed in any tangible medium of expression”
ideas, and while I’m a creative and not a lawyer, I’d very much say memes are ideas, specifically mentioned as not copyrightable:
“In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”