How Facebook Encourages Video Piracy

Facebook LogoMusician turned actor Tyrese Gibson has found himself at the center of an Internet controversy.

A recent article on The Verge asked its readers not to share his posts on Facebook because, “Tyrese Gibson is lifting the Internet’s most viral videos for fame and fortune.” That sentiment has since been echoed by others, as concerns bout how the star achieved his social media success are growing.

The allegation is very straightforward. According to the Who Steals What Tumblr, Tyrese, along with countless other Facebook users, have been taking popular videos from YouTube (and other video sharing sites) and uploading them directly to Facebook, where they often get millions of views.

You can see a sample of this from Gibson’s page, where hepulled a video from Saturday Night Live’s YouTube channel and uploaded it on Facebook directly.

But Gibson is far from alone in this. As Who Steals What says, many others are doing the same including other celebrities, websites and even TV stations.

But why is there this epidemic of video theft on Facebook? In the age of embeds and easily-shared content, why would anyone even bother reuploading a video to Facebook? The answer is that Facebook is encouraging and rewarding users who upload videos to their platform and, in doing so, are also rewarding copyright infringement.

Facebook Vs. YouTube

youtubevsfacebook-imageFacebook has become an increasingly important part of the social media strategy for almost everyone in business online, from small companies to huge corporations. However, Facebook has been reducing reach of pages and non-paid commercial posts as a means of trying to push users to pay for promoted posts and other advertising.

But while Facebook is definitely interested in advertising dollars, it’s also interested in having as much content as possible hosted on its site. After all, users who link outside of Facebook encourage others to spend less time on the site and limits Facebook’s ability to monetize the content that’s being shared on it.

To encourage this, Facebook has made changes to the way it displays video to strongly encourage users to upload to it rather than post links to YouTube. Those changes are obvious when you look at a side-by-side comparison video ads (featuring native Facebook content) to YouTube links.

It’s clear that YouTube gives much more space and visual appeal to videos hosted on its servers rather than links to YouTube, even though YouTube embeds make it possible to recreate the effect on both.

The goal of this was to encourage marketers to upload their videos to Facebook directly rather than or in addition to YouTube. However, the problem is that many of the most popular videos shared by marketers on Facebook are not original works, but interesting or popular clips found on other sites.

This strategy incentivizes those who don’t merely link to those videos, but rather, those who download them and reupload them to Facebook’s platform, usually without attribution or permission.

In short, this rewards those who infringe copyright and plagiarize over those who try to legitimate link to content. As much as Facebook says they discourage this kind of behavior, those who infringe are given more video plays, more shares, more likes and more interactions overall.

Those who share content in a more symbiotic way are having a very tough time competing.

Fixing the Problem

Facebook Poke LogoFacbeook, with its size and audience, has a tremendous amount of clout over how its users behave. Much like Google with webmasters, when Facebook makes a change to its algorithm, its members are going to adjust their behavior to gain whatever edge they can.

Sometimes this power can be used for good. In recent weeks Google has been encouraging sites to ensure they are mobile-friendly or risk being demoted in search rankings. As a result, countless sites have optimized and honed their sites to work on mobile devices.

Facebook’s move, however, is much more selfis