Video Creators Complain of ‘Freebooting’ Trend on Facebook

Video has skyrocketed on Facebook to 8 billion views a day, and now the social media giant is also bombarded with takedown requests from video content creators. They’re complaining about “freebooting,” which is when clips are taken from YouTube, where creators make money from advertising, and re-loaded without permission on Facebook, where they’re not making a dime. Although Facebook is working on new rights-management software, creators say the current copyright infringement is negatively impacting their income.

The Wall Street Journal notes that, “the financial toll freebooting has taken on creators is unclear and impossible to measure,” but it’s enough to make video creators impatient. The stakes can be substantial. WSJ reported previously that PewDiePie, “the most popular YouTuber,” can make $4 million in ad sales in a year.


Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, creators have the responsibility to flag copyright infringements to the involved company, which is then obliged to take down. Facebook does this, but its response time can be too long to make a difference for viral videos, which quickly peak and disappear. A third-party tool Facebook currently uses — Audible Magic — makes matches by “listening” to the videos, but the method misses many.

With partners including distributors Fullscreen and Jukin Media as well as individual video creators, Facebook has been testing rights-management technology that lets them “flag videos they want to monitor through a Facebook-built dashboard,” and the system the “scours all uploaded videos on the service to find matches.”

Jukin president/chief operating officer Lee Essner says that Facebook is “certainly showing good-faith efforts in terms of trying to create software to try to deal with the freebooting issue.” To creators who are still unhappy, University of Maryland law professor James Grimmelmann notes that Facebook’s efforts to resolve the freebooting issue make it unlikely that creators can make a case for “willful blindness” to infringement.

So far, video creators have little incentive to post videos on Facebook, which is still working out its revenue-share paradigm. Last year, Facebook began sharing ad revenue via its video-only feed, Suggested Videos, with ad inserted between videos. But, although Facebook keeps 45 percent of the profit as does YouTube, unlike YouTube, the rest of the profits are split between the creators of the videos on either side of the ad.

In 2007, YouTube and Viacom went to court over similar issues; the case was settled — with the terms of settlement undisclosed — in 2014. The result was that YouTube developed its Content ID technology to screen out copyright infringement, which has reduced but not ended the problem. The technology is proprietary, so Facebook is developing its own rights management system. The company says it is also “expanding the team that responds to take-down notices, and is removing pages and profiles that repeatedly upload pirated content.”

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