Spam is still alive in so many wonderful ways. Now that Lina and I are starting to publish different things on different platforms (check out Gone Native, the new documentary series about expat life… /shameless plug), the wondrous variety of “marketing insights” that come flooding into the inbox is staggering. WordPress does it, Youtube does it. They reeeeeally want to encourage you to do your best. While on their channel. For them.

Here’s the thing about all these platforms: they done figured it out. If they get people to post for free by providing a space, they can squeeze the popular ones for those sweet advertising dollars while giving the creator a little taste of that honey. If we see Youtube millionaires from having their own channels, Youtube itself is scopping up at least ten times as much as they’re letting trickle through, even if that trickle is dollars in the millions.

I love the smiling corporate stock photo guy, you come to know each one well when you browse enough corporate sites and read enough corporate content.

They all do it now. It’s how these companies can get so absolutely massive online, other than selling your data. It’s those deep pocket advertising dollars that run everything now, and we need to be aware of that. Voluntary subscription-based giving to support creators and organizations is the runny dribble of spare change that it’s always been, and that’s not going to change.

So any time some platform you use is spamming you with brilliant marketing insights and top ten ways to do whatever, be aware that you are working for them. All these people have done is get all the poor desperate suckers of the world (e.g. myself) to throw ourselves out there for free for them, and they just have to throw us a bit of coin to keep us happy and slavering over popularity and attention.

Corporate Beardy Guy Stock Photo
One of my favorite stock photo models, the corporate beardy guy!

The worst part is that it’s the best option we have for publishing these days, at least for getting started. But we work for them, never forget that. Let’s move towards better models for online content, like subscription-only services for the best stuff, and hosting our own damn shit on our own damn sites to keep control over it for ourselves. Share it around, sure, but keep it centralized and under your own power. Trust me, it’ll be worth it in the long run.

And always read the licenses. Check it, in the Youtube terms of service, you are granting them a free commercial license to use your content however they choose as long as it’s up on the channel. You can choose a creative commons license as well, which I’ll talk about in a second, but here’s the line in the Youtube terms of service:

YouTube Content License
Always read the fine print…you’re giving them the right to use your shit for whatever they want, FOR FREE, as long as you keep it up.

Pay attention to words like “commercially reasonable period of time.” Notice how they don’t define that in the fine print. A quick Google search shows that a commercially reasonable period of time is a legal term meaning about a year, but with some flexibility in the concept for creators or licensees if they want to push for something different.

Does that sound like something you have a lot of control over? Especially if you’re not a big name?

YouTube doesn’t publicize it much for obvious reasons, but you can tag your videos with a creative commons license instead. Creative commons is basically like putting your work in the public domain but with specific restrictions like attribution only, no remixing allowed, noncommercial uses only, etc. Select that when uploading YouTube videos (at least on YT, not sure about TikTok or other video platforms) and tag your videos how you want so you’re not bound by the YouTube license. Your work still goes out for free, but they can’t control how you allow it to be used.

Creative Commons Header
Creative Commons, founded by Lawrence Lessig and other copyright wizards, making content ownership better for everyone.

I didn’t set out to make a public service announcement here, and I’m sure most people are aware of all this anyway if you’ve done your homework. But I think it bears repeating because we’re entering an uncertain future where how we produce, consume, and share content is changing daily. We have to be sure if we’re putting stuff out there that we are still in measurable control of how our work get used, however we might choose to license it in the beginning.

Here’s hoping we figure it all out in the end.