From vlogger to freebooter – the difference a URL can make

Adriana Hernández Gallegos
Project Manager at Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey – ITESM

In November 2015, the number of videos that were published in Facebook pages exceeded the number of audiovisual works registered in Youtube, making Facebook the most popular platform for sharing videos. Facebook has worked hard in recent months to improve video-watching features and functions, and adjusting its algorithm to give preference to those videos that allow more interaction. Facebook has now become the giant of video-sharing in the internet.

The quantity of video posts uploaded on Facebook is impressive, but recently, many video creators are rightly complaining about the dubious origin of the videos shared on this site and the lack of copyright enforcement strategies by Facebook. And what does this have to do with you? Many of us have probably watched a video on Facebook that was uploaded without the authorization of the video creator. Actually, according to a recent report from Ogilvy and Tubular Labs, “out of the 1000 most popular Facebook videos of 2015, 725 were re-uploads by people who didn’t own the video.”

This action of downloading copyrighted content from a media hosting site and re-uploading it without the creator’s authorization is called “freebooting”, a term created by Brady Haran, during his “Hello Internet” podcast. Before the term existed the practice of re-uploading content without authorization was called “infringement”, but as Haran said, it was considered a very soft word for this practice.

Right now many people and companies continue to freeboot, impacting the economy of Youtube channels and creators. But how is this happening exactly? Remember those ads showing when you start watching a video on Youtube? Well this is part of the revenue sharing strategy from Youtube, in which the site shares a percentage of money given by companies for advertisement to the creator of the video where the ads are being shown. Believe it or not, there are people that make a living in Youtube, but they need a large number of views to make a real income from their videos. If someone posts and shares a freebooted video, the views from the freebooted video are not counted toward the number of views that are profitable to the creators. In other words, each time a freebooted video is watched, the creator of such video loses the opportunity to make a profit.

Youtube video bloggers (Vloggers) around the world have started the conversations about how this dishonest practice affects their industry, pointing in particular the lack of protection they have in some social networks and sites. Specifically, Facebook has become one of the most criticized sites by the vloggers, given that the massive number of Facebook users represents the vlogger’s main opportunity loss.

Hank Green, American entrepreneur, blogger, and vlogger, famous for his YouTube channel “Vlog Brothers”, published a blog post where he accused Facebook of cheating, lying, and downright stealing video content. Facebook responded to this accusation arguing that they are committed to help people and organizations protect their intellectual property rights, but the company has not made any substantial changes to their video management platform to prevent freebooting.

What can you do to prevent it?

If you want to promote an artist, a creator, or a vlogger; you need to provide the URL to the source material allowing users to directly access to the original media site. You can also help by reporting those videos that are being freebooted on social media and other sources. These solutions are free and take only a few clicks. It comes back to the average user to make the internet a better place.