Photo Credit: VICE / Archival image of the 'Oh No They Didn’t' founders courtesy of Bri Draffen

Photo Credit: VICE / Archival image of the ‘Oh No They Didn’t’ founders courtesy of Bri Draffen

Three Black women who started the popular Oh No They Didn’t gossip site when they were teens are now accusing two white adults of locking them out of their own site and stealing it from them.

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Vice reported:

Oh No They Didn’t has a cult-like following. Users submit all the content on the website (or copy and paste material from other publications, including this one) to the moderators, who then decide whether to publish it. Despite the lowercase headlines, typos, and dated purple-and-white layout, more than 22,000 people follow the website on Twitter, and according to a source at LiveJournal, the site remains the network’s most popular online “community” in the US.

If the site sounds like any other gossip rag online, that’s precisely what makes it unique: It was started, in 2004, by three black teenagers—Erin Lang, Bri Draffen, and Breniecia Reuben—who were looking for a place where “Black ‘indie’ kids who felt out of place [could] talk about music (and life) with other Black kids.” Youth of color contributed the majority of the comment threads. The site’s mission, according to its founders, was to create a safe space where members could discuss pop culture with an authentically black voice without being exclusively black. Because users of the site both created and read the content, site members believed they were reading gossip “by the people, for the people.”

“They locked us out of our own site,” Lang, who is now an aspiring actress and writer, wrote on her LiveJournal earlier this year. “i have tons of witnesses and screen caps. tons. but we cant take legal action. just spread the word that they are liars. im coming for their asses now.”

According to Vice, Lang’s accusations launched an online scandal this summer, when an anonymous user left a comment in an Oh No They Didn’t blog post on July 6 confirming Lang’s version of events.

“i used to be one of the original mods at ontd. yesternight [Lang’s username] started the community,” the comment began. “yesternight added brenden and ecctv [Carter’s username] to the community as mods. BIGGEST MISTAKE!”

The user described how Lang had taken time away from the site because her mother had died of brain cancer. She explained how Lang made Brenden Delzer and Elizabeth Carter moderators and then took a temporary leave of absence from the community. When Lang returned to the site after a year she discovered she had been removed as moderator.

Of course Delzer  denies things went down this way and is accusing Lang of exaggerating the story to discredit the site’s success.

It’s a sad state of affairs and is the true definition of appropriation, but in real and living color. When people talk about white people “Columbusing” this is basically the epitome of it. Stealing something that works and taking all the credit. There are lessons that can be learned from this experience so other people don’t fall victim and lose their creative content and work.

Get more of the story at Vice.

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  • Big sis

    I believe her and I don’t put it above white people to “discover” and steal something that isn’t rightfully theirs. Christopher Columbus did and it worked out well for him. The fact that the person who’s being accused is calling it an exaggeration. Hmmm that’s really interesting because if someone was lying on me I sure wouldn’t call it an “exaggeration” unless there is some truth to it.

  • Anonin

    Im always on ONTD and I think even some of the original members know this.

  • Objection

    “i have tons of witnesses and screen caps. tons. but we cant take legal action.

    I’m calling this nonsense. Who is stopping these girls from filing a lawsuit?

  • omfg

    i must be missing something.

    if they started the website, do they own the domain? the owner of the domain owns the product, no? unless there is some other business agreement going on.

    otherwise, none of this makes sense. establish ownership first. who is the owner. that’s seems like common sense. that individual(s) gave whoever is a moderator the authority.

    not sure what the dumb drama is about.

    and no, i couldn’t bother to go to the vice site because vice is for idiots.

    • NicoCoer

      It was hosted on livejournal as a community. I remember when it was gaining steam. As such, NONE of the people involved owned the domain because that’s not how livejournal worked. Instead, you would start a blog or a community (where multiple people could blog to) and while the server, domain, etc was owned by livejournal, you had intellectual property rights to what you created and posted on there. (Similar to tumblr- I don’t “own” the domain for my tumblr legally, but the entity of my blog and my posts are still mine. Kinda like having a landlord really…)

      This is a case of intellectual property theft and possibly fraud, but stolen from the online equivalent of, say, your apartment instead of from a house you own. If someone broke into your apartment and stole all your stuff, it isn’t suddenly not theft just because you were renting. Or perhaps more aptly: You invited someone you thought you could trust to watch your plants while you were on vacation, but when you came back the apartment locks were changed and they are claiming to own all your stuff and to be the tenant on the lease- and the landlord won’t do anything because you gave them the keys and let them stay there.

      Except in rental situations, there are consumer/renter protections. In the online equivalent you check off a terms of agreement that acts as a contract- but you don’t get to negotiate terms, and there’s nothing preventing your online landlord from discontinuing the agreement in most cases. In real life there are eviction laws about how long it takes, how to handle sublets, and some contracts even stipulate how long someone not on the lease can stay without you notifying your landlord.