During the NFL’s Super Bowl Halftime Show with Maroon 5, the show’s production team incorporated fan wish fulfillment with their scheduled performance from Travis Scott to give the Houston rapper a surprising intro borrowed from Spongebob Squarepants. Now, however, there may be some doubts whether a third ingredient made its way into the mix: Good, old-fashioned meme jacking, a favorite of many corporate entities since Twitter became a place where content was created for free and distributed without attribution.
Twitter user Anthony Trucco, who is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and makes other Spongebob hip-hop mashups on his Youtube, tweeted that he felt he got no credit for an old tweet that mashed up Spongebob and Travis Scott in September, shortly after the release of Travis’ hit album Astroworld. At the time, before there had been any mention that Travis or Spongebob would appear in the Super Bowl’s halftime show, Trucco created a mashup video that combined the audio of Travis’ single “Sicko Mode” with the animation from the Spongebob episode “Band Geeks.” In the episode, the cast performs the song “Sweet Victory” during the “Bubble Bowl,” the show’s Super Bowl analog. Trucco’s mashup synchronized the horn from “Sicko Mode” over the clip of the band in the show playing the horns to begin their show.
After the Super Bowl’s real-life performance, which utilized a similar idea to introduce Travis Scott’s portion of the show (where he actually performed “Sicko Mode”), some Twitter users, like @DragonflyJonez, pointed out the similarities and wondered: “Did the person who made that Spongebob/Sicko Mode mashup get paid? I’m sure they had to pay Spongebob creators/Nickelodeon whoever. I’d be sick if something I created made it to the Super Bowl and I didn’t see a dime from it.”
Trucco retweeted the question along with the assertion that he had received “No credit. No payment. No nothing.” He pleaded with his followers to “Everyone please RT until @NFL @NFLonCBS @CBS @nflnetwork addresses me.” He later remarked, “I’d settle for a verification mark @Twitter.”
While he may have a point about the inspiration — his original September tweet was even acknowledged by the official Spongebob Twitter account, suggesting that the show’s rights holders at least knew about his idea — he’s only the latest person to find his content used for corporate purposes after posting it online. In this case, since the video he posted was made with other content he didn’t own, the question of how much credit he deserves is murky. As content is constantly being posted and reused on social media, questions about ownership and attribution will likely continue to arise and become more tangled as time goes by. For instance, the #FuckFuckJerry campaign has cropped up in response to Jerry Media’s use of other people’s tweets to monetize the company’s own social media. In this case, Mr. Trucco may have been the inspiration behind the execution, but without any legal way to prove it or legal right to use the clips he used, for now, his questions will have to remain just questions.