Yesterday I found out that Brittany Ashley and Jenny Lorenzo were fired from BuzzFeed for breaking their contracts. The broke a non-compete clause by starring in America Ferrera’s web-series ‘Gente-Fied’.
In response to this Ze Frank, President of BuzzFeed, released a memo detailing key aspects of the contracts creators sign when joining BuzzFeed. Below is the main portion people are up in arms about.
Ownership of Content. The work created by you and the collaborative teams you’re a part of while at the company is owned by BuzzFeed. As is standard across tech and media companies, BuzzFeed owns the work that you, our employees, create. It enables us to create a culture where ideas are easily shared and adapted, and where we can use our successes to grow our business and fund new areas of experimentation.
Exclusivity. You cannot work for anyone else while you work for us unless you ask permission for an exception. An approval process allows BuzzFeed to assess whether the proposed outside work will interfere or compete with your work at BuzzFeed. In addition, you cannot work on personal projects outside of BuzzFeed that impact your ability to work for us.
Essentially, by signing this contract you agree to allow BuzzFeed to have ownership of not only your work, but you as a creator. The company has complete ownership of you.
Now, I’ve been creating content on the internet since 2007, when I was 9 years old. Not the best decision on my part, and I hope to god that nobody digs up my old YouTube accounts or Freewebs websites. It did end up working in my favor however because I’ve been a part of many communities and know the digital creator world like the back of my hand. Hell, I learned how to market a YouTube video before I learned how to tie my shoe. What I don’t know, however, is how digital media companies work. And, in all honesty, I don’t want to find out.
Having been on YouTube for half of my life I’ve learned a thing or two about presenting the best version of yourself. Every digital creator does it, every person on the internet does it. Social media is filtered, and so are internet personalities. The same goes for digital media companies — despite their appearances of being all about community. It’s hard sometimes to remember that these companies are still companies. Because of the instant transfer of information and allowing their content into your home whenever you want, it makes you feel more comfortable and connected to the company. But, they’re still a company, and companies are intended to make profit.
So, yes, BuzzFeed fired two creators and probably many more for appearing in things they weren’t allowed to. And yes, after they were fired BuzzFeed owns all the content that they made there. That’s how BuzzFeed makes a profit and covers its bases. When it comes to art, there’s often a debate between gaining exposure and retaining artistic control/freedom. Signing on to companies like BuzzFeed that essentially own you can seem like a good idea because you gain exposure and can move on after you leave the company. But, it’s important to remember that the biggest strength and advantage you can have is owning your own content. Having complete control of your art is more valuable than exposure.
As enticing as it may be to give up a little bit of freedom it’s important to keep your artistic vision your’s. Handing it off to someone else to gain exposure only give their version of your vision exposure. I’m not saying it’s better to die with your art intact than to dilute your art to live, but when there is a legitimate choice between compromising your art and keeping your freedom, have the conversation. Think about it. Debate it. There’s no turning back from that decision.