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In its quest to displace YouTube, Facebook cracks down on video piracy

Facebook announced last week that it will introduce new technology and reporting tools to crack down on videos uploaded to its site without creators' permission. Top content creators have been critical of what they see as Facebook's lax attitude toward video piracy.

Valentin Flaurad/Reuters/File
Facebook is introducing new tools to stop videos from being uploaded to its site without permission from content creators. Here, the Facebook mobile application is seen in a photo illustration taken on May 16, 2012.

Earlier this month, YouTube star Hank Green, co-creator of the highly popular Vlogbrothers channel, called out Facebook for the way it handles video.

In a blog post titled “Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video,” Mr. Green pointed out that almost three-quarters of the most popular Facebook videos in 2015 so far have been stolen from other sites and re-uploaded without permission from the creators.

“What is Facebook doing about it?,” Green asks. “They’ll take the video down a couple days after you let them know. Y’know, once it’s received 99.9% of the views it will ever receive.”

Last week, Facebook rolled out new tools and technology to crack down on video piracy – also known as “freebooting” – on its site. Facebook was already using a system called Audible Magic to fingerprint videos based on their audio, and to prevent unauthorized videos from being uploaded to the site. But that technology didn’t always work perfectly, so in addition to enhancing the way it works on Facebook, the company is also building its own special video-matching technology to let creators keep third parties from uploading their content without permission.

Content owners will also have access to better reporting tools to let Facebook know if someone has uploaded one of their videos without permission.

“We’re making improvements to our existing procedures so that infringing content can be reported and removed more efficiently, and to keep repeat infringers off our service,” the company says in a blog post. Users who repeatedly upload others’ content without permission could be blocked from posting videos and photos to Facebook altogether, The Wall Street Journal’s Mike Shields reports.

Facebook says it will beta-test the new tools with a small group of content creators, including the multichannel video company Fullscreen, whose chief executive officer George Strompolos has been critical of video piracy on Facebook. Facebook hopes to displace YouTube as the Internet’s central video hub, and while freebooted content may bump up the total number of Facebook video views, the company risks alienating content creators who don’t receive any kind of compensation when their videos are reposted by a third party.

“Facebook is an interesting, emerging platform for us,” Green writes in his blog post on video freebooting. “I’m excited about the potential future of Facebook as a video platform.”

On YouTube, content creators such as Vlogbrothers receive compensation from advertisers based on the number of views a video receives. But if a video is taken from YouTube and reposted on Facebook by a third party, and then goes viral on the social network, those creators don’t receive any kind of compensation for all the views.

Facebook now generates more than four billion video streams each day, but hasn’t yet introduced a way for content creators to make money off hosted videos. Facebook’s blog post offers the faintest hint that this system may eventually change. “In the long-term, our goal is to provide a comprehensive video management system that fits the needs of our partners,” it concludes. “This will take time, but we’re working on it, and we’re committed.”

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