Put your name on it

DISCLAIMER: The below is not intended as legal advice or counsel and should not be followed as such. If you have an intellectual property law issue, consult with an attorney because this blog post does qualify as legal representation and is written for informational and entertainment purposes only.

I’ve seen it time and again. A hashtag or tweet goes viral, white people start making money off of it, and a Black person pops up to say “Hey, I did that first! Where’s my credit?” Then I sigh deeply, and make this face:

 

It’s true that most people have no legal training. But I didn’t think you needed to go to law school to understand that if you get a product or service for free, YOU are what’s for sale. So that means: Snapchat owns your snaps. Instagram owns your ‘grams. Twitter owns your tweets. Facebook owns your statuses, photos, videos, messages, and whatever else you put on there. There’s also this neat thing called “the public domain”. Anything that isn’t copyrighted is part of the public domain, and can be used by anyone, whether or not they give you credit.

Not everything can be protected under intellectual property, and there are three different layers. A copyright protects the original expression of an artistic work, e.g. a book. A trademark protects a brand name and accompanying logos. Both “Coca-Cola”,and the cursive script it’s written in are trademarks. Patents protect physical inventions that make the required “innovative leap” from already existing devices.

So how does this apply to social media. Hashtags are not copyrightable because they don’t qualify as an artistic work. A poem in your Facebook status could be copyrighted, however. Hashtags can be trademarked, but only if you’re using them to sell goods as part of a business (ie, coffee mugs or t-shirts). The business part is important, because that’s what tripped up the creator of #BlackGirlMagic. (In my opinion, the fact that her shirts said “Black girls are…magic!” rather than #BlackGirlMagic is also part of it).

Even if you have a trademark, you can’t stop other people from using the hashtag in their tweets. For instance, a Black woman came up with the “Me Too” sexual assault awareness campaign ten years ago. She wrote a blog post about but didn’t get the credit. In my opinion, she has no right to be mad. If she had a website or a nonprofit called “Me Too”, then fine. But social media has a very short half life. When I googled”me too sexual assault”, Ms. Burke’s blog wasn’t even on the first page of my Google results (and let’s be real, nobody goes past the first page unless it’s for a school assignment). Get your SEO search together and hush. Some things you have to be okay with not getting credit for. There’s so much information out there that you’re basically shouting into a void unless you take proactive steps to stand out.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. The money is all in the execution. If your tweet goes viral on social media, your best bet is to go write a buy the website domain name, blog about it, and start selling something with your hashtag on it. (Shout out to the women who came up with #BlackLivesMatter and started an actual foundation.) Otherwise, a random white person will swoop in and start profiting off of it. Black Twitter hasn’t been just us since about 2013 so conduct yourselves accordingly. Otherwise you’re going to be scrolling through your timeline and see an ad with the hashtag you wrote on it going, “Hey! I thought of that!”

 

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LeToya Luckett is a hidden treasure

It seems like every year, there are fewer and fewer artists I’m really checking for. Maybe it’s because as I get older, I’m less concerned with the new club jam and prefer music that has longevity. The artists I loved as a child who were considered “old school” (Anita Baker, Earth Wind & Fire, etc) are still in my regular rotation. Now the acts I loved in middle school are considered throwbacks and the music industry has undergone a sea change.

One thing I always have been, and forever will be, is an R&B junkie. Right now, the culture is all about trap music and besides Beyonce and Trey Songz, there’s not much R&B to speak of. John Legend drops a rehash of second album every few years, and Anthony Hamilton is still making his trademark gospel love songs. But there are no true successors to singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, who gave us songs to dance to, power ballads, and everything in between. Mariah Carey can deliver a hit, but she very much straddles the line between pop and R&B. While she’s good for featuring a rapper (as evidenced by her recent collaboration with YG), you’ll never get anything close to a trap beat from Ms. Carey. But Ms. Luckett, on the other hand? She’ll bring the fire.

 

LeToya Luckett was, and remains, the most underrated member of Destiny’s Child. LaTavia pretty much fell off the face of the earth, nobody expected much from Michelle, and Kelly started getting her just due when she released her third solo album in 2011. However, LeToya’s lack of notoriety in the music world is partially her own fault. She released a solid debut album in 2006 which had a fairly popular single with Slim Thug (“She Don’t“), but otherwise was largely forgotten by everyone except me. 2009’s Lady Love was better because it established that LeToya was giving up on pop crossover songs and committing to the R&B genre. In the 8 years between albums LeToya has acted in three movies, three tv shows, and several gospel plays. While Kelly and Beyonce have both dabbled in acting, since Destiny’s Child final split they consistently put out albums every 2-3 years.

Still, Back 2 Life was worth the wait. LeToya has delivered a quintessential R&B album that’s fun, relatable, catchy, and easy to sing along to. It’s current, but LeToya doesn’t just mimic the trends. She takes the elements that work with her sound and makes them her own. She also put her acting skills to use by tying together the music videos for her three singles (Back 2 Life, Used To, In the Name of Love) and created a mini movie. LeToya clearly put a lot of thought, effort, and intentionality behind this album and it shows. If you like good music, give it a try!

Be Pro, Not Anti

I started to title this post “Nobody Cares What You Hate”, then decided to scrap it because it would completely negate my point. I still think it’s catchy though.

Anyway, the internet has basically become a free for all when it comes to people’s opinions. And whether it’s due to a natural cognitive bias, or just the fact that people are more likely to share negative feelings in order to get them off their chest and feel better, negative opinions run rampant. A glance at any social media outlet will show you that entire friendships have been formed on the basis of mutual hate. We are all Silky Johnson. Nothing but hateration and holleration in this dance soiree.

What set me off was the return of Game of Thrones, which has basically become nerd football season. The show’s popularity has now seeped into the mainstream, but it’s one of those shows you either love or hate. And as the fanbase has grown, so have the voices of the detractors. Every Sunday, without fail, I would see posts on my newsfeed about how annoyed the GoT-avoiders were by our obsession with Westeros. Then there were another dozen or so people whining, “Am I the ONLY person who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones? [eye roll emoji]”.  Now we’re heading into actual football season which has prompted the predictable memes declaring that anyone who doesn’t like sports should just sit down and shut up until February.

Okay . . . . . . . . . . . . .

WHY ARE Y’ALL LIKE THIS?

 

I know snark is practically a currency now, but why must everything anybody likes (or doesn’t like) be shitted on? We have an objectively incompetent president, global warming has contributed to two devastating hurricanes in the past month, and apparently N@zi$ are making a comeback. If you’re going to complain, there are better things to complain about than the fact that people like Beyonce.*

These are hard times, and everyone has struggles no matter what brave face they put forth to the world. You can’t control a crazy boss, or freeloading coworkers, needy kids or a sometimes thoughtless significant other. And talking about the things that are really bothering you can feel too personal, too vulnerable. Complaining about insignificant things vents off a little pressure, and there’s usually a chorus of friends who hate the same thing cheering you on. Another culprit is isolation. When I was younger, I only had a handful of classmates who enjoyed reading books as much as I did, and most of them wouldn’t publicly admit to it. So my way of empowering myself was to define myself as the anti-cool kid. I was special, but in a way nobody understood. Once I got to college and met like minded friends who were nerdy and confident, I started shedding some of those tendencies.

Sometimes, though, our complaints stem from pure jealousy. We often look down on people who are relentlessly positive on social media and accuse them of not being real. But how much of that is people pretending not to have problems at all, versus choosing to focus on the positive? There’s not reason to be envious. Happiness is not finite. The fact that someone is (or appears to be) living their best life does not make the likelihood of me being happy any less. There is so much bad out there that I enjoy a laughing baby video, a photo of someone’s freshly planted garden, or hearing about a law school classmate’s victory at trial. I need those moments of levity to get me through.

So let me know your thoughts. What do you love that other people love to hate on? What’s something that’s making you happy this week? Let’s sprinkle some good vibes up in here!

 

Logic’s “Everybody” is the positive resistance album we didn’t know we needed

This is going to be a lengthy post because I’ve been a fan of Logic for awhile. Tex is super into rap, and so is Mr. Teenage Dream. So between the two of them I was kept pretty current despite my preference for soul and R&B. As a matter of fact, I’ve been put on to at least one artist on the XXL Freshman cover every year since they started. I knew about folks like Kap G (2017), Ty Dolla Sign (2014), Machine Gun Kelly (2012) and Wale (2007) waaaaay before they hit the mainstream.

Logic was on the 2013 Freshman cover, and of course, by that time I’d already added his mixtapes into my regular rotation. (By the way, Young Sinatra is still dope). I happily paid for each of his commercial albums so when I found out this week that his third album, Everybody, had dropped over a month ago, I made it my business to buy it immediately. Since then I’ve listened to it twice through in its entirety, and it’s stuck in my head. The concept, the production, the lyrics…it all blows my mind.

In a nutshell, the album is a musical journey based on a short story, “The Egg” by Andy Weir, which you can read here.  Logic explains it in the video below.

The TL;DR of all this is that the human race is just one being, reincarnated until it has experienced every walk of life and can evolve into a higher existence (i.e., become God). Therefore the universe is just an egg that we have to hatch from by maturing enough to realize that every time we hurt someone else, we hurt ourselves.

That’s a provoking and comforting thought in these troubled times. Some days it all seems so hopeless. I stay away from the news because it can really f*ck with my mental state. No matter how happy I am in my little bubble, there is a lot of hate out there. A couple weeks back I was walking through Target holding hands with my husband, feeling blissfully in love and chatting about some silly thing. A white lady came up the main aisle, in the opposite direction of us and nearly jumped out of her skin. Her whole demeanor changed–her eyes widened, she went from walking slowly to doubling her speed, clutching her purse and looking down at the ground as she passed  us. “How do you know it was a race thing? Maybe she was just startled,” I’m sure you’re thinking. Well, there were five or six white people she would have just passed and we were the only brown people in sight, so I’m pretty sure it was a race thing. Sh*t like that is just demoralizing.

Logic gets it. And while many people are quick to throw it in his face that he could pass for white, that didn’t insulate him from many of the same struggles that poor black kids face growing up, along with the unique struggle of being called a racial slur by your own mother. Despite that, he maintains a positive outlook and his music is always hopeful. And hope is what we need right now.

Are you a Logic fan or never heard of him? If you listened to the album, what did you think? Let me know!

The September Issues

It’s finally September, aka new year’s for fashion. I love seeing the latest trends, even though I live in a place where fall lasts for about three weeks in January. I finally know why peep toe booties, wool mini skirts, and sleeveless sweaters are a thing–the only way to signal the change in seasons here is through color and fabric because it never gets cold enough for the chic layering that is the staple of cold weather fashion.  Anyway, on to the magazines! And apologies in advance for the low quality pictures, my Blackberry screen is cracked so I’m using a backup phone with a terrible camera.

Glamour

Number of pages: 216

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review: I used to subscribe to Glamour in college but after I turned 25 I felt like I had aged out of it. They have rebranded once again and it seems like they’re trying to expand their age demographic again. There were a lot of substantive articles in this issue, which I would normally applaud. This time it just annoyed me because for a September issue, it was less fashion focused than I would like. Their “Shop the Trends” feature was pretty basic, with the formula of picking a runway model look and surrounding it with the everyday version of the outfit. I can also tell they haven’t quite figured out how to reformat the magazine to look across digital and print, because many of the spreads looked very amateur-fashion-blogger-Instagram-y. Another feature, “Fashion Month Throwback”, where editors shared their fashion impressions of New York, London, Milan, and Paris, was literally printed diagonally. That’s cool if you’re reading on a tablet that can rotate, but just annoying if you’re reading print. “Outfits for Days” has taken place of their “30 Outfit Ideas“, which seems to have perished sometime in 2013. I liked the old feature because it revolved around 5-7 key pieces, worn by differently sized models, and guaranteed I would find at least one outfit or styling combination to try. This month’s feature revolved around just one week of outfits and 5 of the 7 pictures don’t show the full outfit -_- What’s the point?

However, I have to give Glamour a 1.5 point boost for diversity. I haven’t ever seen this many women of color featured in a magazine not targeted specifically to women of color, outside of a token “diversity issue”. There was a feature on makeup for WOC, black women featured in their career and financial advice sections, a black woman in the hair section, and all of their fashion editorials featured models of color. My favorite was titled “Hometown Hero” which spotlighted Khadijah Red Thunder, an up and coming model with both Black and Native American heritage. I’m 1/4 Muskogee so that was really cool to see, especially since she visually presents as a light skinned black girl (in fact, she looks like a few of my cousins). They even show her in traditional regalia, which was pretty cool.

 

InStyle

Number of pages: 440

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: InStyle is my favorite fashion mag year round, and their September issue did not disappoint. While every magazine has sponsored content, InStyle is the best at writing features around the products that I still want to read anyway–the sponcon has the same production quality, as it were, with the same font used for the text and the same photographic feel. This was the only magazine I read with a minority on the cover and overall had a good amount of WOC featured throughout. There was an editorial featuring Dominican model Dilone; another featuring Kiersey Clemons (the actress who played the main character’s female BFF in Dope); and Solange was the celeb chosen for “Her Best Ever,” a feature that shows several of the star’s red carpet looks over the years and picks one as their favorite.

Still, if you want to see fashion that is (almost) price accessible but still treated with a haute couture sensibility, this is the mag for you. I mean, technically I can afford a $500 dress, ,a $150 blouse or a $275 pair of pants, I could just do so much more with that money. Like pay my car note and buy two $50 dresses, three $30 blouses, and a $40 pair of pants instead. 🙂 Anyway, what you won’t find is anything from Forever 21 or Old Navy (although the occasional Banana Republic piece may slip in from time to time). And while the menswear trend has been on the rise for the past few years, honest to goodness pantsuits are back. As an attorney, I very much appreciate a more stylish take on what is, for me, a workplace necessity.

And the photography is so lush–InStyle never cheaps out on editorials, they’re always a visual feast. Check out the stunning simplicity of this shot of Mariacarla Boscono, which I had to Google because my cell phone camera wouldn’t do it justice:

Photo Credit: InStyle Magazine, Phil Poynter

As Rachel Zoe would say, I die.

 

People Style

Number of pages: 156

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: People Style Watch has rebranded to People Style which is what it should have been called in the first place. No points for doing the obvious, but thanks for making the name less clunky! This is the smallest magazine in page count but probably has the most actual content, since September issues are notorious for having at least 20 more pages of ads than any other time of year. The photo shoots and sartorial style don’t matter because if you’re reading this magazine, it’s for the pages and pages of outfit ideas. People Style has reduced overhead and made their publication extremely accessible because without models, it’s that much easier to imagine yourself in the outfit.

Everything pictured is at Target right now.

The patented formula–take a celeb outfit and recreate it with affordable pieces.

 

However, this is one of the less diverse magazine because all the photos are of celebrities commonly featured in sister publication People, which only covers the celebrities who are household names nationwide. So basically Beyonce, Rihanna, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington are their black girl mainstays. Even so, the fact that you get 100+ pages of a curated Pinterest board is worth the read. Even more so because there are several pages of editors’ picks from what’s actually on sale currently, and a discount directory in the back with coupon codes for featured brands.

Marie Claire

Number of pages: 294

Rating:  3 out of 5

Review: Marie Claire is sort of a mashup of Vogue and Glamour. There are a lot of well intentioned opinion pieces, but the fashion is strictly high end. While the prices are listed, if you have to check? You can’t afford it. This a magazine for the fashion girls because it always features designers, editors, and other fashion industry insiders–not just celebrity clotheshorses. In this mag, the runway is the real way. If you need your fashion dumbed down, read something else. Typically it’s a little too snobby for my taste, but once or twice a year I like to see something that’s a little more elevated. Unsurprisingly, the snobbiest mag is also the least diverse. But the fashion content is on point, so this still skates by with three stars.

This daguerrotype style editorial was gorgeous.

Where am I supposed to wear this Hunger Games-ass oufit?!

 

Hopefully you enjoyed my ramblings. If you made it this far, leave a comment and let me know- what’s your favorite fall trend this year? Do you hate everything? Am I the only one who’s noticed that the trends for the past few years have been virtually the same?

 

 

Hurricane Harvey and other things

My family was blessed to make it through the hurricane with no damage. We live in a slice of south Houston between the flood zones. We went to my mother in law’s house as a precaution, because she has an SUV and either end of our street was flooding, which would have trapped us as we both drive sedans. The ride over was nerve wracking because 90% of the tollway exits were closed, and the ones we took were literally shut down behind us as we traveled. Hubs drove through several high water spots like a champ while I struggled not to have a panic attack. He was insightful enough to put on some slow jams I could sing along to that kept me from squeezing the lifeblood out of his thigh or yelping in terror.

The city is more or less back to normal. On my side of town, the floodwaters receded last week after the sun came out so the biggest inconvenience is that not all the stores are open, the restaurants have limited menus, and the city is still on a curfew. We had dinner with Bianca & Bernard last night, and had to hightail it out of the restaurant mid-conversation so we would make it home on time. Of course, that’s small potatoes compared to the people who have lost everything. A handful of people I know through work and my sorority had flooding to their homes, and lots of folks are still battling standing water and can’t go home. Hubs can’t go back to work for another two weeks because the campus flooded. It’s going to be a long road to recovery for the city as a whole.

Meanwhile, I’m still plugging away on document review and job applications. Recruiting season has rolled back around and I’m starting to get some nibbles here and there so I’m hopeful that I will have a job offer by the end of the year. We also moved into our house. It’s a little old, but not helped by the fact that the last tenants didn’t take care of it. G-Dub has put in a ton of work making it habitable but the bougie side of me is still adjusting. We went from a newly constructed apartment with hardwood floors to a house in the hood with TILE, of all things. I do feel better when I think about how I don’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors with my workouts or loud music, and the hundreds of dollars a month I’m saving on rent. Also, the commute is much better because most people on our side of town work locally. So even though we’re farther  from work, the time we spend driving is the same.

Also, while I’ve come to realize the utility of Home Depot (the tool rental has been clutch af), I’m still bored to death by it. So I guess I’m not totally washed up yet.