Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this with me.
I agree that -- unless there are drastic changes in the way that the internet is monitored and cyberpoliced -- memes can’t be controlled. They are often based on subverted cultural norms, the flagrant misuse of copyright, and are anti-exploitative and anti-market. All of these things make them resistant to corporate control. I’ve spent a lot of time speaking at conferences and writing long blog posts on why this is.
Similarly I don’t think that memes can be copyrighted or “sold”. It just doesn’t make sense. Sure, companies like ICHC can claim ‘Fair Use’ and sell display ads around community content but at no point can ICHC actually claim to own it.
To me, the fear has always been that what happened to punk, indie, hip-hop, and other genres of music will also happen to memes. But there is a difference between memes and music: music grew up in a space where big industry controlled the means of funding and meaningful distribution. Memes, on the other hand, rely on decentralized creation and distribution. While there will always be capitalists who will find a way to repackage meme content for profit, the meaning of memes comes from their group participation (not consumption) something that no one entity can ever control without faking it (spamming /b/), and honestly all that ever results in is weak memes (ex: Weezer Ratitude Dog).
As far as Know Your Meme is concerned, there is a perception that it has a relationship with Sony (it doesn’t) and that KYM is trying to sell or copyright memes (lolwut?)
Rocketboom (the company) once had a distribution deal with Sony. It doesn’t anymore. It started in August of 2008 and ended in July of 2009 and was about ‘Rocketboom Daily with Joanne Colan’. It was never about KYM. Sony didn’t know what memes were and didn’t care. All they wanted was the show with the girl and the map.
Meanwhile, we created KYM because we were seeing more and more ‘meme’ material show up in mainstream media but it was being used out of context and without giving proper credit to the communities that made them. So we made a show and we made the MemeDB and we asked for peoples’ help in building it all.
And now here we are, providing useful info to civilians, explaining to the press and public why they shouldn’t use memes as a reason to restrict access to the internet, building an API for making the database more useful, and working with academics to make sense of it all. And we want to keep it going so we fund the community and the resource through on-site display ads and creating a web show.
We’ve considered alternate ways of funding the company but we’ve been down most of those roads before. We’re artists and activists and academics. We’ve worked for non-profits and have seen how hard they are to sustain. We’ve worked for schools and known the horror of having funding pulled. So while we’re open to discussing other ways of keeping it going, the end goal is about creating a lasting and relevant community resource. So far this model is working.
Meme culture is fast becoming pop culture. You can see it in the traffic of sites that are way more popular than KYM like BuzzFeed and Cheezburger and Tumblr and even Reddit and Fark. Comedy Central as Tosh.0 and G4TV has Web Soup. Like you said, anon’s creativity will feed all of these places. What it all means in the long term will have little to do with what KYM does and everything to do with the community’s ability to stay together and keep their own creative spaces from being co-opted.