This is Distractify. You’ve probably seen its viral posts in your Facebook feed, like this:
Makes you think, doesn’t it? Distractify is one of many companies that competes for your online attention with posts like this one:
The posts often take the form of curated listicles, which combine written text with a series of photos or video, usually taken from social media.
But why are these posts popping up in your feed? It’s (usually) not because your friends shared them. It’s because Distractify pays Facebook for your attention.
Distractify bids against other viral content providers for placement. It’s not just Facebook. Other social platforms and even social media “influencers” engage in the same sort of pay-for-views arrangement. It works out well for everybody.
But Distractify has a problem.
Say hello to 22 Words.
22 Words is also in the viral content game.
On Tuesday, Distractify filed a federal lawsuit against Brainjolt, the parent company of 22 Words.
The suit accuses 22 Words of ripping off dozens of its posts. Posts like this one:
About three months ago, Distractify published a story about Wyatt Hall and Kirsten Titus, two Brigham Young University students who were crazy about each other — until she dumped him using a Spotify playlist.
But what’s even more heartbreaking — for Distractify — is what happened next.
22 Words did the exact same story. Same BYU students. Same playlist. Same perfect response.
This wasn’t just heartbreaking. According to Distractify, it was actionable:
You see, this wasn’t the first time this had happened. Check out this post from last summer.
Doomed. Whatever the opposite of “relationship goals” is, this is it.
But according Distractify’s lawsuit, 22 Words saw that post and thought: traffic goals.
WTH, 22 Words? Why don’t you come up with your own viral content? <— Is pretty much what Distractify’s lawyers are saying here.
What’s worse, according to Distractify, is that 22 Words is outbidding Distractify in the Facebook traffic auctions — winning the right to show its infringing content to Facebook users.
If this keeps up, Distractify could find itself unable to compete for Facebook viewers’ eyeballs. And that’s why Distractify is taking this to court.
But wait. Remember that post about the BYU students who broke up via Spotify?
Turns out, both Distractify and 22 Words linked to this.
Buzzfeed? Yes, Buzzfeed posted the viral Spotify breakup story the day before Distractify.
So who “owns” this content anyway?
Is it Distractify? 22 Words? Buzzfeed? Any of the many other sites that posted about it?
Or is it the girl’s sister who authored this content in the first place by posting the story on Twitter?
And remember those wedding stories? Most of them were taken from a Reddit thread.
So when is Distractify’s presentation of this content unique enough that it becomes protected under copyright? And can others present the same or similar content without violating Distractify’s copyright?
This is what we have highly paid lawyers and judges to figure out.
Asked to respond to the lawsuit, Brainjolt also had the perfect response: