Internet access lowered the barriers to entry for video content creators who otherwise would have a hard time getting their work out to audiences. With sites like YouTube, Vine and Facebook, a few clicks means a video upload that can go viral in a matter of hours. The ease of sharing, however, comes with an equal amount of ease for taking the work of others.

On Facebook, there’s a practice known as “freebooting,” where one user downloads copyrighted content from another site, like YouTube, and uploads it onto the social media site’s video player. If this person is a celebrity or just simply more famous than the actual content creator, when the video does go viral, they can use it to promote themselves or their products. Freebooting is so widespread a recent study by Ogilvy and Tubular Labs found that out of the 1,000 most popular videos on Facebook during the first quarter of 2015, more than two-thirds of them were freebooted. Freebooting also presents another really huge problem, if Facebook ever intends to add “pre-roll ads” to the videos – the ads you have to sit through before the video you want to watch plays – because the person who uploads the video has the potential to get paid lots of money from clicks, without actually being the copyright owner. Content creators have been complaining about freebooting for a while now, and Facebook is now adding new resource to help them better control where their videos end up.

Called Rights Manager, the tool will let copyright owners upload their video files and essentially create a library of the content they want to monitor. The files will be given a unique ID to enable tracking. Rights Manager will search for video matches on and off Facebook. The owner can report unauthorized matches and manage how the video is used. Rights Manager will also help TV networks that air live content, like concerts and sports, stop unlawful re-airings on Facebook’s video player.

It’s very similar to YouTube’s Content ID, which checks uploaded videos against the site’s entire database to ensure that they are not stolen materials. YouTube also goes the extra mile in letting rights holders decide if they want illegal uploads removed or if they would like to keep them up and receive revenue from ad clicks.

Facebook currently only uses the notice-and-takedown procedure under Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to fight copyright infringement. Under this procedure, a copyright holder who believes that their copyrighted material is being infringed, submits a claim to a website asserting their rights, and the site is under legal obligation to take down infringing material to avoid contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. The failing of the DMCA, though, is that it’s approaching twenty years old and hasn’t evolved with the changes on the internet; the law could not have anticipated how quickly content can spread, be uploaded to different sites, and how difficult it is for creators to chase down every illegal display of their work.

Last December, the Library of Congress issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comments on the impact and effectiveness of Section 512, and received more than 90,000 comments by April 1st, which included one from a group of artists in the music industry who pointed out the problem of content creators having to “police the entire Internet for instances of theft, placing an undue burden on these artists and unfairly favoring technology companies and rogue pirate sites.”

For more information on protecting your copyrighted materials and the DMCA, please contact our firm.