Here’s a reminder that Barstool Sports, a website run by and for people who think comedy peaked with Andrew Dice Clay’s “hickory dickory dock” joke, is and always has been terrible. A gross mockery of the very idea of comedy since launching as a free newspaper in Boston in 2003, Barstool Sports reposted a video made by the comedian Miel Bredouw on one of its Twitter accounts without credit or permission back in December. Bredouw issued a DMCA takedown, which Twitter complied with, and then she was besieged by desperate pleas from Barstool to retract the takedown. Presumably afraid of getting enough DMCA strikes to have their social accounts suspended or banned, Barstool offered Bredouw a variety of insulting incentives to drop her complaint, from “exposure,” to a $50 gift card to the Barstool store (which is the only good joke Barstool has ever made in its entire history), to an eventual total of $2000. Bredouw ignored every offer, and eventually Barstool filed a counter-strike with Twitter, which restored their tweet and removed the DMCA strike, because Bredouw wasn’t pursuing the issue in court. Yes, the way things work, apparently, is that a multi-million dollar media company can just steal something made by an individual with far less resources and then wait it out until that person elects not to sue them.
Here’s Bredouw’s first tweet about the whole situation. Go ahead and click through to Twitter and follow along with her entire thread—she posts the DMs and emails that back up every part of the story.
Bredouw is not the only comedian that Barstool has ripped off without credit—here’s Dan White on how they also reposted one of his videos without permission or attribution.
If you’re wondering why this is a story—why anybody should be shocked that a bottom-feeder content graveyard with intentionally, defiantly non-existent standards like Barstool would steal content in a media climate that regularly rewards and thus encourages content theft—well, first off, it just highlights Barstool’s hypocrisy. Before Megh Wright’s #FuckFuckJerry campaign put a dent in FuckJerry’s serial joke plagiarism, Barstool was regularly criticizing that social media company for its theft. Clearly Barstool didn’t give a shit that FuckJerry stole jokes without credit—it was probably just looking for a fight with another prominent web presence in hopes of getting some attention. That’s part of Barstool’s strategy, as Drew Magary points out at Deadspin today.
What makes Bredouw’s experiences with Barstool interesting isn’t necessarily the content theft. It’s how Barstool reacted, and what Twitter’s final decision says about the current copyright climate. As Nick Statt explains over at The Verge, Twitter’s copyright policy benefits a company like Barstool over a creator like Bredouw. By letting a counter-notice from the infringing party wrap up Twitter’s legal obligation, Twitter is basically allowing whoever can most afford lawyers or a lawsuit dictate its policies. Barstool even acknowledges that Bredouw created the video in question, but is able to get the tweet where they reposted it without credit restored because Twitter has washed their hands of the whole thing. It’s no secret that the law is skewed towards whoever has the most money, but here we have a major social media company saying it’s not their business if somebody uses their platform to openly and admittedly steal content, and then a notable and well-funded media company acknowledging that theft and insulting that content’s creator with bullshit offers. It reinforces every negative impression people already have about both Twitter and Barstool. One’s a distant monolith that refuses to get a handle on the harassment, hate and theft that runs rampant on its platform, and that has different rules for different users based on their prominence, and the other is a hack site known for sexism and bullying.
This has gotten a lot of media attention, including Magary’s savage takedown at Deadspin. Even if Barstool did the right thing, though, and never stole Bredouw’s video to begin with, it’s important to remember how utterly horrible this website is. Magary does a good job of laying out all the complaints against them, and calling out some of Barstool’s partners, aiders and abettors in the worlds of business and mainstream media. This is a site, remember, that patterns itself after the lowest common denominator humor of shock jocks, while also lathering itself with the kind of non-stop grievance mongering that talk radio and the far-right media has perfected; that regularly harasses its critics, both on its site and through social media, and in turn has legions of fans willing to join in on that harassment; and that hasn’t contributed anything positive, intelligent or informative to either sports or comedy. Barstool’s always been an embarrassment, and this whole situation is just more proof.