Recently I may have inadvertently offended another blogger in a casual comment. I have a special knack for doing that, especially these days when I’m peeking in on the fly and want to pay my respects by leaving a thought, without thinking through how that thought might be construed by someone who doesn’t know that I mean well.
All of this is to say to that person and anyone else to whom it applies, I apologize.
Yesterday I saw the story of Meatball on the news. Meatball’s story is just one example of what I was trying to convey in my comment on the topic of making money through blogging.
In the comment thread, I eventually I went, as I often do, to song lyrics, this time from perennial favorite, David Wilcox (the American one). I quoted the following lines from “Sacred Ground,” which compares music to sex. I was extending that to writing, particularly this new trend of blog magazines, group blogs, many of which have the intent of becoming profit-making:
First, you do it for love/Then you do it with friends/But when you do it for money/Right there’s where the innocence ends.
I want to emphasize that I wish everyone and anyone all the success they desire and deserve.
My point is that the game changes — and it’s no longer a game, or it can be an expensive one — when you turn just about any hobby or recreational activity into a profit-making venture.
Admittedly, I’m painting this with extremely broad strokes, but personal bloggers tend to get away with what could be construed (wow, that must be my word-of-the-day) as intellectual property violations that commercial enterprises would not.
Meatball’s story illustrates that point. Here’s how I understand it, based on the story on the CBS Morning News, which you can watch by clicking here.
A 400-pound bear was seen meandering around Los Angeles and in at least one video he was seen eating meatballs, which earned him the nickname, “Meatball.”
A creative Meatball fan named Sarah Aujero set up a Twitter account in Meatball’s name and “gave him a personality.” Meatball’s personality, courtesy of Sarah’s creativity, earned him a reprieve from being euthanized by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Meatball Awareness (no tm, yet) earned Meatball a home at a San Diego wildlife sanctuary, Lions and Tigers and Bears.
Then things took a turn. (If I had time, I’d insert a “ka-ching” sound, but I’d need to research the copyright issues involved.)
According to the CBS news feed . . .
“Aujero came to visit as much as she could and donated more than $2,000 to build Meatball a new enclosure through the sale of special t-shirts and tote bags. She eventually decided to copyright Meatball’s name, in hopes of a children’s book in the future, but that’s when it got ugly.
The animal sanctuary already had a book in the works and wanted Aujero to sign over the legal rights to the Meatball name. ‘We didn’t want to get in a position where we’ve sold merchandize(sic) and then we owe somebody proceeds from it,’ said Brink.
Aujero told “CBS This Morning”: ‘It was never my attention to profit from Meatball. All I wanted to do was help save his life and share his story.’”
I’m not trying to squash anyone’s dreams, nor am I offering legal advice. I’m not saying Aujero wouldn’t have been sitting across from Charlie, Nora, and Gayle humbly sharing her story of “just a simple Twitter feed that became a bestselling children’s book” while on tour promoting her children’s book. I’m not saying that the two sides won’t work it out to be mutually profitable between them, and the bear? Well, he doesn’t get euthanized. So there’s that.
I’m just pointing out that a group of folks entertaining each other on social media is one thing. Potential intellectual property violations seem to be overlooked all the time. But when money comes into the picture, things can take a turn pretty quickly.
Hopefully, creativity and fun and a passion for what you’re doing will sustain you. I just think it helps to go into it knowing that the issues can become complicated and expensive.
So, to you whom I offended, I apologize. I truly meant well, and I wish you the best. I promise to be the first one to buy your t-shirt or children’s book or whatever comes from your dream coming true.