My brother just sent me a link to a page that aims to profit off my mother’s obituary.
From this page, you can buy flowers for $269.99 CAD and have them sent to the funeral home that buried her over 3 years ago.
The thing is, our family didn’t ask to have her obituary used in this way. We were not asked permission for her name and likeness to be used to market flowers or for anyone to “light” anything for us.
When writing about my mother on this very blog, I have never once asked anyone for donations or to purchase anything (though, I do ask you on every page of this site to sign up for my newsletter — I’m guessing the 7 of you who have done so feel pretty upset about my hypocrisy).
As of this writing, Afterlife’s FAQ page leaves much to be desired:
Afterlife does offer a page to submit a request for removal, which states the following:
This publication is used to honor the deceased, show respect and support to the families, and allow anyone to contribute to build a beautiful memorial page.
*cough* bullshit *cough*
We understand that some families do not want loved ones to be shown here.
Translation: We know you’re gonna be pissed at us but we don’t care.
If you have the approval of the family, you may fill out the removal request form below. Note that up to 3 business days may pass before the removal.
But you didn’t have our permission to publish this page in the first place…
The CBC is reporting that at least one funeral home in Calgary has received over a dozen phone calls asking why the personal information of a loved one was being used in a commercial manner without consent. The funeral home was not only unaware of the initial infringement, they had already asked for the information be removed only for their request to be left unfulfilled.
I just got off the phone with the funeral home who handled my mother’s funeral. While they weren’t familiar with this specific site, the person I spoke to did indicate that this wasn’t the first he’d heard of such a site. Requests they’ve made to similar sites have also gone unanswered.
I also spoke briefly with a support agent (or maybe it was a bot?) from dmca.com. They can look into having the content removed, but their services aren’t free and there’s no guarantee that the site owners won’t simply move the content to another server.
Afterlife spokesperson Jordon Le Brun claims in the CBC article that the company is selling 1000 flower arrangements per month. Based on their lowest and highest priced flower arrangements, a rough estimation would put their sales somewhere between $59,990 and $229,990 per month.
Or between $700K–$2.76MM in sales per year.
I’m a capitalist who believes in ideas and in companies taking risky ideas to market. I even recognize and empathize with the fact that sometimes, people with the best of intentions can produce unintended consequences when delivering a project.
This, however, was not a simple oversight. Someone had to write the code to scrape the obituaries from countless funeral home sites and other databases in order to present them in this way with the only goal of generating profit.
Perhaps I’m a bit biased because I’m personally offended in this case, but that’s fucked up.
Companies like this are why people don’t trust the Internet and those of us who make a living working in and on it. This type of news reflects poorly on everyone who participates in the online economy, making the work we do even more difficult in the future.
Not to mention the pain and suffering of having to unwillingly and unexpectedly relive the loss of a loved one.