Facebook finally joins YouTube in offering anti-piracy content detection tools
Facebook has been promising for some time to introduce tools that would allow rights holders to automatically detect and remove pirated content from its pages.
The company has endured a lot of bad publicity around the freebooting of viral YouTube videos on its pages, but Facebook’s also long been a place where pirated movies and music found a cozy habitat. That is–until now. I’ve recently begun to utilize this tool to manage Facebook DMCA takedowns and wanted to share my first impressions, but first a bit of background.
First of all, I’m thrilled that Facebook, with all its resources, has finally begun to take copyright infringement seriously. In introducing the new tool last month the Facebook development team explained why the company had finally stepped up:
Video has become an important part of the Facebook experience for people around the world, due in large part to the amazing creativity we’re seeing from all kinds of video publishers.
To provide the best experience for everyone who watches, creates and shares videos on Facebook, we work with our community to understand which tools they want us to build. Based on this feedback, on top of the measures we already have in place, we’ve been building new video matching technology to further help rights owners protect the content they own.
Signing up is easy and the interface straightforward and simple to use
I found signing up for the rights manager tool to be relatively straightforward. You must have a page to link the rights manager to and I initially applied for, and was accepted into the program, by using our film’s Facebook page. Once I received approval I was able to upload a reference copy of our film (and trailer) to the Facebook rights manager dashboard. A trailer I’d uploaded to our page previously was also listed. From there, Facebook’s automated digital matching tools went to work.
According to Facebook the Rights Manager tools will allow publishers to:
- Easily upload and maintain a reference library of the video content they want to monitor and protect. Publishers can upload content libraries and publish live video as references for Rights Manager to check against, including videos they are not sharing publicly on Facebook. Rights Manager then monitors for potential infringement of that content across Facebook.
- Create rules about how individual videos may be used. Publishers can set specific match rules to either allow or report copies of their videos based on criteria of their choosing—for example, how much content has been reused, where the matching video is located or how many views the matching video has received.
- Identify new matches against protected content. Rights Manager’s dashboard surfaces any new matches against a publisher’s uploaded reference files and live video. On the dashboard, publishers can filter matches by time, date or view count, and then either report potential copyright infringement or allow the matching content to remain published.
- Whitelist specific Pages or profiles to allow them to use their copyrighted content. Publishers can specify Pages or profiles that have permission to publish their protected content without being monitored for potential infringement.
- Protect their reference library at scale with the new Rights Manager API. We’re rolling out an API for Rights Manager to improve bulk uploading for publishers and to allow media management companies to support partners in managing, monitoring and protecting their content across Facebook. You can find out more about the Rights Manager API here.
Facebook’s tech support is responsive and proactive in working to improve the system
I do believe this type of fingerprinting technology will be an increasingly crucial tool as we move forward in the battle against online piracy on sites like Facebook, but as with any new offering, there are glitches.
The good news is that so far, Facebook’s technical support team is quite responsive and the company seems to be making a concerted effort to sort through issues and improve the tool’s operation. Any time you remove an item from the dashboard a window pops up soliciting feedback. I’ve also had a fair amount of helpful email correspondence with the support team and have found Facebook’s prompt and open response to my queries offers a welcome contrast the less-than-stellar support offered by a (popular) site that shall remain nameless.
As with any new tech, there are some glitches
I also set up a Rights Manager account for an independent film distributor I work for and in the process of uploading dozens of reference files have found the “matching” to be rather hit and miss. At this point Rights Manager seems to do a great job detecting the company’s opening logo (and music) but little else. What makes it even stranger is that the tool detects the distributors opening logo and music and then matches it to the wrong reference file. Obviously ALL the titles I’ve been uploading share the same opening sequence from the distributor but when it comes time to actually issue the takedown to remove the infringing (matched) content, it auto-populates the form with the film’s title, which in these instances is the wrong one.
I’ve also come across situations where a single film title is simultaneously listed has having matched multiple reference files to different titles, but NEVER the actual reference file for that particular film. Consequently, rather than send a DMCA notice with incorrect information, which would be illegal, I have chosen to wait for Facebook to sort out this particular glitch. This is where their responsive tech support will, hopefully, come in handy.
I’ve also found that there’s a lot of uploaded content that doesn’t really match anything. Perhaps a song is playing in the background that matches the film’s soundtrack, but it’s difficult to tell? At this point the system’s matching capabilities clearly need to be dialed in order to better weed out innocent content.
As it stands, I have been manually removing this erroneous matches from the dashboard, but that takes precious time, and efficiency is one reason this system was developed in the first place. For larger entities there are API tools, but for independent, smaller entities, it seems that utilizing the dashboard will be best route.
Some of the hiccups I’ve encountered thus far are likely simple bugs in the system, while others may well be user error. Fortunately, Facebook has created tools that allow publishers/creators to fine tune the matches based on length of time, territory and content type.
I plan to spend some time working through the reference files I’ve uploaded to create appropriate match rules in the hope that it will result in fewer false positives.
Will creators be able to make money from their videos and music?
There’s also the question of monetization. Will rights holders be able to earn money from copies of their work uploaded to Facebook? It’s likely at some point in the future, but first Facebook will need to fine-tune Rights Manager. They can’t afford to complicate a system that’s still for all practical purposes in beta mode.
Overall I’m pleased with Facebook’s effort. Yes, it’s overdue and yes, it’s not (yet) perfect but it is a huge step in the right direction and hopefully can serve as a model for other social media and video sites across the web looking to do a better job thwarting piracy.
As I’ve written previously, I firmly believe UGC sites of a certain size (like Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, et al) should be required to offer this type of tech in order to qualify for safe harbor. Of course that assumes the creaky old DMCA will be revised and the odds of that actually happening any time soon….well, I’ll leave that discussion for another day. In the meantime, I’m going to get busy on Facebook and upload some more reference files. So far I’ll give the new system a thumbs up!