Brand Piracy on Facebook

I’m surprised there’s not more debate about content ownership. Not the usual “you wouldn’t steal a car” torrenting conversation, but one about brand pirates who steal content.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you need only browse your Facebook feed to see global corporations, publishers, small businesses, non-profits and your grandma all publishing content they don’t own.

Stealing content has become standard practice. But you can’t really blame the users – rights ownership and brands ‘sourcing’ content for social has always been a gray area. Is a press image public domain? Who owns a meme? Can we publish someone’s user-generated content if they’ve used our hashtag? If you credit someone you can use their content, right?

Channels, for the most part, address this reasonably well. Google rewards original content. YouTube automatically detects stolen content and removes it (or more cleverly redirects ad revenue to the appropriate owner). Twitter even deletes tweets with stolen jokes if they aren’t attributed to the original author.

The problem is Facebook, who do almost nothing to protect content ownership, and in doing so only encourage a behaviour of stealing. So much so that whole businesses are built around it (how much content do you think the Lad Bible actually creates?).

To be fair, Facebook has kept up an appearance of giving a shit. Their Terms of Service explicitly forbid it, and they somewhat famously deleted the original Cool Hunter page with 780,000 fans for ongoing breaches. They even suggest that images, videos and links that the algorithm has never seen before will be viewed more favourably and therefore given more organic reach.

But Facebook’s not really trying to curb brand piracy. Users, brands and publishers are all still allowed and often rewarded for publishing stolen content. Even in their transition to becoming a video channel (which they now claim serves more videos daily than YouTube), most of this content is stolen. (And the original owners of said content don’t see any revenue either.)

This, of course, makes total sense. More content, original or stolen, means more impressions means more revenue. It’s in Facebook best interest to allow this culture of thieving to continue, because stolen content is easier to produce at volume.

Creating original content requires resources. And why would you invest if there’s little reward in doing so?

I wonder out loud (like much of what I publish here) if we’re not going to see some debate about our collective attitude to brand piracy on Facebook. Because the brands that create original content should be rewarded not punished.

No Comments
  • Kelly
    Posted at January 18, 2016 2:00pm, 18 January Reply

    I completely agree with you regarding content being stolen on Facebook – it seems to be the most common way of posting content. Creating original content is resource heavy but I think you're followers, tribe, readers will thank you for it in the long run!

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