Facebook Piracy: Fullscreen CEO Protests ‘Stolen’ Videos in Tweet Tirade

Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos
Courtesy of Fullscreen

Facebook has experienced explosive growth in video views over the past year — but a portion of that is coming from pirated content originally posted to YouTube, according to critics.

The latest to complain that the social-media giant isn’t doing enough to reduce the flow of videos being illegally re-posted to Facebook: George Strompolos, CEO of Fullscreen, a major YouTube multichannel network. On Wednesday, the exec unleashed a series of tweets in which he claimed his company’s content is being “stolen” by Facebook users.

“I now regularly see our videos with 50MM+ view counts that are stolen by individuals on FB… sometimes by other media cos,” he claimed.

Facebook — which says it averaged 4 billion daily video views in the first quarter of 2015 — needs to add piracy-identification and advertising capabilities to rectify the problem, according to Strompolos. By comparison, YouTube offers Content ID, a system that flags copyrighted material and lets rightsholders opt to either take it down or serve ads against it, as well as monetization for video.

Facebook does provide a process for complaints about copyrighted content on the service, in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But Strompolos said it costs Fullscreen a lot to hunt those down one by one. “I’m a huge DMCA proponent, but this has to improve fast,” Strompolos said. Fullscreen was acquired last year by Otter Media, the Internet-video joint venture of Chernin Group and AT&T.

He added, “Frankly I’m shocked that a rights holder with deep pockets has not sued (Facebook) yet… Remember that YT (YouTube) was sued by Viacom for over $1BN for this.”

Asked for comment, a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement: “We take intellectual property rights very seriously… We have a number of measures in place to address potential infringements on our service.”

Facebook currently uses content-recognition technology from Audible Magic “to help prevent unauthorized video content,” she added. In addition, the social service suspends accounts of users with repeated intellectual-property violations when appropriate.

But the problem of copyrighted videos cropping up en masse on Facebook isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, the YouTube community has even come up with a term for illicitly re-posted videos on Facebook: “freebooting.”

“Facebook is complicit in the piracy of your favorite YouTube content,” J.D. Waldvogel, social-media coordinator for digital-video producer SourceFed, wrote in a blog post in January. SourceFed, founded by YouTube creator Phil DeFranco, is owned by Discovery Communications.

Facebook users are “freebooting” content to generate views for their page or claim it as their own, Waldvogel wrote. But that cheats YouTube creators out of revenue they would have earned on the Google-owned site. “(P)eople can, theoretically, re-upload to Facebook and take full credit for the content. This needs to stop,” he said.

Later this summer, Facebook will share more details later about how it’s fighting copyright infringement, according to the company. “As video continues to grow on Facebook, we’re actively exploring further solutions to help IP owners identify and manage potential infringing content, tailored for our unique platform and ecosystem,” the Facebook rep said.

Strompolos, for his part, is bullish on Facebook’s prospects as a huge video outlet — but he said the social giant must provide better tools for content owners. “I think FB video can truly eclipse YT over time with search, widespread embeds, a dedicated app, monetization and content ID,” Strompolos tweeted.

According to Google, YouTube has invested more than $60 million dollars into Content ID. The system, launched in 2007, has generated more than $1 billion for some 5,000 content owners participating in the program, including U.S. network broadcasters, movie studios and record labels. More than 300 million videos have been claimed using Content ID, and Content ID now accounts for more than one-third of YouTube’s monetizable views, according to Google.