I came across an article on Adweek that talked about something I have certainly seen several times but wasn’t aware there was actually a term created for it. It’s called ‘freebooting’ and it happens quite a bit these days with viral videos. In essence, someone downloads your video and they re-post it to their Facebook page, YouTube channel or any other social platform without permission and usually without proper credit to the creator. It might not sound like much, but with users who have their own channels being paid by the view for the traffic they generate it can add up, especially for those who main job is creating these videos. Last year Facebook received much of the criticism for not combating the stealing of original content and although they acknowledge they are working on software to solve the issue, it has not yet been rolled out for its users. YouTube deletes users who are caught freebooting a third time but at the moment, Facebook has no punishment system in place. Much of the outrage came from the creators of these videos who use YouTube and Facebook to monetize their output and get paid per view. Once their videos essentially get stolen and linked to other platforms, they stand to lose anywhere from a thousand up to several million views which is costly. They also have to use their own time and resources tracking down the freebooters so they can get the videos taken down which adds up. While reading this story, I couldn’t help but compare this situation to that of the music industry once MP3s came along.
The concept of freebooting more or less mirrors what musicians and their labels have been through since the rise of Napster and MP3s has changed the way we purchase and listen to music. Gone are the days of CDs and cassettes (although vinyl has seen an impressive resurgence thanks to Urban Outfitters) and now we either buy albums online, pay subscription fees to streaming services or deal with limited commercial interruptions and stream it for free. I’m sure there are still ways to illegally download music much like the bit torrent days but I haven’t done that in a while and don’t plan on taking the risks I once did as a college student doing something illegal. Whereas once the artists made money from album sales, they are now making their money earning fractions of a cent for each song a user streams. Eventually it might add up to a nice paycheck but more often than not the artist is giving away their original, creative content for free. There is something about that I don’t agree with, but I also don’t mind paying $12 a month for Spotify and listening to virtually any album I want. So what happens next and how can they find a way to continue to make money off their content since they can’t turn to touring like most bands have and will continue to make most of their money off of?
I would have to imagine a system could be created to place a unique tag of some sort embedded in these videos where a software test could be run to identify each place they have been posted that is not the original one. But then I thought, why would YouTube work with Facebook to identify a freebooted video garnering millions of views outside of the original posting when it means that is money not coming out of their pocket to pay the creator of the video? They can just leave that to Facebook to foot the bill, what do they care, the only person losing out is the person who uploaded the video. That’s how the cynic in me looks at freebooting, and I’m sure it’s not too far from the truth. Eventually someone will get rich off of a software that codes these videos and gives them a unique ‘IP address’ so that it can be taken down, but at the moment users will just have to grin and bear it much like musicians have done and continue to do for stolen content.