Freebooting: Protection Needed For YouTube Content Creators


October 20, 2015


Social Media


Digital Specialists

Our Mammies told us when we were young that “stealing is not nice”. However, in today’s digital world companies, businesses and even individuals are virtually stealing video content from the Content Creators’ own YouTube channels, and they are making a substantial profit by doing so. In this week’s Tinderpoint Blog post we take a look at the phenomenon that is ‘Freebooting’ – The Mean-spirited swashbuckling of the internet age!

YouTube is 10 years old this year, and so much has been done to make the platform the most successful online video streaming site ever. As YouTube culture has progressed, thousands of people all over the world are now making a living from creating content and uploading it to the site. These Content Creators of course make their money from advertising revenue on their videos but in terms of their cut of this advertising revenue, well let’s just say it takes a hell of a lot of views to make a substantial amount of cash. Rather than seeking to gain an audience through paid traffic strategies such as Facebook marketing, most YouTubers will spends days, weeks or even months working on a video to share with their audience, that’s a lot of time to spend filming, editing, uploading and promoting!

These Content Creators are extremely hard working, and because of their work and dedication, most of them have built up a hefty amount of subscribers and followers. This is great for the creators in terms of income and making revenue from adverts by monetising their videos. The more views they get, the more money they have to invest in their channel and create better content. However, businesses, individuals and media organisations are using a strategy that results in that content being virtually stolen!

Enter ‘Freebooting’ – a practice where organisations, businesses or even individuals download a video from YouTube that has been made by a YouTuber, and then proceed to re-upload the video onto another platform (mainly Facebook) using their own account. This means the original creator gains no revenue from the Facebook video, while the “Freebooter” gets exposure and revenue off the back of the re-uploaded video’s success. The term “Freebooting” was coined by CGP Grey and Brady Haran after content they had created was being downloaded by large news organisations and re-uploaded to the newspapers’ websites resulting in the loss of valuable revenue for the YouTubers.

Freebooting was once a common occurrence on YouTube itself, with one content creator re-uploading another creator’s video and monetising it for revenue. However, in order to combat this practice, YouTube created automatic controls such as a “Content ID system”. This identifies the stolen video and notifies the original creator, where the creator can then confirm the video is stolen and it will be deleted.

The problem with Facebook is that it has no such controls, and therefore, takes no responsibility for Freebooting, leaving hosts of the video laughing all the way to the bank with cash from website clicks, as well as gaining likes for their page and maximising their own exposure.

This completely undermines the original creator, as they should be the one gaining profits and exposure from their content. Facebook’s video player also looks extremely similar to an actual embedded YouTube video, and so most of the time audiences don’t even realise that the video has been re-uploaded. Facebook will only remove the stolen video if it is found by the original creator and reported by them.

It has been said that Facebook ultimately want to challenge YouTube by venturing into the world of video hosting. If this is true, they will need to provide protection for the creators of content and put a content ID system in place. Facebook will need to play ball so that the rightful creators gain exposure, and that ultimately it is the YouTuber who profits.

Although Facebook plays a role in the Freebooting phenomenon, the real culprits in relation to this issue are the businesses, media organisations and individuals who are educated in copyright infringement law, but continuously practice Freebooting to gain more exposure and money for themselves and their company.

Tinderpoint’s Scott De Buitléir caught up with Irish YouTubers Clare Cullen (Clisare) and James Mitchell (JamesMitchellTV) at Swipe Summit, which took place in May at the O’Reilly Hall in UCD. On the issue of Freebooting, Clare explains that the act is “really bad for YouTubers [in] that Facebook are [sic] not cracking down on copyright infringement”. She continues that she and other well-known YouTubers are targeted when a video they produce gets a lot of traction online. It can be a case of the big guy “rolling over the little guy” and just because “everyone is doing it does not make it the answer”.

However Clare also points out that when Freebooting happens, approaching these media organisations could be detrimental to the reputation of a YouTuber. She explains “you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you”, as many YouTubers need exposure from the big guns. Fellow YouTuber James also added that these media organisations and companies will be the biggest losers in the Freebooting marathon, as “they will lose the respect of the YouTube community” and in turn, will be unable to secure sponsorship deals with well-known YouTube personalities.

Ultimately, the elimination of Freebooting will only happen when sites such as Facebook crack down on copyright infringement and create Content ID systems. Until that day, here are some thing that you as a viewer can do to crack down on “Freebooting”:

1. Be sure the video you share directly links back to the Creator’s YouTube Channel.
2. Take a screen shot or screen grab of the Freebooting to inform the creator or keep a record.
3. Comment on the video letting people know where they can find the original video, directing traffic back to the producer’s channel.
4. Contact the YouTuber and make them aware of the issue. They may be able to do something about it.
5. Join the conversation on Twitter and protect your favourite YouTuber by calling out the Freebooting site or organisation.
6. And finally, don’t do it yourself! Give credit where credit is due and be sure not to partake in or support Freebooting.


– This post was written by Katy Anna Mohan – former Social Media & Digital PR Manager at Tinderpoint