Co-op turns UTexas Memes Facebook page into profitable T-shirts, original creators feel jilted

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Computer science sophomore Daniel Monroy created the UTexas Memes Facebook page in February because he wanted to centralize UT themed memes. The University Co-op announced last week it would begin selling UTexas Memes t-shirts on their website.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

With 18,000 likes and counting, the UTexas Memes Facebook page has not left the spotlight yet. Page creator Daniel Monroy said he thought his Facebook page would have died out by now — but it hasn’t. The page has continued to attract new fans and “likes” and is now bringing in the bucks, a development that has prompted both excitement and disappointment.

The University Co-op announced last week it would begin selling four UTexas Memes T -shirts on its website. Monroy announced the Co-op partnership on the Facebook page. Some users said they were excited to buy one, while others were upset because they felt the Co-op was capitalizing on the site and making profits. In addition, students have also voiced complaints that memes they posted on the Facebook page are being used on the T-shirts without proper credit.

Monroy, a computer science sophomore, gets a percentage of profit for every T-shirt sold.

“We’re seeing how it starts and if it’s selling,” Monroy said. “It’s going to be a fun project. I’m going to be looking forward to it.”

Memes are comical ideas shared by Internet users, and the UTexas Memes page is made up of the more common ones, macros. Macros are generic photos with lines of text that usually make a comical comment about certain situations in everyday life. In the case of UTexas Memes, the memes typically refer to University of Texas culture and news on the UT campus. Co-op officials said that currently the T-shirt with the highest sales is a reference to an incident in May where UT student Nick Engmann was hit by a Capital Metro bus during the biannual foam sword fight. The T-shirt reads: “No cruze en frente del autobus [sic]/Challenge accepted.”

Co-op promotions manager William Kelleher said he first contacted Daniel a few weeks after the page launched in February. The page had received more than 4,000 “likes” within the first 24 hours of launching, and it hit 10,000 just a few days later. Memes infested Facebook users’ news feeds, which some hated and others enjoyed.

“We’re all fans of the page here at the Co-op,” Kelleher said. “As soon as UTexas Memes came out, we immediately saw how everyone kind of gravitated toward this.”

Monroy chose to keep his identity a mystery initially but decided to go public and reveal his part in the project on Feb. 12. His Facebook page and identity were featured in several media outlets, including The Alcalde, The Horn and The Daily Texan. Kelleher said many at the Co-op were impressed a freshman founded the page.

“We thought it seemed like a good partnership, and Daniel has been excited from the get-go,” Kelleher said.

Kelleher said the deal to develop products featuring UTexas Memes has been a four-month process. He said it took a while to get Co-op management on board with the idea to sell shirts, but they eventually gave him approval.

He said the Co-op selected some of the more popular memes on the site and used the text only, redesigning the art for the T-shirt.

Kelleher said the Co-op is waiting to see if online sales are successful before they begin offering them in-store. Kelleher also said there were plans to make more T-shirts and sales have already been made.

Radio-television-film and Asian cultures and languages senior Anthony Fisher, who originally posted the “No cruze en frente del autobus/Challenge accepted” meme, said he was excited at first to see his meme turned into a T-shirt until he realized he wasn’t given credit.

“Why didn’t they ask me for my permission?” Fisher said. “I heard nothing about it before it launched.”

Fisher said he messaged Monroy inquiring if he was entitled to credit or a share in profits, but Monroy told him uploading memes to Facebook grants the page free use of the images. There is a disclaimer on the page that says: “Any meme you post in the page can be freely used by the page.”

“I don’t think the Co-op did anything morally wrong. I just kind of wish I had notification ahead of time,” Fisher said. “I’m not against it, though. I might even buy a shirt.”

But Matt Evans, a recent UT graduate, said he had more problems with the idea of the Co-op selling the T-shirts. He is the creator of the “What starts here [Sixth Street]... Is forgotten tomorrow” meme, which is being printed on a T-shirt. Co-op representative Kelleher said the Sixth Street T-shirt meme is currently the second most sold meme T-shirt.

“It does bug me a little bit,” Evans said. “Not necessarily because of the cash or money aspect. I honestly think the guy who created it did a great thing for the school, but I think it’s going a little too far by taking ideas from other people and trying to make a profit from it.”

Evans said he felt the T-shirts were changing what the page is about.

“I don’t think it’s fair that the Co-op is taking these ideas from students and making T-shirts out of them,” Evans said. “This was a page students used to take a break in between classes, and now it feels like the Co-op is taking that away from them by trying to make a profit off of it.”

Evans said he did not have plans to buy a T-shirt.

Kelleher said the Co-op redesigned the art of every meme used on T-shirts.

“We’re not taking the exact design from the memes. We’re taking the idea and changing it up and making it T-shirt-ready,” Kelleher said. “We actually had someone in-house take the T-shirt and change up the design. But Daniel has the rights to those, since they were posted to his Facebook page.”