'Freebooting' gets the boot: Will Facebook eliminate pirated videos?

Facebook is reworking its system to remove the countless 'freebooting' (copyright-infringing) videos that users upload every day. Will it be enough?

Rick Wilking/Reuters/File
Facebook is introducing new tools to stop videos from being uploaded to its site without permission from content creators.

Facebook has finally answered the calls of video publishers to fight pirated content.

In a more assertive attempt to eradicate "freebooting" – a process of reposting videos from elsewhere on the web without permission – Facebook said last week it will improve Audible Magic, its current audio fingerprinting software that helps identify unauthorized videos before they’re uploaded to the site, and develop new software as well.

"We can be doing a better job," acknowledged the company in a blog post.

Facebook is building video-matching technology that would allow creators to identify if and when a user steals their content, reported The Christian Science Monitor's Jeff Ward-Bailey. The setup, similar to YouTube’s Content ID system, is currently being tested by a group of media partners, reports Mashable.

Since its video platform has taken off in the last year – delivering up to 4 billion views a day – Facebook has faced public outcry over a lack of oversight on pirated content. At best, the company is too laissez faire, say critics. At worst, Facebook is artificially inflating its reach via "cheating, lies, and theft," says YouTube video creator Hank Green.

Unsurprisingly, much of Facebook's strength as a video host comes in its shareability. Almost 73 percent of the site's most popular videos were posted without the original creators’ permission, according to a much-cited study by the marketing firm Ogilvy.

"That’s a problem for content creators, who can’t make money off their stuff if it’s been stolen and uploaded. But it’s also a problem for Facebook, which will need those creators if it wants to host videos viewers actually want to watch," reported WIRED. "Advertisers, after all, want to be where the viewers are."

In addition to enhancing its piracy recognition tools, Facebook has also vowed to target users whose IP addresses identify them as "repeat infringers," though it’s not clear how fast it would be able to keep up with them.

George Strompolos, who founded the media company Fullscreen and had repeatedly criticized Facebook for its handling of video, says he is optimistic about the new system.

"This is no small task, but it can be done, and we're encouraged by Facebook's early progress," he said.

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