The autoplay concern

Column by Rachel Wood, contributing writer

Autoplay videos on Facebook are not only killing your productivity – they’re killing independent creators.

YouTube has become a huge source of creativity, filmmaking and education over its decade of existence, so much so that many creators are finding ways to make a living off of their videos. Google’s use of advertising programs and creator endorsements, as well as the growing overall number of social media users, has made this even more accessible to users dabbling in making YouTube their day job.

The issue comes when people want to share the videos they find on YouTube. Facebook’s current post layout is not ideal for outside video links; those browsing their newsfeeds on a mobile device will have to follow the link to another page to view the video. So, how can a user get their new favorite video to autoplay on their followers’ feeds? Either rip the video from YouTube and host it natively on Facebook or share the video from a user that’s already gone through that process.

So, what’s the issue here? What if you’re still giving credit to the original creator in the upload or in your post?

When you post a YouTube link, the content is still hosted on the original page, letting the creator get their normal cut from ad revenue and viewership. When you reupload it to Facebook, you break the link between creator and content, ending their revenue path in the process.

On their podcast, “Hello Internet,” YouTube content creators CGP Grey and Brady Haran began referring to this phenomenon as “freebooting,” thereby creating a new term for this subset of copyright infringement. Having fallen victim to freebooters themselves, the pair stressed just how infuriating it was to see their reuploaded clips go viral with no credit or payoff in return.  Despite rising creator concern since the term was coined in 2014, Facebook has yet to get a handle on the users illegally reuploading media.

Facebook could strengthen its copyright infringement detection systems, but this seems like a lofty goal with the millions of pieces of content shared on the site every day. A better option, it seems, would be for Facebook to reformat their post layout to allow videos to play at least a video preview natively in the newsfeed. This way, viewers can still view the ads on the video, helping the creator in turn.

Some creators have also opted to format their videos for Facebook and post it themselves in an attempt to combat freebooting on their end. Bakers and DIY-ers especially have found that adding short jump cuts to their longer videos and taking out the narration can be a better format for the fast-paced Facebook newsfeed. While it helps creators keep ownership of their work on multiple platforms, there is still no great way for creators to profit off of their hard work on Facebook.

What can you do in the meantime? Check the page that’s hosting the video you want to share. If the original creator is behind it, there’s a chance they’re at least getting some payoff from an autoplay video going viral. Sadly, it’s more likely the video has been harvested from an independent source by a big name content reuploader – I’m sure you’ve already seen them in your feed. As fun as it is to share adorable dog videos with your friends, it’s best to find the original uploader before sharing it.

I know you want to share a post that will get lots of likes and comments, but don’t do it at the expense of someone’s day job.