British Comedy Guide

BCG Pro

How I invoiced The Daily Mail for my joke

Creators of viral internet hits sometimes lose credit and financial reward for their work when big media companies move in and appropriate copies of the joke/video to drive up their own hits. David Bussell fought back when Associated Newspapers published his comedy creation without credit. We tracked David down and asked him to tell his story, which he has kindly done below:

David Bussell.It all started with a screen cap of a bit of Facebook malarkey I posted on a photo sharing website one night. You can see this on my website (congratulations if you clicked on that, you are now the proud owner of a migraine).

Typically when I launch new material I do it with no small fanfare (as you'll soon learn), but on this rare occasion I bunged it up, went to bed and thought no more of it. It was only when I woke the next day I realised the internet had taken to it like deep-fried crackstasy. Overnight it had gone from throwaway fun to a full-blown viral phenomenon, shared, retweeted and reposted literally thousands of times.

Within a couple of days it had gained over a million hits, and two weeks later a quick bit of calculation on my part had it closing in on three mill. Of all the comedy projects I've been involved in, this tossed-off bit of nonsense had been the making of me, and I hadn't even gone to the bother of putting my name on it. I've worked 16 hour days alongside professional production crews, some of which greeted the dawn just to make sure their co-workers had an egg butty to start the day off right - and these projects had gotten a fraction of the attention of some jpeg I'd slapped onto Imgur after a couple of Friday night beers.

There were friend requests by the dozen, there were memes, there was even a marriage proposal among the comments section. My inbox, my Facebook timeline and my Twitter feed were clogged to bursting with friends and well-wishers telling me about all the places they'd found my dumb knock knock joke. It made the front page of Reddit, Buzzfeed, The Poke, Cheezburger, The Huffington Post and a bunch more. I spent the better part of the next week chasing all the places who'd posted it, desperate to figure out some way to parlez the phenomenon into hits for the web sketch show I was really interested in promoting (don't worry, I get to that in a bit). I was also chasing fair credit. I have no problem with other websites using my material just so long as they attach my name to it, and while I found many of the places that had cut and pasted the content had done so without attributing it, pretty much all of them were happy to give due credit when prompted. All that is, except for The Daily Mail.

The Metro, owned by The Daily Mail Group (which should see you treat their free newspaper like a fat sack of spiders), point blank refused to give credit. They did offer a potential follow-up article but whipped that off the table the moment I suggested it include a bit of promo for my web sketch project (getting to it, guys, hold your horses!). This rankled me. If I'm not getting paid, the least I can ask for is some exposure. I don't mind you scoring hits off me, but you have to give up something in return, even if it is just a link to my Twitter. Sadly the people at Metro didn't see it that way, which leads us to what I refer to as the 'F**k You, Daily Mail' portion of the story.

After putting out a social request for legal bods I was instantly inundated with people offering their opinions. A tiny handful were of the "quit being greedy, you should be only too happy for a corporate newspaper to leech ad revenue off you!" persuasion, but most were as mad as I was about the situation (many more so!) and only too happy to help.

Of all the advice I was given, I decided the best course of action was to simply thank the paper for taking an interest in my work and invoice them for a job well done. It was suggested by many that this would not end in my favour and that I should just cut my losses (seriously, there are some horrific tales of people who crossed The Mail and ended up in legal battles that dragged on for years - just Google it), but I am nothing if not a stubborn prick of a man. I knew in my heart it was a lost cause though, which is what made this follow-up such a surprise:

Picture of The Daily Mail invoice confirming payment of £200.

I'm not a total dummy, I know how little £200 means to The Daily Mail, but I've got to tell you, I feel pretty damn good about the way this thing ended. I've been involved in plenty of things where I was the only guy at the table not getting paid, but this is the first time I wasn't even invited to sit down.

Moral of the story - if you feel like you've been ripped off, don't be shy about asking for what's yours, after all, no one builds a brick wall for free... even if they did put it up a bit drunk.

David Bussell (@busselling)

David has given the money he received from Associated Newspapers to charity. After all that build-up in the article, he forgot to mention his main project - Hunka Wunda. Below is one of the online comedy channel's videos: