On July 21, Tumblr decided, in their infinite wisdom, to launch “Tumblr Post+,” a subscription service that enables creators of all stripes to charge for access to their brilliance. I’m being sarcastic, because, despite my love and constant use of Tumblr, I recognize that much of the discourse is not the best and the brightest. No social media-based discourse is. As Tumblr is a mostly fandom-centered site, whether its management likes it or not, most of the artistic creators — be they writers, artists, or gif makers — rely on copyrighted materials to make their art, which means technically they should be excluded from this new service. Right? Right. Except, Tumblr doesn’t seem to think so.
Most gif makers pirate the movies and TV shows they make their art for in order to make their art, but shhh, don’t tell. For fanfic writers, they’re on a similar path: Archive of Our Own explicitly says under “Spam and Commercial Promotion” in their terms of service that you can’t charge for your work on their platform or even ask for donations because that would get them in big trouble with the major studios who produce the original work you transform through the written word. Fan art’s always been a fuzzy category: when big, in-person cons were a thing, many fan artists sold their work in the same space as the original creators of said works. DeviantArt allowed fans to purchase work and tip creators, too. (Remember when DeviantArt was relevant?)
Tumblr says the following about who’s included in their service: “Creators are the backbone of Tumblr—whether they’re GIF artists, illustrators, comedians, cosplayers, or just really good shitposters. Since our founding, we have always believed in empowering the world’s creators to show off their best work. Post+ now gives these same creators the ability to earn money from their work.” ‘Really good shitposters’ might be the most hilarious inclusion here, because, with copyright law, they might be the only ones good to charge for their ah, art?
Tumblr users were predictably outraged by the news because Tumblr has been an entirely free site for such a long time, and also because every idea of Tumblr’s is bad and doesn’t turn out well. I still can’t go through my likes in chronological order after their dash update, despite them saying that feature would be returning soon…about a year or so ago. It may have been longer: the passage of time has been obliterated in my mind.
This won’t kill Tumblr, likely because it won’t get past the beta stage. It can’t kill Tumblr, because Tumblr is the cockroach of the Internet: just when you think it’s dead, it surges back and surprises you. Anyway, kill Tumblr Post+, but long live Tumblr. May it never die, like Queen Elizabeth II—although they both probably wish the other would die. Tumblr has a long history of anti-royalist sentiment.