You know how you go to the cinema sometimes, take a photo of a funny poster you see, post it unthinkingly online, and it goes viral all over the Internet? Yeah, well that happened to me exactly a month ago.
I went with my brothers to see 127 Hours and in the main foyer of our local cinema/theatre, the Wyeside Arts Centre, was this poster -
For those of you who don’t know who Joe Power is, he’s a manipulative, exploitative Liverpudlian gobshite who preys the gullible and the naïve. In other words, he’s a “Psychic Medium”. Derren Brown did a documentary with him and pretty much dismissed his act as cold reading. My Mum had been to one of his previous shows and described him as “shit”. Any rational person would delight in seeing him taken down a peg or two, so seeing a poster where his supposed powers of clairvoyance had alluded him? Sheer joy. But enough about him…
I pulled out my iPhone and took a quick snap. The staff behind this ticket desk were laughing too so it was obviously a deliberate choice of words on their part. I went up into the theatre, posted the pic on my Twitter account before the film started, and thought no more of it. It was when I got home and looked at the picture again I thought to myself that it needed a bigger audience so I started posting it to some of Twitter’s bigger hitters. This was in no way a desperate, cynical, and selfish act in order get new followers. Oh no. I passed it on to a few of my favourites, the likes of Graham Linehan, Charlie Brooker, Derren Brown, Dara O’Briain, Ben Goldacre, Robin Ince, those with a skeptical nature who may enjoy a laugh at the expense of Mr Power, and things went crazy.
As far as I can tell it was Glinner who was first to have retweeted my picture, and such is his influence that it soon spread quickly over Twitter. My @reply feed was clogged with retweets, people passing on their lols, and questions to whether the poster was genuine. This lasted for almost a day, then almost as quickly as it started, the interest dried up. My fifteen minutes of Twitter fame were up and all I gained was three measly new followers! Pfft. What’s the point? And with that I slowly slinked back into obscurity.
It was later that day that I received a link on Facebook from a friend asking if this was my pic. Sure enough, a blogger he had been following had posted it. I was quite thrilled and honoured at first. This blog is run by a person who handles the websites/admin for two very big celeb types. But when I checked the page my heart sank a little. Yes, the pic was posted, but with no link back to me or my Twitter account. I thought it may have been overlooked so I found this person’s Twitter and said something along the lines of “Hi, I’m glad you liked my picture, but is there any chance you could credit me, Twitter-quette and all that”. The next morning I received a reply saying “Sorry, a lot of people sent me this picture. The first was so-and-so”. Oh. I re-read my tweet and thought I hadn’t been clear that it was MY photo. I replied again, pointing out how it was my pic, showing the tweets where it was first posted and everything. Nothing. Nada. I left it a few more days and tried again and still got no response. And even now a month on, the pic is still up, and there been no attempt to give me credit for the pic.
If I had written this blog a couple of weeks earlier, I’d still be red raw and would probably be naming and shaming this fellow. Now I feel there’s very little point. The most disappointing thing is this person SHOULD know better. They run some big sites and should be aware of the netiquette in such situations. Maybe if they happen across this blog it might show them the error of their ways…
Anyway, in-between that nonsense, I received another link on Facebook. It turns out my picture had ended up on Failblog. And then I got another link pointing it out on Funny Or Die. The thing was running out of control! I was experiencing at first hand what it is for something to go viral. Neither Failblog or Funny Or Die had linked back to my Twitter account. It was such a strange mix of emotions. I was proud that the pic had taken off, that it was making people laugh around the world, but I was distraught that I wouldn’t get credit for it. That’s all I wanted, just for people to know it was me who had put it out there. Is that really so much to ask?
Luckily, Failblog had recourse for such action. I clicked a little button and it gave me an email address on which to contact them. I wrote them a polite mail pointing out that it was my picture. I pointed to the original tweets in which it was posted, included my original photos (one of which I haven’t posted online) along with the original metadata saying when and where it was took, and sent it. After my last experience I wasn’t holding out much hope. I received an auto-response saying they would look at it and get back to me within two days…
Funny Or Die doesn’t have seem to have a way to contact them in these types of cases so I went to the blog they claimed was the source of the picture. It was a science blog run by PZ Meyers, a professor at the University of Minnesota. He did have a contact address but wrote that he would try to read every mail he received, he didn’t have the time to reply to them all. I wrote pretty much the same thing I did to Failblog, clicked ‘send’ and crossed my fingers…
Within eight hours of sending my mail to Failblog, I received a reply from Katrina, one of Failblog’s researchers, saying “Thanks for letting us know the photo was yours. I’ve added a source and linked it to your Twitter account”. I checked PZ Meyers blog and he had added a little via link to my Twitter just under the picture. It was as simple as that! This renewed my faith in the online community. It wasn’t every blog that used my pic, (I’ve found it on Boing Boing and The Huffington Post too) but it was enough to have my name linked to those two, just so somebody out there knew I was the one who had taken it. This is not the end of the story, though. Life had kind of got in the way in the days after that, so I could no longer spend the time trying to chase up every blog and get them to credit me for the photo. But it turns out what I did was just about enough…
It was a Monday and I was getting ready for work. I turned on my computer and had a quick check of Twitter. I had one new follower and an @reply waiting. It said “Please could you get in touch about your photo” and left an email address. An address with Avalon in it. I knew I recognised it but couldn’t quite place it. I wrote them a quick reply “Yep, it’s my pic. How can I help?”. They replied very quickly. It turns out they were a researcher working for Avalon, the TV production company. They wanted to licence my picture for That Sunday Show on ITV.
I was a bit weary at first. After all the time I spent chasing up sites to get credited for the photo, I didn’t want to give the rights up just like that. The researcher assured me I would still retain all rights to the picture, but apologised that they couldn’t give me credit because it had already been shown the previous night. It was an oversight on their part that they hadn’t got in contact sooner because the person who had sent it in had suddenly disappeared. It’s only when they did the research that they realised the photo belonged to me. I could accept that and they forwarded some documents for me to sign. The price they pay for licensing my pic? £150.
That’s my story, really. The advice for anyone out there who should stumble upon a funny poster, vid, situation, would be BLOG IT FIRST. It would have saved me so much hassle. If you feel you deserve credit for something, don’t be afraid to chase it up. Most big blogs/sites have methods in place to deal with these things, it’s the smaller, individual blogs you’ll probably find more difficult. Always keep the original photo/vid just in case, and make sure you know where and when it first went online. And definitely don’t expect to profit from it. I got extremely lucky.
So, £150 for seeing a funny poster and posting it online. A funny poster that was meant to please the two thousand or so people who populate the tiny Mid-Wales town of Builth Wells. A poster that has now been seen by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people all over the world. It blows your mind, doesn’t it?
I don’t expect anything more interesting to happen with this from now on, so with your help, I’d like to list/document the sites and places where my pic shows up. Here’s where I’ve found so far -
PZ Meyers Science Blog