Freebooting: the practice of stealing online media content – typically video – and re-hosting it on your own channel or platform without permission
“Freebooting” is a term that finds its origins from within the YouTube community, a network that traditionally serves as the preferred resource for media pirates and plunderers. As the biggest victims of content theft today, YouTubers are quite literally having their livelihoods threatened, or at the very least, at risk of losing a substantial amount of residual income.
Many people aren’t aware of the fact that online video creators and live streamers can actually make a living through their original content. However, quite a large number of people across the globe are counting upon the funds they receive from YouTube’s ad-revenue sharing program in order to pay for their bills and expenses.
While the internet is a stomping ground that is built upon the sharing of pertinent content and information, the rules of assigning proper credit, attribution, and existing copyright laws still very much apply.
Don’t be mistaken: hitting the share button on Facebook, retweeting a video on Twitter, nor does posting a link to your profile equate to freebooting – these are natural social media functionalities that directly tie credit and acknowledgement into the action itself. A freeboot equates to knowingly taking or “ripping” someone else’s raw video file and uploading it onto your own website or social network as if it were your own. Facebook freebooters aren’t profiting off of their videos in a monetary sense but that is only because Facebook is not currently placing ads in front of their video content in the same way that YouTube does. What freebooters are gaining comes in the form of (unwarranted) attention and (falsely obtained) credibility.
Tyrese Gibson, a man with an already well-established brand, was one of the biggest culprits of freebooting in 2015. Tyrese would crawl YouTube for videos that had achieved a certain level of virality and steal them for his own benefit. How would he do this? By adding a purchase link for his music into the descriptions of each of the stolen videos he uploads (again, without permission) onto his own channel. And this is but one example.
Are you familiar with the Fat Jew? Though not a video thief, this man built a career out of stealing internet jokes and memes from other people, removing all ties to the original author, and reposting them onto his own social networks. The increased attention led to him receiving a book publication deal as well as a gig hosting a show on Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio.
While the Fat Jew (real name, Josh Ostrovsky) is still going, his star has definitely dulled as his notoriety for creative theft led to the cancellation of a planned television series with Comedy Central and a sinking reputation to go along with it.
Destin at Smarter Every Day put together an excellent video that goes in depth about the issues surrounding freebooting and the negative consequences that have arisen due to this vulturous practice.
Put simply, freebooting is not only unethical but is also an act of legitimate thievery. Employing that type of language may be viewed as extreme but it is fitting terminology. Unfortunately, anyone who shares a freebooted video is (often unwittingly) exacerbating the problem.
I mean, could you even begin to imagine how awful life would be if people believed this Alien Ant Farm tune was an original?