The big problem with 'Freebooting'

Freebooting has come to the forefront in recent months. As video usage increases, particularly on Facebook, there have been increasing concern around internet theft and the lack of creative attribution. So much so that a video criticising the Reddit community managed to be one of the top rated posts on the site itself this week.

So, what is freebooting and why does it matter?

What is freebooting?

Freebooting is the act of downloading copyrighted content, such as a video, and re-uploading it from your channel. This often takes the form of downloads from YouTube and uploading to Facebook video, but can also be images, or GIF excerpts of videos. Essentially, freebooting is any creative content being shared without the knowledge or attribution given to the original owner.

And it's getting pretty bad. According to Business Insider:

In his essay, Green highlights in particular a recent report from the ad agency Ogilvy and Tubular Labs that found that 725 of the 1,000 most popular Facebook videos in the first quarter were re-uploads of content from other sources. The most viewed such video racked up 72 million views, while the 725 re-uploaded videos combined hit a grand total of 17 billion views.

That's right, almost three quarters of popular videos on Facebook are uploaded without consent from the creator. That's staggering. 

Why is it a problem?

The issues with freebooting are three-fold. Firstly, credit. In vast majority of cases there is no source or attribution provided - despite every opportunity for one to be given. For many Facebook pages they would prefer their community wasn't directed elsewhere, and was seen as the creator.

Secondly, many of these creators, particularly on YouTube, rely on advertising (such as pre-roll adverts) to make a living. When the content is taken and uploaded elsewhere they are in theory losing out on a large chunk of money.

And lastly - Facebook and pages like LadBible make huge amounts of money from this sort of engaging content. That's perhaps the most ethically challenging aspect of freebooting. It enables people to make vast sums of money despite having simply stolen the content. 

How can it be solved?

Not all creators mind their content being used elsewhere. In theory, it's actually quite flattering and helps their content reach new audiences. Done right, it can help these creators grow their fan base. Everybody wins! So sometimes the best solution is just to add a link or text credit.

The stricter solution is automated IP software - something that Facebook is already looking at. This would identify copied content and remove. There are a few issues with this approach though. Firstly, it's extremely difficult to get right or accurate. Quite often you might end up putting users and creators off through over-strict automation. Secondly, it usually can take time to recognise this content. There's little point in removing a video 48 hours after posting, as by this point it will have received the bulk of its engagement. And lastly, most importantly, platforms like Facebook don't have much of an incentive to do this quickly... as mentioned already, they make money by having engaging content on the platform.

Either way, as the conversation grows more brands and being extra careful about crediting content. If you are planning on using someone else's creation at least have the decency to acknowledge it - otherwise you might have a bit of an uprising on your hands.

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This post was inspired by an article from Business Insider