By Joshua Weinstein
Luka is our family’s Siberian Husky. I have many adjectives to describe him, but in short, he’s a friendly dog who rarely barks. He prefers dirty over clean and sheds to no end. He also has allergies that make his vocal chords reverberate as though he and Chewbacca are related. Like most huskies, he howls; however, Luka’s howling has always sounded more like a frantic and panicked guttural scream. My daughters enjoy getting Luka to yell, and sometimes he just goes off without their advance prompting. Concerned passerby outside our duplex have even wondered if someone were getting hurt, and I literally brought Luka outside to assuage their worries.
One afternoon, my eldest daughter, Valerie, was in her room doing homework and Luka started his ritualistic howl. She grabbed her iPhone, recorded the performance, posted it to Twitter, and the rest was wildly unanticipated. Over 5 million views and retweets later, Luka went viral. At first, it was cute and fun. Then, the monetization and royalty offers came. At 18, Valerie was legally able to sell the rights to her 30-second clip, and fortunately, she consulted with me on the legitimacy of the company and proposition. After researching the topic, I became fascinated by the evolution of what was once just TV viewers watching “America’s Funniest Home Videos” hosted by Bob Saget. (Incidentally, the show has been renewed through its 31st season.)
Valerie sold the rights to Luka’s video, and the money started rolling in. For a freshman in college, the funds provided respite on tuition and car payments and afforded her some extra cash to save and spend. I was fascinated and gently encouraged her to upload more content. Valerie will be 22 soon, and she’s netted over $10K from the British media rights company that periodically sends “Luka money” her way. The classic Luka videos have been remixed, and the YouTube comments show his fan base is alive and well.
Needless to say, the ability to share video content carries abundant risk and raises privacy concerns, but this Luka business seemed innocent enough. There are just so many clips that have become staples of our current generation. Of those, just a minority go viral and even fewer are culled and selected for being licensed. I’m still sorting through my emotions of having my dog’s wailing propagated as media rights property. Advertisers and algorithms benefit from swarms of online content consumers. In the meantime, and years later, Valerie still receives periodic deposits into her account – her cut of the revenue that’s been generated. All I suggest in return is that she set aside a portion for taxes and give Luka a well-deserved bone.
What do you think about monetizing cute home videos on behalf the world’s internet community and the advertisers that support it?
Here’s the YouTube version of the viral Twitter videos- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_CUrv0aezI