Yesha Callahan

Social Media Is All Fun And Games Until Corporate America Starts Profiting Off Of Our Viral Content

Kayla Newman/Twitter

Kayla Newman aka “Peaches Monroee”/Twitter

When James Wright Chanel sang the Patti’s Pies review heard around the world, everyone began asking, rather suggesting, Patti LaBelle break him off a little something something for making her product a success. What no one questioned, though, was why Walmart, the sole carrier of Miss Patti’s Pies didn’t write the viral star a check. The answer is because the corporation doesn’t have too. Chanel is just one of many viral Black stars whose innate humor and innovation has led to insanely popular videos that translated into page views and notoriety for the creator, but serious dollars for the companies that capitalized on their non-trademarked fame.

The Fader took a look into how corporations profit off of viral Black teens, using Kayla Newman as a prime example. You probably know her better as “Peaches Monroee,” the then-16-year-old Vine star who gave us the fabulously overused phrase “on fleek.” Since relaying that she was “Finna get crunk. Eyebrows on fleek. Da fuq,” Newman’s phrase has been used by everyone from causal tweeters to Ariana Grande, Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper and even Ihop, but the 18-year-old hasn’t seen a dime for essentially introducing a new word into the English language in 2013.

“I gave the world a word,” Newman told The Fader. “I can’t explain the feeling. At the moment I haven’t gotten any endorsements or received any payment. I feel that I should be compensated. But I also feel that good things happen to those who wait.”

Newman will be waiting a long time if the current status quo continues to live on. As The Fader pointed out:

Part of the reason the originators of viral content are stripped from their labor is because they don’t technically own their production. Twitter does, Vine does, Snapchat does, and the list goes on. Intangible things like slang and styles of dance are not considered valuable, except when they’re produced by large entities willing and able to invest in trademarking them.

So there you have next level cultural appropriation which allows businesses to replicate and disseminate ideas and movements created by Black social media stars as their own, reap the financial benefits, and never have to give anyone credit. Dana Nelson, founder of D.F. Nelson PLLC, a New York City firm specializing in copyright and music law, told The Fader the law hasn’t caught up with the digital age just yet, which is why so many of these Internet sensations are missing out on tangible dollars. “Copyright law and intellectual property in America does not follow the creative production of artists,” she said. “Rather, it protects the interests of companies. I think it is now harder to distinguish a non-commercial (fair) use from a commercial one.”

And that inability to tell the difference between the two is the reason Black Internet stars remain just that while the pockets of the corporations who replicate their ideas get notably richer.

  1. December 5, 2015 - Reply

    I can’t. I don’t understand how black folks keep expecting to get paid AFTER we give things away. Folks who set out to be instagram famous do the most for free then want a paycheck to materialize out of thin air. That’s not how anything works. This has to be the most backwards form of capitalism and entrepreneurship I’ve ever heard. Don’t get mad because folks are taking ideas that you shared with millions of people without properly asserting your ownership.

    • December 6, 2015 - Reply

      @Me

      “words of wisdom”, thanks.

  2. December 5, 2015 - Reply

    This story documents how we live in a system filled with oligarchy. Corporate power has definitely increased and they have exploited the creativity of black people for decades and centuries. Corporations are readily cut throat. This story signifies to me that we are going to have to use chess in a higher level. In other words, we have promote more power as in controlling our resources and our intellectual property more (since those who hate us readily want to steal our genius). On another note, fleek is a cool word to me.

  3. December 5, 2015 - Reply

    Corporations and white women who steal our words and phrases, put them on t-shirts, and sell them on Etsy or IG. Then want to get mad whenever anybody calls them out for cultural appropriation.

    • December 6, 2015 - Reply

      @theresa.

      Exactly! That’s why in meetings you have to learn to play their game. Never, ever let them take credit for all your hard work.

  4. December 5, 2015 - Reply

    We need to turn our innovations into money for us instead of corporations. Like Me said, we give our stuff away and expect to be credited. It’s not going to happen — it never has and it never will.

    • December 6, 2015 - Reply

      @Noirluv45

      This is true….this why all those black techies that are getting degrees in that field that are getting turned down from twitter and the like need to get to building our own social media platforms with all the parts that go along with it. Discussion platform, video, film, and music sharing platform, something like a twitter, a gawker media, a facebook, a blogging and news platform and whatever else, so that at least all the web traffic (and the money that comes along with that) for our media isn’t going to people who refuse to see us as valuable to hire but will profit from us without paying.

      • December 7, 2015 - Reply

        @Mico

        YES! The Internet is our ticket. We no longer need to beg anyone for anything. I’m sick and tired of us asking for crumbs when we deserve the whole cookie.

        • December 7, 2015 - Reply

          @Noirluv45

          Amen

  5. December 6, 2015 - Reply

    It is unfortunate that we just hand our creativity over. It is also sad that when we don’t give it away, they find a way to hijack it anyway like rock and roll, jazz, cooking, our hairstyles (braids, straightening, hair extensions, afros, now white women claim natural hair). I saw a group of about 30 – 40 white people in their 70’s and 80’s on the Natgeo channel (yes, I am part nerd) doing a hiphop routine on stage. Social media just makes it even easier for white people to loot our culture, style, and/or tastes. I am sure the young lady had no idea her made up term would blow up like it did. But if Donald Trump can try to trademark “You’re Fired”, why should everybody but her get to profit from a term she actually made up.

  6. December 6, 2015 - Reply

    Stop giving out your talent for free. Plain and simple. These corporations know we have talent and capitalize on it when we give it out to the masses.

    • December 6, 2015 - Reply

      @Darkness901

      Right. They’ve been doing that for decades.

  7. December 6, 2015 - Reply

    Tell her not to hold her breath about getting paid.

    • December 6, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      You’re right Sister.

  8. December 6, 2015 - Reply

    I see Phaedra Parks from Housewives of Atlanta has tee shirts with her phrase “Fix It Jesus” I’m sure she did all the legal stuff to protect her product.

    • December 6, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      we will see if Jesus fix her poor judgement and poor decision makings. “I’m sure she did all the legal stuff to protect her product.” that powerful emotion call “love” have blinded and hamstrung some of the best legal minds. And don’t forget that!

      • December 6, 2015 - Reply

        @trueletterson*vwfone@gmail.com

        LoL, interesting and thought provoking comment post

    • December 6, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      Hey Mary, I’ve heard people use that phrase a long time ago. I wonder how she can coin it as her own? Hmmm. ?

      • December 6, 2015 - Reply

        @Noirluv45

        Exactly

  9. December 6, 2015 - Reply

    So what could she have done? If Twiiter, Vine, and FB own it because she is using their platform then there is no way for her to take ownership of it.

    • December 6, 2015 - Reply

      @_a_

      The best thing she could have done was patent the phrase and sold it to the highest bidder.

    • December 7, 2015 - Reply

      @_a_

      could she have been told by family/friends to try to trademark the term?? that way she could have some protection (i’m thinking).

  10. December 6, 2015 - Reply

    I agree with everybody’s point stated. It is time to stop playing checkers and start to play chess. Furthermore, stop thinking about the short term goal of going viral, getting likes, or getting media coverage but convey that into a platform for a business or making money for yourself. Stop giving your creativity and originality away. Policing the content of the internet is still a gray area in courts, especially when you get into third party affiliation/copyright making it is an uphill battle. I am sorry for the young lady and I do think it is rotten practice that these businesses do but it isn’t illegal. It is the same thing when people wanted to make Patti Labelle (Wal-mart) the villain because she didn’t cut a check for James Wright when in fact they don’t need too it was free advertisement that happened to go viral. I wish she would have patent the word the moment she saw it was catching on and going viral. I feel sorry for her but let this be a lesson of always investing in yourself and using social media as a platform and an avenue for other things not just temporary fame.

    • December 7, 2015 - Reply

      @binks

      YES! Binks, my sister always says, “There is money in being Black, but we aren’t the ones banking it.”

      • December 7, 2015 - Reply

        @Noirluv45

        So very true Noirluv45! And the sad thing is instead of hiring us, paying us and exploring our talents where both parties can benefit they rather steal. Your sister is right but it all goes back to banking on ourselves and investing in ourselves let’s stop making these other people rich.

      • December 7, 2015 - Reply

        @Noirluv45

        OMG yes, they make a killing off of how we do & say things!

        • December 7, 2015 - Reply

          @BlackGlamour

          Yes they do, and I’m sick of it, BG!

          • December 8, 2015 - Reply

            @Noirluv45

            yeah, you and me both!

            • December 8, 2015 - Reply

              @BlackGlamour

              ??

  11. December 7, 2015 - Reply

    isn’t that always the case? , just like whoever came up with the word “swagger,” now you have white women signing about having it in a summer’s eve commercial, i’m like WOW & WTH would “they” possibly know about having swagger in suburbia?? Whites are just culture vultures, plain & simple, have none, so they have to take from races that do (blacks, etc.), and of course, being that they always have a platform, will elevate said terms/phrases, dances, styles, etc., and get the $$$ off of it.

  12. December 8, 2015 - Reply

    There’s something called trademark. It does matter if you’re the originator or not. If you don’t trademark it then you’ll get a big fat KanYeShrug.

    This reminds of the legal feud between the “Detroit vs Everybody” and “Toronto vs Everybody” shirt companies. It didn’t matter who started it first, it’s who filed for the trademark first and where (country). Trademark is mostly country specific.

    Nowadays it’s not that complicated to make some profit off trends you originated. With some basic marketing knowledge they could’ve capitalized off their phrases by making t-shirts and mugs, etc.

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