Facebook’s latest experimental app, E.gg, is a nostalgic dream. It’s also an intellectual property nightmare for some artists, who have noticed the new app using their work without permission or even the barest of credit.
The social media giant’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) team has been talking the design app up on social media, using its pre-made artsy “canvases” and early-aughts-style landing page as marketing fodder. It’s looking a lot like that strategy has already gone awry for Facebook.
Last night, Pasquale D’Silva, an artist and CEO of animation studio Thinko, responded to a piece of promotional material posted by Jeff Toff, a member of the NPE team. He pointed out, rightfully, that one of the canvases featured in the promotional video used a GIF he had created — with no permission and no credit.
This is an egregious misstep on the part of the NPE team. Not only is it theft of intellectual property, but it’s also a really bad look for an app that’s about all creativity to be utilizing someone else’s creativity without their permission.
Some details — E.gg is essentially a nostalgia-fueled collaging platform. It lets users pull in GIFs, text, photos, and other media to create what’s called a “canvas.”
The GIF in question is featured on one of E.gg’s sample canvases, created by another member of the NPE team, Britt Menutti. Menutti featured a smiling sun GIF at the top of one of her canvases about taking a walk. Despite its prominent placement, D’Silva receives no credit for the GIF, which he originally posted on Tumblr back in 2012.
This is a larger issue — E.gg is very fun and aesthetically pleasing. It also has a huge problem with intellectual property. D’Silva’s work being used without permission came to our attention because he noticed it in a marketing video. But the issue is much more widespread. None of the media used in E.gg’s canvases are credited or used with permission. The app pulls media from two Facebook-owned sources with long histories of stealing artists' work without credit.
"Egg leverages two of their acquisitions — Gfycat and Giphy, which contains a titanic amount of work from artists which never consented use," D'Silva tells Input. "Facebook is using a repository of stolen work to generate new products."
E.gg is, in effect, built upon the backs of artists who receive no compensation — or even credit — for their work.
What Facebook says — When reached for comment, NPE team member Jeff Toff said the following:
"We could and should do better with creator attribution-- and are hoping to have improvements out by end of week. We'll hold off expanding E.gg past this test until we make improvements. This is a public beta + early test, so feedback like this is exactly what we're looking for.
Toff also posted a similar update on Twitter today.
Function over substance — Because it prioritizes aesthetics and ease of use over all else, the platform doesn’t have a section for crediting artists for their work. The media collage is meant to appear organic as if it’s been created solely by the E.gg user that posted it. This approach completely erases the work put into creating that media in the first place.
We like you, E.gg, but you need to fix this if you want your platform to be sustainable. Building a creativity app around stolen work is really not a good look.
Updated on 7.29.20 to include comments from Jason Toff.