Do you care who entertains you?
When you hop on Facebook on your phone and mindlessly share another post from JesusDaily.com of some "American Idol" audition from five years ago, did you stop to think?
Did you realize that someone is making money off of you and your unsuspecting friends? The site surrounds a two-minute YouTube video with eight -- EIGHT! -- display ads, making money on you under the guise of supporting Christ.
Were you aware you're hurting other people? The video you watched on the page was pirated footage from the FOX show, so you're stealing money from Simon Cowell and others (not that he needs it, but that's not the point).
There are thousands of websites like JesusDaily.com. They would call themselves aggregators. They'd say they surface -- a concocted buzzword designed to give a higher purpose to "being good at searching for things on the Internet" -- content to share. They're just providing what you're looking for, right? Perhaps, but they're not producing original content and they're making a ton of money, often, by outright stealing things created by others, sharing it through their own channels and raking in the cash and notoriety.
Meanwhile, the often less-popular folks who actually created the stuff you're reading, hearing and watching? They don't get paid. They don't get credit. They just get robbed -- and frustrated that no one seems to care about their originality.
Golf has its fair share of JesusDaily.coms, and their domain is primarily through social media. Three accounts, in particular, draw the most criticism for the suspect way they present content: @totalgolfmove, @College_Golfers and @gcw, which stands for Golf Club Wankers. Combined, they have amassed over 250,000 Twitter followers, and their tentacles spread to Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat.
The concept behind all three is pretty much the same: share funny posts about the nature of golf while using text, picture and videos to storytell in very small doses. It works remarkably well. People just eat this stuff up, in part, because golf is a sport that commands some humility about your own game and invites unending opportunities to poke fun at your golf buddies' shortcomings.
So far, nothing offensive, right? Just a few laughs.
However, if you're someone in the creative business to make a living -- or at least a few bucks -- these accounts, particularly Total Golf Move and College Golfers, drastically less so Golf Club Wankers, are offensive.
Total Golf Move and College Golfers, in particular, routinely present specious content, which seems to be wholly of their fabrication when, in reality, they often pass off others' work as their own, inconspicuously, if not unintentionally, crediting the maker, or just outright stealing it. When accused, as they frequently have been, of ripping off the work of others, they simply delete the offending post without acknowledgment and get right back to what they were doing, hoping to not get caught again.
More often than not, it's the video -- either shared as a GIF or a Vine, which is the place you go to share short, viral-quality pirated video with impunity -- that is the problem. And each has a different way of trying to evade credit.
Total Golf Move shares tweets with a direct link to a Vine, which renders on Twitter's website and in its app. However, the untrained eye doesn't know to look underneath a Vine to see the account that created it. So, the consumer likely figures that Total Golf Move found and created the whole thing. Credit is given, if only by force. Call it the Rovellian Conundrum.
ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell routinely refuses to simply use Twitter's retweet function to give credit to folks with original content. It infuriates people inside the media business. Instead, he repackages the information and shares it under his own account with an attribution at the very end. Rovell has repeatedly claimed that his method actually garners more exposure for the information than a more courteous retweet. Even if that is accurate, and he hasn't done the A/B testing to know for certain, the practice is still shady and does more to bolster Rovell's account and following than the account of the person or organization who originally presented the information.
The College Golfers account, however, has no shame about simply ripping the video from its original source -- be it TV, YouTube, another website or anywhere else -- and then uploading it to its own Vine account. Why let someone else get credit for creating something when you can have it all on your channels from end to end?
And then there's the stealing of written content by Total Golf Move and College Golfers. It's typically unabashed plagiarism, but sometimes the words are slightly twisted so it's more difficult to trace the original sourcing.
For example, on Oct. 1, Total Golf Move tweeted, "Golf is the only sport where you can practice everyday for like five years and not get any better." Clever, right? Soooo true. That's truth spit from the mouth of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David, who told Golf Digest in an interview, published online on Sept. 14, "Golf is the only sport where you can practice every day for six months and not get any better." If you hadn't read the hilarious David interview -- or even if you had -- you wouldn't know that was a downright lift job.
Both accounts frequently use jokes that are broadly popular and just change a word or two to fit golf.
An example: "I whisper "what the fuck" to myself at least 20 times a round." Replace "round" with "day" and that is all over Twitter.
How about this one? "I can't tell you which is worse my grades, my love life, or my golf game". Sub in "bank account" for "golf game" and there are thousands of tweets with that exact language from college students.
"Golf channel and chill"? It's Netflix and chill, but you knew that. And someone else came up with it this Spring. Total Golf Move tweeted these jokes almost verbatim without credit:
Let's stop the Blame Train for a second. Some of these jokes were tweeted over a year before Total Golf Move shared it. The question is if, We the Thought Police, are to expect an average person to search the Internet before sharing all of their thoughts. If we're asking someone to have a memory of a joke they never saw, that's going too far. If the people tweeting out these jokes are seeing them elsewhere, then chalk it up as another count of thievery.
Nonetheless, the lack of originality abounds. These folks, especially Total Golf Move and College Golfers, also tend to repeat themselves a lot. Total Golf Move is perhaps most egregious in what you could call self-plagiarism, as the account rehashes its jokes time and again. Sometimes a word or two will change, perhaps the har-har Vine that accompanies it. Usually not, though. Cut, paste, send and wait for the retweets to flood in the timeline.
On March 3, Total Golf Move tweeted: "Yeah an education is nice, but a PGA Tour card would be nicer". It did well, ultimately getting 530 retweets and 800 favorites. That was good enough to keep it in the rotation, so to speak, getting used again on May 31 (475 retweets, 810 favorites) and Oct. 20 (729, 1,200).
This one has been sent three times: "I read greens about as well as I speak Chinese.. I don't speak Chinese".
The all-time recycled champion is "Bae = birdies and eagles." Runner-up? A derivative of a tweet that starts with, "If I text you during a round..."
They're also not shy about ripping off of each other frequently. Common, regularly occurring tweets between the accounts include:
- "If Monday was a golf swing", complete with a Vine of a hideous golf swing, which varies but typically involves Charles Barkley in some way, OR, "If Monday was a golf ball", which originally was a Nitro, then a Top-Flite
- The use of a Vine featuring a Bible-thumping preacher asking "Why?" from a zillion different camera angles
- Stolen footage of Jordan Spieth saying of the (that day) par-4 18th at Chambers Bay during the 2015 U.S. Open was "the dumbest hole I've played in my life"
- A bit comparing a trick shot or some "The Price is Right" contestant winning the Hole-in-One (OR TWWOOO!!!) game to their inability to demonstrate a simple golf skill
- Telling followers "don't say anything, just RT" something, particularly when it comes to exploiting 4-year-old, one-armed golfer Tommy Morrissey by stealing content produced about him
On top of that, there are copycats of these guys! Accounts like @pgatour_driven and @thegolfbros_ rip off what Total Golf Move and College Golfers share.
Alright, so what?, you're wondering. Who cares? These guys are just having some fun. They're not hurting anyone. Well, they are. They're not offering credit to folks who created the things they're sharing. In lieu of getting paid in dollars for their work, content creators want followers. A bigger audience gives them a bigger megaphone, which gives them a better opportunity to showcase their creative mind.
Further, Total Golf Move has a merchandise store to sell T-shirts and other wears. A few Total Golf Move shirts reference not laying up, which, curiously, is the lead slogan of the popular Twitter account @NoLayingUp, often ripped off by these accounts. Golf Club Wankers has a website that it sends folks to for its original content, with the numbers that see that content somewhat predicated on the large number of folks who followed them for their Twitter presence.
And these accounts do create original content, plenty of it, in fact. It may or may not be a sip from your first-tee Bloody Mary, but it's original. And there's nothing wrong with using visual aids to communicate a point, so long as it's credited properly. However, the out-and-out lifting of someone else's work -- particularly written -- and passing it off as your own is unacceptable. It'd get you kicked out of college, so why has, to this point, there been little consequence for these accounts on Twitter and through other social channels?
It goes back to the need to know who entertains you, particularly online. There are plenty of folks online who are trying to make money off of presenting you other peoples' work. There are several websites operating right now which will wholly copy this piece and paste it on their website, without attribution, and run a ton of ads around them. I've seen them. I have them taken down, thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
However, social channels have patently refused to defend the work and honor of content creators -- that is, unless they're a large, powerful paying customer like the NFL or another sports league. They won't police plagiarism because not only does it not hurt their bottom line, it actually accentuates it because these accounts bring folks onto their service, allowing them to serve you ads. You're getting got again.
So, the plea is simple: Take as much pride in what you consume as we do in what we create. Don't patronize folks who are trying to take advantage of you. Have a skeptic's mind.
Everyone wants to laugh and smile. Just make sure you're directing it at the right place.