On Thursday, my friends at Airbag launched Twitshirt, a simple but awesome service that lets you print the text of a Twitter posting on a tee-shirt. On Friday, the app was gone, replaced by a message stating, “we’re reversing the polarity.”
Why? Because some people — and notably some people who turn out to be very influential in the Twitter community — had a problem with Twitshirt. Apparently, they felt like it was “stealing their intellectual property.”
That seems fair enough at first glance. But, it turns out Airbag anticipated this could be an issue, and had several measures in place to deal with it. First, they provided an opt-out. If you didn’t want your tweets to be available as tee-shirts, they made it painless for you to say so. Second, they attributed the original author of the tweet in the tee-shirt design. There was no confusion here — it was very clear who wrote the message. And finally — here’s the kicker — they actually paid the original author of the tweet royalties!
But still, some people had a problem with it. And again, that’s fair enough. But here’s the thing I don’t understand: some of these same loud, influential people who objected to Twitshirt are huge fans and users of Favrd, a site which showcases great tweets (based on people’s use of the “favorite” feature), and is supported by advertisements. Favrd doesn’t allow you to opt-out if you don’t want your tweets shown (at least not that I can see), and it doesn’t pay you anything for having a tweet featured. It does, however, attribute the original author (as well it should).
Personally, I love both of these projects. I think they’re great, and I think they showcase what kind of awesome things can be done with great content and open APIs to it. But I’m really, really baffled about about someone could be okay with Favrd making money off their tweets, but not okay with Twitshirt doing the same, especially in light of the fact that Twitshirt provides opt-out and pays royalties. Maybe someone can, in the comments, explain to me what I’m missing. Why did Twitshirt cause a shitstorm, but everyone loves Favrd? Maybe there’s a good reason — but I can’t find it.