YouTube hasn't had it easy in the copyright department as of late. In February 2016, a few well-known creators posted videos about their struggles with rights holders issuing takedown claims against their content. These creators claimed their videos were covered under fair use terms, and that YouTube's video claiming and copyright policies are so biased towards claimants that some of these creators no longer feel safe posting videos.
This is not a new argument. YouTube's ContentID system, which compares videos to references like music and movies, has never been perfect. The system has drawn its fair share of criticism in the past, the most recent round occurring in 2013. Now, with this new batch of complaints against YouTube's video claiming policy, Google's online video site is promising to make improvements. CEO Susan Wojcicki herself took to Twitter to thank the YouTube community for bringing the issue to her company's attention.
To some, YouTube's struggles with maintaining fair copyright practices might not seem like that big of a deal. After all, don't all digital video sites have to deal with things like intellectual property concerns, takedown notices, DMCA claims, and the like? You would think. But up until a few months ago, Facebook was simply floating by without really addressing any of those types of problems on its own site.
Facebook grew into an online video powerhouse in what could be considered an incredibly short amount of time. The social networking site was pulling in approximately one billion video views per day in June 2014. By April 2015, Facebook claimed to pull in roughly four billion video views a day. Only seven months later in November, the social media platform had doubled that number and reached eight billion video views a day. As of January 2016, Facebook hadn't confirmed whether or not its daily video views had increased, but it's safe to assume they have to some degree.
While at first glance these massive viewership numbers might seem impressive, there's a dark secret hiding behind them. For many months, Facebook seemed more intent on building its video strategy than it did actually protecting the video content (and the creators behind it) appearing on its platform. This lack of attention to copyright issues was brought to light as early as June 2015, when Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos called out Facebook in a Twitter rant, questioning the legitimacy of the site's video growth at the expense of content pirated from creators without proper attribution.
A month later, Hank Green, who is arguably one of the most respected and influential personalities in the entire online video industry (he co-founded VidCon, after all), took to the blogging site Medium to accuse Facebook of cheating its way into the online video realm. Like Strompolos, Green emphasized the "freebooting" (illegally-uploaded content) issue on Facebook, which in Q1 2015 reportedly saw 725 of its top 1000 videos stolen from their original creators.
Eventually, Facebook decided to address internet users' concerns about the way it was (or wasn't) dealing with pirated content. In late August 2015, the social networking site teamed up with brands like Fullscreen, video ID technology company ZEFR, and viral video licensing company Jukin Media to test its new video-matching and content management tech. At last, Facebook seemed to be caring about video copyright issues, but the move arguably came much later than it should have.
And this is why, despite all YouTube's problems with dealing with copyright claims, Google's online video site still has the upper-hand over Facebook in terms of working to provide a reasonably fair, safe place for video creators to host their work. Sure, YouTube's been around much longer than Facebook as a video hosting platform so it has more experience in dealing with these matters. And of course, the site still has some kinks to work through, but overall, YouTube's timely response to copyright complaints says a lot about its dedication to making things better for creators.
On the flipside, it took Facebook months to even acknowledge there was a freebooting issue on its site. Every time I hear someone say they love what Facebook video does for their brand, I can't help but cringe. Sure, that content might be reaching more eyes thanks to Facebook's built-in social platform, but what is that same brand to do if it finds someone has stolen its videos and re-posted to other pages? What is that brand supposed to do when those pirates rake in views which aren't rightfully theirs?
At this point, Facebook has a lot of catching up to do in terms of copyright policies compared to YouTube. The Zuckerberg-founded site is getting there, and it's promised to start taking freebooting more seriously. But Facebook is going to have to prove to video creators and brands that it's just as dedicated to protecting the rightful and legitimate content hosted on its platform as YouTube has been as of late if the social networking site wants to avoid anymore backlash (and possible legal issues, as well).
As with many things in life, we'll just have to see if Facebook makes good on its word to crack down on freebooting and piracy. If it does, then brands that use video marketing as part of their overall content marketing strategies won't have to worry quite as much about the possibility of their clips being re-used illegally and not taken down in a timely manner. And I won't have to keep cringing every time someone says Facebook is better than YouTube.