Facebook piracy has been an ongoing problem. Is it finally ready to face the music?




Facebook has long turned a blind eye to profiting from piracy on its pages.  Has the worm finally turned?

This past week Facebook reached a milestone when, according to founder Mark Zuckerberg, more than one billion users logged on to the social media site in a single day.  Part of that growth has come from video views (4 billion per day) and so this week Facebook also announced it would (finally) tackle the online piracy that has long plagued the site.

In recent months, as a result of its increased focus on encouraging video uploads, the social media giant has faced growing criticism that it allows “freebooters” to rip-off (monetized) YouTube videos and repost them on Facebook, thereby cannibalizing creators’ profits.  According to Time’s 

Online video creators, who make money by selling advertising against their content, are increasingly frustrated with the problem. In June, George Strompolos, CEO of the multichannel network Fullscreen, said on Twitter that pirated versions of Fullscreen creators’ videos were racking up more than 50 million views on Facebook. This month, Hank Green, longtime YouTube vlogger and co-founder of the online video conference VidCon, penned a diatribe against Facebook’s video policies, arguing that the social network’s preference for Facebook-native videos in its News Feed algorithm encourages theft of creators’ YouTube videos. –

Of course the same thing has happened to filmmakers for what seems like forever, but it now appears complaints (and users) have reached critical mass so Facebook may finally have to confront the rampant copyright abuse that flourishes on its pages.

Given that Facebook has its sights set on competing with YouTube as the go-to (monetized) video platform–in order to effectively compete–it seems Facebook’s days of skipping around copyright compliance may have come to an end.  Following in YouTube’s  Content ID footsteps, Facebook will begin to rollout its own content fingerprinting technology.   According to Recode two of Facebook piracy’s loudest critics will be the first in line to test the technology:

Now Facebook says Jukin and Fullscreen are two of its initial launch partners for the new technology, along with Zefr, a service company that helps content owners track their clips on YouTube. Facebook says it is also working with major media companies on the effort, but won’t identify them.

original image-iStock
original image-iStock

Despite this news, Facebook still has a long way to go.  Not only does it need to implement and effective content matching technology (and user interface), but it also has to figure out how to split up ad profits.  If history is any indication, monetization income is likely to favor Facebook rather than creators.

As with YouTube, video monetization also opens the door to scammers and may in fact worsen the problem of bootleg uploads.  YouTube, despite its Content ID system, is a tangled mess.  Scammers routinely upload stolen and/or dummy content and monetize it.  Perhaps Facebook will do a better job and learn from YouTube’s bad example, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Has the Ostrich finally (been forced) to pull its head out of the sand?

Meanwhile Facebook, like Google, still provides fertile ground for online pirates to share their stolen goods and it’s not limited to video uploads.  Like their legit counterparts, it seems every online pirate website also has its own Facebook page to share illegal links and drive traffic and ad dollars to their sites.  In typical fashion, Facebook also makes money from these pirate pages by placing advertising on them.  Per usual, it’s the creators who lose.

The DMCA’s safe harbor provisions have allowed this Wild West to flourish.  Some call it “innovation,” but for creators, it’s just plain theft.  Facebook has profited from piracy for a long time.  Its proposed actions against piracy are long overdue.