It’s exciting to get home from my very busy maternity leave day (a manicure and swimming, life is hard!) and see this story getting coverage on the web. Thanks Daily What, Splitsider, Comic’s Comic, Mediaite, ONTD, the NY Times and everyone else tweeting and blogging about it, and for posting the original video. My 2 cents are essentially irrelevant at this point, but being a self-absorbed, self-important blogger I still feel it necessary to weigh in.
A couple of Thursdays ago, I was sitting in the office I share with my dear VH1 co-workers Rich Juzwiak and Mark Graham (two lions of the blogosphere, might I add) chatting with Rich about Taylor Swift’s feigned “shock” every time she wins an award or is applauded by an audience. It was cute and sweet the first few times, but Taylor’s no longer the underdog of the country-pop music crossover genre, and her album Speak Now selling a million copies in one week should be enough to make her realize it by now. We were marveling over her recent “WHAT?” outburst at the Country Music Awards, when I said something like, “All those clips of her being shocked at awards shows would make an amazing supercut video.”
Rich and I chatted about the idea for a couple more minutes, and a quick scan of YouTube proved us right. And that is where my involvement in the creation of this video essentially ends. Rich - who is nothing short of a digital genius and a master at analyzing pop culture in the most hilarious of ways - went home and worked all weekend on the supercut, which was posted on his blog and on the blog I edit and manage for VH1, theFABlife.com (see original post/video: Taylor Swift Is Always Surprised). He worked off the clock on this masterpiece, because he’s that dedicated to creating smart, funny, viral content for the web. I am very flattered that he’s graciously given me credit for the video, but it’s his handiwork that Jay Leno has so effortlessly stolen.
Here’s the thing about the videos Rich creates: they aren’t just a bunch of clips cut, edited and throw up together in random order (though that alone requires a great deal of work). He presents a hypothesis that is examined and explored through out the piece using the clips, which are ordered very specifically and deliberately to explore and support his original claim.
I am a firm believer that ideas are fluid - it’s not like a gajillion other people haven’t noticed how TayTay gasps every time she’s handed an award. Sure, Leno’s camp could have just grab some clips of her being “surprised” and it would all be innocent enough. But after our video went viral last week with over 200,000 streams, a Tonight Show producer contacted Rich about airing it on last night’s show. They emailed back and forth and discussed giving us credit in some way for the piece. Yet last night, while interviewing Taylor, Jay announced, “We put together a little montage of you being surprised,” and then aired four clips that appeared in our supercut in the exact order as they are in the video. Leno’s clips are all in HD, as the original piece was cut for web, but it’s very clearly a rip-off of what Rich created.
Leno is loathed by many (beyond the whole Coco ordeal, Howard “My Idol” Stern is an adamant hater and insists Jay has ripped him off), and so to me the entire thing is pretty comical. He already has a reputation as a lame hack, so of course he’d take something someone else created and spin it as his own.
But the larger problem is this general idea - especially, dare I say, amongst the olds - that if something is posted on the internet it’s fair game to rip it off and use it as your own without crediting the original source/creator. (See: the Cooks Source drama that went down earlier this month.) Creative content is creative content, and the creators deserve credit for their work. I love generating and sharing content on the web - it’s what I do for a living and am nerdily passionate about it - but there has to be some respect, especially from traditional media, for the work being presented online. I’m not asking for a million dollars (Craig Rowin is, though) or even $5 bucks, but just show some respect for the people who actually do the work. Not crediting people is not just unethical, it’s straight up lazy.