There’s a lot of money to be made on the internet, and Josh Ostrovsky is cashing in. If you don’t recognise his name, you might recognise his social media persona: The Fat Jew(ish). Ostrovsky has become a full-fledged brand after amassing millions of followers posting jokes and memes from around the internet. He launched “White Girl Rosé” this summer, he has a book coming out this fall, he’s in talks for a television show, and he was just signed with top Hollywood talent agency CAA.
There’s just one problem: The jokes he’s posting to Instagram aren’t his. Now the people who made up those jokes — mostly comedians on Twitter — have finally had enough of Ostrovsky getting rich and famous off of their material.
But one Twitter and Instagram comedian — who asked to remain anonymous — told Tech Insider “The Fat Jew” has helped boost his online presence, despite initially lifting his jokes without credit.
Before we get into that, here’s a basic rundown of why people are complaining about Ostrovsky.
BuzzFeed’s Stephanie McNeal pointed out one recent instance of Ostrovsky lifting a comedian’s joke. This joke (below) was posted on July 30 by Davon Magwood. It ended up getting a few thousand retweets.
Several weeks later, Ostrovsky posted Magwood’s joke without credit to the tune of 195,000 likes on his Instagram account. “After Magwood’s friends criticised Ostrovsky,” McNeal reported, “Ostrovsky changed [the joke’s caption] to include a credit [to Magwood.]”
But the after-the-fact sourcing isn’t good enough for many of the comedians who are fighting against Ostrovsky’s business model.
A writer named Maura Quint openly criticised Ostrovsky in a Facebook post this past Saturday, linking to the Hollywood Reporter’s post regarding his new contract with CAA.
For those of you who don’t know, this guy, The Fat Jew is someone whose entire career is simply stealing jokes from tumblr, twitter, etc. He is making a living off of the hard work of other people. The people he steals from are struggling writers, comedians, etc. They would love to be able to profit from THEIR OWN WORK but can’t because this complete waste of a person is monetizing their words before they even have a chance to. When called out on his continued theft he either ignores it, says “whoops” or says “geez I guess an intern stole it!” This man makes nothing, contributes nothing, originates nothing, he is a leech, he is a virus, he is what is wrong with the world. Please please please do not support him. He is pure trash.
If you follow him on instagram, unfollow. If you follow him on twitter, unfollow. If you’re saying “but I like the stuff he puts out, it’s funny!” then just ask me and I’ll give you lists and lists of the originators of that content who are funny all the time with their own original words. You won’t miss this piece of shit, I promise.
Our source, a New York-based comedy writer whom we’ll call Jake, tells us Ostrovsky actually helped boost his career by lifting and posting his jokes to millions of people. Well, at least it helped once Ostrovsky started to give him credit, which he didn’t do the first, second, fifth, or ninth time he stole Jake’s material.
“When you see your image, or your joke, being ripped off,” Jake explained to Tech Insider, “it’s a mix of validation and anger. I was like, ‘great, my stuff is funny because all of these people are liking it on this guy’s page.’ At the same time, none of those people know that joke is mine.”
Over the course of a year, Jake watched Ostrovsky (and a handful of Ostrovsky’s interns) lift a dozen or so of his jokes without credit. Then one night several months ago, Ostrovsky had finally tagged Jake’s handle in one of his jokes Ostrovsky posted to his account.
“I got 7,000 followers in 2 minutes,” Jake remembers. “It was great for me, and great for my career.”
Jake says he understands comedians getting frustrated by having their stuff stolen but defends Ostrovsky — albeit anonymously — arguing that the Instagrammer “does go out of his way to credit people now.”
Taking a look at the last few dozen Instagram posts from The Fat Jewish, it does seem most all of the photos are credited to a user’s handle. It’s unclear if the credit was included after the post had been up for a while, as was done with Magwood’s lion joke. And either way, it’s too little, too late for many of the angry comedians who had their material taken by Ostrovsky without a link to their account pages.
“This is not the same for F— Jerry,” Jake adds, recalling a time when a friend of his had his joke stolen by a similar account with millions of followers.
F— Jerry skipped out on having to give credit when he claimed to not remember how to spell the original creator’s handle when posting the joke.
To the left is a screenshot of a direct Instagram message between LloydChristmas94 (with 11,000 followers) and F— Jerry with 5.7 million followers.
“F— Jerry is much more deplorable in my opinion,” Jake says.
The idea of social media plagiarism is one that people have been discussing for a while now.
A year ago, I dove into the topic with a guy named Chris Scott who tweeted a joke and then saw it, sans credit to him, all over the internet for months. A writer named Luke O’Neil has written about joke stealing several times. Twitter recently announced it would be cracking down on accounts that post other people’s jokes on the grounds of copyright infringement.
While it is not a secret that the content on The Fat Jewish does not belong to Ostrovsky, Ostrovsky is still the one benefitting from taking other people’s jokes and putting them in one easy-to-access place. Because of that, he’s the one getting brand deals, book deals, and television shows while other comedians trying to use social media in order to leverage their careers feel they’re getting screwed.
“In politics and journalism, plagiarism remains a serious, even career-killing charge,” O’Neil wrote back in January for The Washington Post. “So why is it any different when it comes to jokes online, especially considering how grave a sin joke theft is in stand-up comedy?”
Most don’t think it should be any different. A comedian named Brian Redban is currently posting screenshots of The Fat Jewish jokes next to screenshots of original jokes, and Davon Magwood, the guy who posted that joke about the lion, recently wrote an open letter to the F— Jerrys and the Fat Jews of the internet.
Thefatjewish posted my stuff and originally did not credit me. The post has over 100k likes, after bunch of my friends and followers called him out, I was credited, my followers went up about 100 followers. Had he maybe credited me originally it could’ve been more and here is why that matters.
BECAUSE THAT’S HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IS SUPPOSED TO WORK!
If it’s my stuff you’re posting, and if you give me credit, then I get traffic to my site, maybe that traffic goes to my comedy album and then I get paid for my work! You make money from the traffic you generate and guess what, I’d also would like to be paid and credited for the traffic that I’ve generated. I shouldn’t have to asked to be credit for my work, neither should other comedians or clever social media people. You should assume that If I’m posting online that I want credit for whatever you share.
… I’m not producing shit so you can make more money off of my work.
But Jake argues that Ostrovsky has “brilliantly figured out a way to monetise Instagram” by being a one-stop source for people who want to see funny jokes and memes from all around the internet but — to go against what Quint offers above — do not want to follow hundreds of people to do so.
And BuzzFeed writer Grace Spelman tweeted similar sentiments about those who find value in Ostrovsky’s content theft and curation this weekend.
people want funny stuff & they want it all in one place w/o having to do any work & he gives that to them.
— Grace Spelman (@GraceSpelman) August 16, 2015
She then tweeted: “In no way am I defending this turd of a human, I’m just saying unless Instagram yanks his account, I dont see anything changing.”
“Getting a shoutout from The Fat Jew,” Jake concludes, “is like getting Oprah to mention your book.”
We’ve reached out to Ostrovsky for comment and will update if we hear back.
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