Content Marketing Blog

Facebook’s ‘stolen’ video views row highlights legal risk for content marketers

A popular YouTube video accusing Facebook of “stealing billions of views” from creators of original video content has some useful lessons for content marketers.

Kurzgesagt, a German design studio, claims Facebook is failing to do enough to protect the rights of content creators and that its algorithms favour stolen content.

At the heart of Kurzgesagt’s case is the practise of “freebooting” where Facebook users take a video they don’t own and upload it to Facebook’s native video player.

Native video performs better is Facebook search and is more likely to show up on your Newsfeed. This can often mean that while a video gets a huge number of views and likes, there is no referral traffic, social love or advertising dollars for the person who originally made it. Instead, only the Facebook user who stole it and Facebook itself benefit.

“Facebook have built their video empire on stolen content and disregard for original content creators,” Kurzgesagt said in its YouTube post. “This is absolutely unacceptable for a corporation worth billions of dollars.”

Kurzgesagt claims that during the first quarter of this year, 725 of the 1,000 most popular videos on Facebook were stolen from YouTube. This amounted to 17 billion views.

Why this matters to content marketers

The important lesson here for content marketers is that there is a massive difference between sharing content on Facebook and using someone else’s content to create your own posts.

If you take video, for example, sharing a link to a relevant, interesting clip on your company’s Facebook page points your audience back to the original creator and allows them to benefit as more people engage with their content.

But uploading that video to Facebook’s native video player and posting it, even if you acknowledge the original source, is likely to be a copyright infringement and would mean any social juice goes to you. While that might sound good, you’re on very shaky moral and legal ground, even if Facebook is sometimes slow to react.

In fact, one of Kurzgesagt’s biggest gripes is that as well as promoting stolen content by favouring native video over YouTube links, Facebook’s response when content creators flag a violation is often ineffective. It claims stolen videos will already have had 99 per cent of the all the views they will ever receive by the time Facebook takes them down.

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But even if Facebook takes no action over your copyright-infringing posts, there is always the chance the original creator will take action against you directly.

The bigger risk for content marketers is that you start to apply the same tactics to other areas of their content strategy. Whether it’s downloading copyright photos from a Google Images search or pasting someone else’s infographic into one of your blog posts instead of embedding it, there are lots of potential legal beartraps you need to watch out for.

Infringing copyright is not only potentially expensive, it is also very bad for your reputation, especially if you are trying to position your brand as a source of authoritative, high-quality content in your niche.

Facebook is not all bad for content creators

Facebook does have some good news for content creators. The Kurzgesagt story came in the same week as the company announced Notify, a new service that will send push notifications to smartphone users alerting them to new third party content they might like.

Notify is part of Facebook’s wider strategy of partnering up with established news providers and other content creators to improve the quality, relevance and presentation of what its users see when they log on to the world’s most popular social network.

Brands participating in Notify include The New York Times, The History Channel, The Huffington Post and GQ. Users can decide which sources they see updates from with different “stations” offering everything from the weather forecast and the latest sports results to breaking local and international news.

“You’ll receive notifications, delivered right to your lock screen, and a quick glance will keep you connected to the things that you care about throughout the day,” Facebook said in its official blog post unveiling Notify. “If you want to see more, just swipe or tap through any Notify notification to open the link in the app’s browser where you can read the full article, watch the video, or view the site.”

Earlier this year, Facebook launched Instant Articles, which saw its publisher partners provide content exclusively within the Facebook environment.

The aim was to allow Facebook to extend its consistent user experience and quicker load times to third party content, while giving its partners the chance to share advertising revenue.
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