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Jameel Arts Centre

Who Gets Paid for Digital Labor?

Who Gets Paid for Digital Labor?

Installation image. Mixed media. Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre

In 2019, Rapper 2 Milly’s introduced the world to his signature dance Milly Rock. Months later, his choreography was stolen by the free-to-play videogame Fortnite, who sells the dance as a so-called e-mote called “Swipe It” for $1 each.


In 2020, Antoine Dodson recorded a news interview that would go viral. He lived in the Lincoln Park housing project and his sister had just been raped after a home invasion.  Later this would become the name of a song that would chart the Billboard Top 100, in a revenue-sharing co-credit with the Gregory Brothers.


When Sweet Brown animatedly recounted in a newscast the story of the fire that ravaged her housing project, it became the now-iconic catchphrase “Aint Nobody Got Time For That.” This too, was immortalized by song, and turned into t-shirts, baby bibs, and other absurd products.


However, it’s important to ask in encounters like this: who innovates? Who gets paid? – And how much?


Across film, installation, and textile, “Who Gets Paid for Digital Labor?” asks these questions to the audience directly.

This work was commissioned by Jameel Arts Centre for the show Pace, Affirmations, & The Now, about online memes. The version shown here has been condensed and edited to fit 2-minutes.

"Who Gets Paid for Digital Labor?" 2019. (7:31 minutes). Dual-channel video. 2019. 

2-minute excerpt

Who Gets Paid for Digital Labor II_small
Christopher Benton_Who Gets Paid for Dig

"Eyebrows Stay on Fleek So These Hoes Copy-Paste." 450 cm x 250 cm.


Web-based companies like Spreadshirt and T-shirt Ink allow users to make money by designing crowd-sourced shirt graphics and selling it on their platform. This has incentivized opportunists who can easily steal the image, trademark, and catchphrases of black digital creators to make new t-shirt designs. Each t-shirt in this tapestry are composed from existing shirt designs found online that appropriate stories from the talent featured in the dual-channel video.

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