Freebooting: what it is and how to protect yourself online

In the era of social media and multimedia sharing, knowing the phenomenon of freebooting represents the first step towards protecting one’s digital content. Imagine publishing your content online, created after hours and hours of study and effort. A user “downloads” your work, eliminates the elements that lead back to you, and re-uploads it to his social page, taking most of the credit.

Do you know what happened? You have just been the victim of a freebooter, a “looter” of multimedia content on the web. But now let’s go deeper into this sad practice and better understand what freebooting is and how to protect yourself online. If you want to become a content creator, discover the Web Content Editor course by Digital Coach®!

Freebooting: what it is and how it works

The best definition of freebooting can be found in Urban Dictionary, a vocabulary of slang terms much frequented by internet users, and we can summarize it as follows:

“the act of publishing other people’s online content on one’s own web space, without the permission of the creator of the content and for the benefit of one’s own personal gain”.

The term freebooting appears for the first time in a text of English literature from the end of the 19th century, referring to the practice of maritime piracy in Northern Europe. It is no coincidence, in fact, that this word has been dusted off to define the malpractice of the theft of multimedia works online.

Youtuber VS Freebooter

Having therefore ascertained that it is not a neologism, the paternity of the modern use of the word must in any case be attributed to Brady Haran, an Australian director known for his documentaries and his YouTube channels. But why a YouTuber? The answer is simple: the videos we find on YouTube are the multimedia content most subject to freebooting.

YouTube channel owners cannot sleep peacefully without taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves from online theft. Indeed, YouTubers are undoubtedly the most looted content creators on the web! Continue reading the article and you will discover that there are ways to protect yourself online.

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YouTubeVS Facebook

There is therefore a strong connection between the freebooting phenomenon and YouTube, but a third actor is added to these two: Facebook. A study by Ogilvy and Tubular Labs yielded interesting reports according to which, in the first quarter of 2015, of the 1,000 most popular videos on Facebook, as many as 725 were-upload of “taken” videos from other platforms.

How many views did these videos get on FB? The beauty of 17 billion. All views are subtracted from the real owners of the contents, often unaware of what happened until a possible report by some user.

Another YouTuber, Destin Sandlin, manager of the “Smarter Every Day” channel, also brought all this to light: one of his videos was taken from his Youtube channel and uploaded “natively” to Facebook, where it received many more views than to his channel and without any reference to the author.

This has become a case in point as the freebooter responsible was not a small user chasing likes, but a large media company.

Freebooting and re-uploading videos to Facebook

What does “natively upload a video to Facebook” mean? The natural way in which we publish a video on Facebook is through the “Share” button from YouTube. Once this is done, on Mark Zuckerberg’s platform we will find the original video and, by clicking on the post, we will open the video by landing on the author’s channel.

Practically Facebook embeds the YouTube video via a link, we will thus see the advertising at the beginning of the video, which is the author’s way of “monetizing” the work done, YouTube will count a “view” after about 30 seconds of viewing the content and the author will get the right recognition.

freebooting in copyright

However, Facebook is able to host content uploaded directly to its platform as well, that is precisely natively, so as to keep the user on the social network and show him his advertisements. So far nothing strange, this is the business model of the Menlo Park company but also of other social networks.

The problem arises when an attacker, such as a freebooter, takes a video from other social platforms and re-uploads it to Facebook, where the phenomenon of virality is frequent, users are more numerous, and likes, views, and shares are more easily obtained.

Now let’s see what results from the monitoring of natively re-uploaded videos on Facebook:

Views and Engagement

Views of a video on Facebook are counted after just 3 seconds, even if playback takes place without sound, in auto-play mode. So how to interpret the impressive number of video views boasted by social? The visualization can be attributed even if the user scrolls the page slowly, therefore also without paying any attention to the content.

On the other hand, the data relating to engagement show very low numbers: 90% of users are credited with viewing the video, but only 20% of them are actually watching it. To make a comparison with YouTube, where participation in the consumption of video content is greater, the view is considered after about 30 seconds, when the user demonstrates real interest.

News Feed full of unoriginal videos

According to the aforementioned report published by Ogilvy and Tubular Labs, the majority of videos uploaded natively to Facebook are pulled from other platforms. This greatly terrifies content producers because, the moment they publish a video on their YouTube channel, they risk frustrating their work due to the possible shooting by a freebooter.

The Facebook company ran for cover, evaluating possible actions to solve the problem. Dutiful stance to oppose the practice of freebooting, also because despite this sad phenomenon brings results in terms of views, not having sufficient consideration towards content creators can bring just as many problems, such as the disaffection of the latter towards the platform that hosts the contents of their property.

However, it should be noted that freebooting is not a practice against which we are totally disarmedIn fact, there are some precautions that can be taken to protect yourself online.

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How to defend yourself against freebooting

What are the benefits that a freebooter gets? Likes, comments, shares, and new followers, taking advantage of the work of others and the speed of diffusion of videos on Facebook. Apparently, someone has built their online presence solely through freebooting, gaining a significant following and monetizing thanks to it. But what are the legal responsibilities whose practice it?

The looter can be prosecuted for copyright infringement, a juridical institute that defends the so-called “works of genius”. Remember that…before downloading photos from Google or other sites to do online marketing!

There is one however: before having the ownership of content recognized (through a lawyer or the procedures offered by the various platforms), freebooting will have already taken away several views and, at the same time, the well-deserved income for your work. It is better to start protecting yourself by adopting preventive methods.

defend yourself against others

Watermark against freebooters

A method for “signing” your content can be represented by the affixing of a watermark. It’s practically one electronic watermark that, if inserted into a multimedia file, gives an idea of who is the rightful owner of the same.

Some freebooters try to exonerate themselves from their misdeeds by quoting the author of the content in the comments or in the description of the video re-upload, however, this remains a clumsy and in any case unethical attempt, because the users who have viewed it are unlikely to be interested in its real maker.

That’s why I recommend the watermark…but be careful: those who are addicted to freebooting and have made it a lifestyle could find a way to remove it.

YouTube watermarks

AlsoYouTube, the content platform most prone to freebooting, could not fail to offer help to its content creators. As? Giving the possibility to add a branding watermark to multimedia files directly from the settings, within the channel.

In the “Branding” section of your channel, you can add an image of at least 150×150 pixels and a maximum weight of 1 MB: this will be your watermark that you can show for the entire duration of the content, only at the end or at a moment specified by you.

The watermark is also clickable so that through it a user can subscribe to your channel. For more specific information, YouTube Help offers a short tutorial to help you out.

YouTube Content ID

There is another weapon that the video platform owned by Google uses to defend the copyright of its subscribers: its calledContent IDWe can define this system as a “Copyright detector”, more specifically for audio tracks, because it examines all content looking for videos that contain copyrighted music.

A user uploads a digital file that contains a song you own. Content ID finds it and notifies you. At this point, the rights owner has three options:

  • Insert an advertisement within the video and monetize;
  • leave the video but have the Ad removed which makes those who copied the content earn money;
  • have the video removed.

YouTube only admits copyright holders who meet “specific criteria” into Content ID, so, if you want to join, check here if you meet all the requirements and fill out the form that is proposed to you.

Facebook against freebooting

What does the Menlo Park giant offer to protect yourself online from freebooting?

There is a section within the platform’s Help Center that deals in detail with the topic of intellectual property and copyright in defense of intellectual property. Here, a form is offered which you are invited to fill out in the event that your content has been copied.

It is suggested first of all to contact the freebooter with an email to resolve the inconvenience with the good and, in case of no response, to proceed with the compilation of the contact form made available by the social network. Finally, if the perpetrator does not cooperate, Facebook removes the video.

help center platform

In the meantime, however, the looted content has often already achieved the viral effect by generating views and other reactions, while the platform has already monetized through advertisements.

In this case, according to the YouTuber Destin Sandlin, it would be correct to define a system that allows the author of the content to monetize from the media file that has been stolen, and in this Facebook should be complicit with content creators who are continually freebooted.

Actually, Facebook is already testing this reward mechanism and, moreover, is studying new and more sophisticated control mechanisms. However, as the top management of the company declares, there is still a long way to go.

Final tips to defend against freebooting

There’s more bad news: as you may have already noticed, in the Facebook search bar it is not possible to search for a video, so finding your own stolen content is a completely fortuitous case. But there is someone who can come to the rescue of those who have been looted: the one who can help a content creator defend himself against freebooting is you!

As suggested by the YouTubers themselves who, better than anyone else, know what freebooting means, every time viewing stolen content, remember the “3C rule” (capture, comment, contact) and do these three things:

  • Take a screenshot of a video screen of the content to document the fact;
  • post a comment to the video, informing that it is a case of freebooting and pasting the link that refers to the original content;
  • contact the content creator, providing him with proof of the theft right away and the link to the stolen content. This is because only the owner of the original media file can contact Facebook support or take other legal action.

I hope I have provided you with all the information on freebooting and, in case you are a content creator, have given you some tips on how to protect yourself online. Good job and…watch out for freebooters!

If you want to improve yourself in creating content for the Web, contact an expert. Together you will define the best training path for you!



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