Freebooting is Digital Piracy

What is Video Freebooting and Can It Be Prevented?

While “Freebooting” has been a term used interchangeably with piracy and plundering for a few hundred years, a modern definition of “Freebooting” is the act of taking digital media and uploading it as your own without the content creator’s permission.

It is essentially digital plagiarism and, most often, online content piracy is the outright theft of intellectual property. A modern day example of freebooting includes downloading popular videos from YouTube and then uploading those videos to another channel, website or other social media accounts not owned by the copyright owner. I see this theft of videos most often on Facebook, where it is rampant and seemingly impossible to control if Facebook is not going to be of any help.

Destin Sandlin, creator of the hugely popular YouTube channel SmarterEveryDay, explains the concept of freebooting via his Smarter Every Day Facebook Freebooting video in a way that even his youngest children can understand while taking Bauer Media Group to task with his assertion that they freebooted video content edited out of his channel’s most popular video.

In the example above, Destin claims that his video content was taken and uploaded to Bauer Media Group’s Facebook page; that video was eventually taken down after numerous and repeated complaints. Of course, his story is really nothing new.

Digital piracy is alive and well on the Internet.


People freeboot steal and repost popular online content for a number of reasons:

  • Channel revenue earned on video views
  • Advertising revenue
  • To obtain new YouTube channel subscribers and followers on other social networks
  • Branding, popularity and name recognition
  • The thief completely lacks talent, ability and morals.
  • And in the case of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, increased organic views in fans’ newsfeeds; popular posts are shown to more users and the increased engagement (likes, comments and shares) in turn helps future page posts with higher organic reach.

Of course there are many other ways to make money on YouTube, but the theft of a video creator’s intellectual property means that he or she is losing potential views, revenue, subscribers, etc. His or her professional reputation may be adversely affected, too, because the video and sound quality may be degraded or be taken out of context and used in a manner not at all consistent with the subject or the producer’s vision. Freebooting is obviously devastating to some YouTube channel creators whose primary income comes from revenue earned on the number of video views and the ads displayed through the YouTube platform.

The question becomes,

“How can I prevent my videos from being copied and reposted without my permission?”


Unfortunately, in this day and age, you cannot prevent the freebooting of videos. In fact, it’s only going to get worse.

Why? First, Facebook is clearly in pursuit of YouTube recently announcing, “Since June 2014, Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day. On average, more than 50% of people who come back to Facebook every day in the US watch at least one video daily and 76% of people in the US who use Facebook say they tend to discover the videos they watch on Facebook.”

YouTubers are reporting that Facebook isn’t playing nice with direct links to YouTube videos. The assertion is that a direct link to a YouTube video most frequently won’t show up in their friends’ newsfeeds but a video uploaded to Facebook always does. If Facebook’s primary goal is to get you onto their site, where they can serve you ads, and keep you there, so they can serve you more ads, why wouldn’t this be true?

It’s also hard to argue with Destin’s example of a viral video that took 4 years to gain 5 million views on YouTube but only taking 4 days to receive an equal number of views on Facebook. For people and companies trying to get increased organic post and page views, posting a link to great YouTube video content is no longer effective, but stealing and uploading it to Facebook increases the odds it will be seen and massive traffic might be generated.

Secondly, Twitter is revving up it’s own video host engine right now and I have to believe that they will give preference to natively hosted video, too.

While you cannot stop freebooting entirely, you can adjust your content creation, sharing and revenue strategies. The Smarter Every Day Facebook Freebooting video proves it.

Here are 6 tips for combating the freebooters and getting the most out of your video content:

1. Reevaluate how you are earning revenue through your videos.

Video content creators are going to have to get smarter about their monetization strategies and how they deploy them in-video, rather than on the page or host that serves as the home for that video. Video views have never really been a viable revenue strategy. You have to get an extraordinary number of in-channel or embedded video views to even begin to make a part time income on YouTube and you cannot make money, at all, via views on Facebook or Twitter. Instead, many video creators hope that if they post enough videos, one of them might go viral and they’ll make money through licensing or views. This is a lot like winning the lottery and I don’t know any successful entrepreneurs who have succeeded in a business focused on playing against those sort of odds. If you are in the business of making your own video content, you likely already know that you have to have a different revenue model altogether.

You’re either selling your own products, selling someone else’s products or brand building so that you can do one of the two.


This is another subject entirely and one we’ll cover soon in Video Entrepreneur Magazine. Smarter Every Day is the perfect example of this strategy because of the way Destin expertly weaves his sponsors, partners and affiliates into his videos. I’m going to guess that Smarter Every Day is making way more money via affiliates and sponsorships than views and any display advertising against those views.

2. Have a clear goal in mind when planning and creating your videos.

Business video content should always communicate a specific purpose and it should be clearly stated, even if that purpose is meant only to increase your number of YouTube channel subscribers. Communicate in the video what you want your viewers to do and spell it out for them:

  • “Go to my website at https://VideoToOrder.com right now and get our invitation only pre-launch access pass…”,
  • “When you are done watching this video, call me directly on my personal number, (000) 867-5309, which you see at the top of this website, Vtrep.com.”,
  • “Please don’t forget to give this video a thumbs up, leave a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel at YouTube.com/VtrepMag.” or
  • “Click the like link below this video, share it with your friends and don’t forget to like and leave a comment on my page at Facebook.com/VtrepMag.”

This will help defray any potential losses against the casual freebooter who is not going to take the time to edit out your calls to action, web addresses and other identifiers. It also ensures that viewers of freebooted content know where to go and find the rest of your content. You have to say it in the video and you should reinforce that message with a graphic element of some sort.

This is also a FANTASTIC tip, if you know that your video may be properly embedded into other people’s websites.

(By the way I was serious about the invitation only pre-launch access thing at VideoToOrder.com. Really, you should do that.)

The overwhelming number of the most popular videos have nothing to do with a marketing message or an intent to drive traffic to a website. They are, instead, those spontaneous moments when you happen to catch your kids doing something hilarious or the cat is chasing the laser pointer again. There was zero planning involved. But, and this is going to sound a bit counterintuitive, if you find your videos have been hijacked first ask yourself the question, “Has this helped me or hurt me?” before doing anything about it. Does this extra attention or exposure potentially advance your goals? If you have communicated your intention or call to action clearly in the video, could you benefit in the long run and is your video’s purpose being served? Someone raised the question with Destin in a video comment as to why he was angry about the situation if his videos were meant for the greater good of education. His reply was simply that the infringers had stripped out all of the educational content, otherwise he has never made a big deal in other instances when he found his educational content had been freebooted.

3. Create “purpose built” content and upload it natively.

By “purpose built” content I mean simply that you should take a little extra time and create versions of your video that keep the native player or video host in mind. It makes no sense to ask a user watching your video on Facebook to “thumbs up and subscribe” when the correct call to action is to “like and share.” Additionally, it makes no sense to include these social media calls to action if you’re going to put your video on a website (in which case using a business video host or native video player is a better option than uploading and embedding it using YouTube).

Countless studies prove, hands down, that more video is watched and gets better engagement when viewed natively on their host. This is to say that YouTube videos get better results when viewed on YouTube and videos uploaded to Facebook get better results when viewed by Facebook users. The same will be true on Twitter, so “don’t forget to retweet this video to your followers and be sure not to miss my next video by following me @lscottharrell if you haven’t done so already.”

You get the point.

4. Brand your videos.

Add a video intro, outro and video logo to your video while editing. All but the most committed freebooters will leave that intact and not attempt to edit them out or obscure the mark. Be sure to add a copyright notice in your outro, so that an infringer cannot hide behind excuses like, “I didn’t know who the video belonged to…” or “I didn’t know the video was copyrighted…” or “I thought the video was in the public domain…” Editing a video to remove a watermark or copyright notice is, in my mind, a clear indication of the intent to conceal the identity of the copyright owner and deprive that owner of any benefits stemming from the use of their property.

No quarter will be given.

5. Use Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices correctly.

I think you should always try to negotiate with the infringer first. Oftentimes they may balk at removing the video, even if they say they will, but most often they will readily include backlinks and give credit back to your website, channel or from wherever they swiped your content. Keep in mind that the balance may be tipped in your favor whether the infringement is doing more good than harm if the pirate is willing to meet you half-way. One of the best sources for traffic here on Vtrep.com is from a website that originally swiped my Make Money With Drone Video article when I asked the owner of the website to include the live links posted in the article and to give credit where the article was originally posted.

If the video is doing more harm, the infringer isn’t being responsive or you just cannot stand that your content has been stolen and repurposed by someone else (completely reasonable), then your next best option is issuing a complete and accurate DMCA takedown notice. I am not an attorney and there are lots of great articles on the subject floating around the Interwebs. My favorite DMCA article is posted by attorney Carolyn E. Wright on the National Press Photographers Association website. It includes very important considerations about the DMCA, a sample letter and information about determining where to send the takedown notice as well.

If we’re talking about big money or big losses, don’t be afraid to get an intellectual property attorney involved.

The key to combat freebooting is branding your videos, creating “purpose built” versions of the video specifically for YouTube, Facebook and other video hosts and incorporate conspicuous calls to action, credits or sponsorships into the video in a way that they cannot be easily removed. Any attempt to then remove the branding or your message then becomes clear evidence of intent to steal intellectual property. At that point use any and all legal resources at your disposal.

6. When all else fails, take your complaint to the court of Public Opinion!

Hanging PiratesLet’s be honest for a moment, the Smarter Every Day Facebook Freebooting video is not only an effective education video but it is a brilliant broadside cannonade, too. Destin has certainly made his point with Bauer Media Group; their Facebook page is getting a proper thrashing right now as a direct result of the video. The vast majority of people online believe that stealing and using other people’s work as their own is flat out wrong. It just so happens that many of them also love to mete out well-deserved punishment.

It seems that publicly hanging pirates has never lost its appeal.

L. Scott Harrell

L. Scott Harrell is the Executive Editor of Vtrep.com. He is also a serial entrepreneur and top tier business development professional who speaks leadership, startups and digital media masterfully. Scott can be reached via email: editor@vtrep.com