Do We Need to Sue Facebook?

Three months ago I published an article here discussing Facebook’s seeming disinterest in protecting the copyright of video creators.

That post got a reply from Matt Pakes at Facebook who said:

As video continues to grow rapidly on Facebook, we’re actively exploring further solutions to help IP owners identify and manage potential infringing content, tailored for our unique platform and ecosystem. This is a significant technical challenge at our scale, but we have a team working on it and expect to have more to share later this summer.

Well, I just looked out my window and saw snow falling and I also just saw a video a friend of mine worked weeks on with 20M freebooted Facebook views, sooooo…

When Google acquired YouTube in 2006, they knew that one of the site’s greatest weaknesses (and one they were inviting into their whole company) were the lawsuits that would eventually be filed by large copyright holders. Viacom eventually did send that suit.

But they lost it because, in 2007, YouTube created Content ID, a system that checks every single video uploaded to YouTube against a massive database of copyrighted content (including many thousands of videos that are uploaded by independent content creators every day.)

Facebook uses a similar system, and it does a really good job of preventing the upload of videos from large copyright holders like Disney, Viacom, and the NFL. It does not, however, allow independent rights holders to upload to it.


Two reasons:

  1. They would then be dealing with thousands instead of dozens of rights holders. It would be very difficult to ensure that the copyrights being claimed are indeed held by those claiming them. YouTube faces this problem and I imagine it’s a pain in their ass every single day.
  2. We’re not going to sue them. Independent creators do not have legal departments. So if it’s a PR problem…that’s manageable. But if no one’s going to take them to court to prove that they’re making tens of millions of dollars off of stolen content, why would they spend time and money dealing with problem #1?

Which leads me to ask openly and honestly as a completely naive creator of online video. Can we sue Facebook? Probably not. Not only do I not have the money to hire lawyers, I don’t have time to deal with this BS. I have 38 employees, 5 budgets to balance, a whole mess of videos to make, a Kickstarter to fulfill, and two conferences to plan.

I would imagine a law suit would take up at least 10 hours of my time a week, and I also need to finish watching How to Get Away with Murder.


On Netflix.

But if you are a lawyer and you have some thoughts on whether or not Facebook is suable, please leave a reply.