Two weeks ago, I published a piece about the Pro-Truth Pledge and its creator, Gleb Tsipursky. In the original article, I referenced Tsipursky’s history of less-than-honest practices in regard to self-promotion and other related areas. The article was shared on social media and discussed in numerous Facebook threads among other bloggers, podcasters, and leaders in the secular community. Overwhelmingly, those who chimed in agreed that Tsipursky’s behavior was unethical and downright shady.
But unethical self-promotion tactics were apparently just the tip of the iceberg. Once all of that came to light, it was discovered that Tsipursky was posting links to other people’s radio shows and podcasts on his Patreon page and charging his patrons for it, as if it were content he was creating. Let me explain. Gleb Tsipursky has his Patreon page set up so that his patrons are charged every time he posts something and designates it as a patron-supported post. Patreon doesn’t verify that it’s actually content he created. So when he does an interview, he posts a link to the recording (which is otherwise available to the public for free) on his Patreon page, automatically charging his patrons for the content that belonged to someone else. This is not only seriously unethical, but it may be a violation of copyright laws as well as Patreon’s terms of service. Pretty awesome for a guy going around asking people to sign a pledge of honesty.
Podcast hosts have since been made aware of this and some have asked Tsipursky to take down his links to their recordings. He has obliged when asked, but the damage has been done. He’s already profited from the post at that point. At the time this was discovered, Tsipursky was earning over $125 per posted link, possibly grabbing nearly $2,000 from his supporters in July alone (unless his patrons set a limit). Not a bad rake for posting content he didn’t create and that’s otherwise free to the public. Is he giving that money to the rightful owners of the intellectual property he’s charging for when they complain? Is he refunding his patrons? Doubtful.
As the discussions online heated up, Tsipursky was finally confronted by a number of podcasters in at least one private Facebook thread. I didn’t get to see all of it though, since Tsipursky blocked me on Facebook after my original story was released… because transparency is scary and stuff. Not to mention he also tried to force me to remove the Pro-Truth Pledge logo from my article, citing that it’s copyrighted. Nice try. Interesting how he suddenly developed respect for copyright laws. Who knew?
As a result of the online conversations as well as an offline conversation I was made aware of, Tsipursky decided to make things right. Sort of.
He issued an apology on his Patreon page, in which he Gleb-splains his rationale for posting the links:
My previous perspective was that since since the content I posted was always free to access, and simply there for people who specifically wanted to support my activism by doing media interviews, I did not want to waste the time of hosts by talking to them about posting the content on Patreon.
Wait, you didn’t want to “waste the time of hosts” by asking them permission to charge people for their content? Or was it because any rational person would know they’d say no? My 6-year-old comes up with better lines of bullshit than that.
I will in the future check with show hosts to see if they will be ok with me posting a link to their show on my Patreon to get more listeners and to give me financial support for my activism. I apologize to any podcast or radio show hosts I have offended, and will of course take down their show if they wish, and again, I acknowledge I was wrong on this one.
He later edited the post to add a link to the email he’s going to send to podcast and radio hosts. Based on his description above, I would expect that Tsipursky’s email to hosts would include verbiage asking for permission to post the interview on his Patreon page, noting that he’d be charging his patrons for the content. Here’s what the email says:
After the interview is over and you post it publicly, please send me a link. What I usually do with these links is give it to my social media manager to share it via my personal social media, and the nonprofit where I serve as the volunteer President, Intentional Insights, will share it through its social media and email lists, which altogether have over 50K followers. My social media manager will also put it in my Patreon account, enabling my fans to support my activism, with a link back to your original show; the Intentional Insights team will also put it in our Spreaker (podcast) and Youtube (videocast), for our audience there to learn about the interview and follow the link back to your show to check it out. If you want me to include any additional links to your show, such as your bio, a donate page, or an “About Us” page, I’d be glad to ask my social media manager to do so as well.Let me know if you would prefer me to do something different than I usually do. Thank you and looking forward to the interview!
Social media manager? Come on. If Tsipursky really does have an SMM, that person should be fired, considering the numerous methods he/she has implemented that cross ethical lines. I’m guessing he doesn’t. But here’s the real problem with this email. Nowhere does it say that he’ll be charging people for the content on his Patreon. The email appears to be intentionally vague, leaving out the important piece that he’s been confronted about — making money from someone else’s product. Sure he says he’s going to post it on Patreon, but that doesn’t mean he’s charging for it. To quote a very prominent atheist blogger I discussed this with, “That’s shady as shit.”
I brought this concern to one of Tsipursky’s defenders who helped him craft the email. This was my attempt to help him rectify the situation privately, but my plea was ignored:
I appreciate the effort, but that email doesn’t specify whether or not he’s charging people for that content. I’d hate to believe it’s intentionally misleading. Simply posting to Patreon does not mean soemone is charging. The letter should say that he’s posting to Patreon and that his subscribers will be paying for that post. For a guy who is oblivious of copyright and intellectual property issues, it took him no time to try to force me to edit my story to remove his logo. [Tsipursky’s defender previously told me this whole thing was a misunderstanding based on his ignorance of copyright and intellectual property issues.] So I hope you can see how I take everything that comes out of his mouth with a grain of salt.
This was his only response: “We all have our specialties and our failings. We should help each other.” Huh? Way to address my concern. I went on:
Great. Help him get his letter right then so it doesn’t appear intentionally misleading. Or maybe advise him not to charge for those posts since it’s downright unethical. Poof… problem solved moving forward.
Message marked as read, no response. And no edit to the email on Tsipursky’s Patreon.
In looking at Gleb Tsipursky’s Patreon page, I see that some of his supporters either heard about the controversy or may have seen a rash of charges on their credit cards last month and decided to no longer support him. His per-post earnings are down to just over $100 from the >$125 a couple weeks ago — still way too high a price to pay for someone else’s free content. Let’s hope more of them discover how they’re being played and un-pledge their financial support… that’s if they’re even real patrons and not fake accounts.