The AV Blog: Facebook’s Rights Manager highlights the problem of online copyright infringement

By Megan Patrick, Digital Media executive 

The emergence of Facebook’s Rights Manager recently, aimed at preventing pirated copy being broadcast on its Facebook Live platform, brings into question the ubiquitous issue of ownership of online material.


Need for such a service highlights the abundance of pirated video clips, photos and documents streamed or circulated through social media. Until now Facebook has largely relied on personal complaints and reports of copied material in order to investigate piracy.


Rights Manager is a new admin tool which seeks to weed out so called “freebooting”. Many individuals and businesses use video footage for personal gain without crediting its source in order to increase likes and engagement.


Now, those with Rights Manager installed (you have to apply) can upload reference sections of their content and if anyone, anywhere, tried to pass it off as their own, it will be matched to the reference copy and stopped.


Where Rights Manager differs from its predecessors, YouTube’s Content ID for example, is its ability to monitor live video streaming, which is an increasing problem for media companies who often invest millions into securing high profile live events.


Twitter’s Periscope feature allowed live, copyrighted streams of the Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match to be featured online in real time. It ran into more trouble when HBO bosses lashed out against the service for allowing the streaming of the Game of Thrones season premiere.


Copyright infringement is omnipresent on social media. With no robotic method of filtering out pirated copies of material and no man powered operation fast enough to outwit technology, software such as Rights Manager are by no means the perfect solution.


And as far as live events go, can it even feasibly work? If live streams are allowed, then the original copies are needed in order for comparison. Sports, film and TV companies essentially have to give Facebook constant access to their material in order to stop it being illegally duplicated.


Other social apps’ copyright laws are also in scrutiny. Take Snapchat, an app with 100 million daily users, and fathom how copyright intersects with material posted by a user with the view to last no longer than 24 hours, and often only a few seconds.


In putting material into the public domain the owner of the content faces the same problem as creators of videos. The material should be ephemeral, but anyone can screenshot it, save it and circulate it. In doing so a copyright infringement has been made. Most users of the app are most likely guilty of this violation without realising it.


The launch of Live Video is an attempt by Facebook to stay ever up-to-date with the relentless pace of online life. Though it adds a facet to the company’s service it does so at a risk and at a cost to original producers’ creations and broadcasts.


There is no concrete method to stop the sharing of pirated material. Since the late 1990s services such as Napster and LimeWire have provided the platform to do so, and the eradication of one only leads to the creation of another. BitTorrent still accounts for 4% of North American daily internet traffic, a figure - albeit down from 2011’s 11% - still hugely influential.


If you can’t stop the distribution of this material then perhaps the next best thing is to do what the likes of Facebook and Twitter have. Join in, with added algorithms, to give yourself credit for a service which can never ultimately fulfil its purpose.  

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