Facebook and the Ronda Rousey Copyright Fight

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 20, 2015

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Woman BoxerFortune reports that clips of Ronda Rousey’s latest fight are highlighting potential copyright problems for Facebook.

Sports Illustrated called Rousey “the world’s most dominant athlete” in her sport (mixed martial arts, for those who have been living in caves), and she has millions of fans worldwide.

In her latest bout, she defeated opponent Bethe Correia in a mere 34 seconds.

Parts of the video of the fight can be found on YouTube, among many other places, and also appeared in many Facebook feeds.

20 Million Views

Re/Code reports that the fight generated more than 20 million Facebook views within 15 hours, before it reportedly disappeared. It was apparently originally posted by a woman named Emma Valdez, who recorded the fight from her TV screen using her camera phone.

On YouTube, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) which owns the footage, and Rousey can at least monetize third-party posts of the clip by sharing in ad revenues, but Facebook doesn’t have a similar system.

As Fortune reported earlier, Facebook’s video traffic has reached four billion views per day – four times as many as a year ago — with view counts for individual clips that rival YouTube’s.

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Safe Harbor

Internet service providers such as Facebook are protected from copyright infringement claims, to an extent, by the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The DMCA provides that an internet service provider isn’t liable for copyright infringement based on the posting of copyrighted material if:

  • The material was posted by someone other than the service provider.
  • The material was posted via an automatic technical process, with no selection by the service provider.
  • The service provider doesn’t know that the material is infringing when it’s posted.
  • Upon being notified that the material is infringing, the service provider takes it down.

(It’s a bit more complicated than that, but those are the basics.)

The DMCA has a “notice and takedown” procedure that service providers need to follow in order to avail themselves of the safe harbor. Among other things, they have to designate an agent to whom takedown requests can be sent.

Some service providers, like YouTube, use content ID systems that flag copyrighted material at the request of copyright owners. The owners can then chose to make money from the content (by sharing in ad revenues) or have it removed.

Facebook says it uses a system called Audible Magic to prevent the posting of unauthorized video content, and that it’s “actively exploring further solutions to help IP owners identify and manage potential infringing content” on the “unique” Facebook platform.

However, some commentators have criticized Facebook for dragging its heels on better IP protection.

“Inexcusable”

One such commentator is Hank Green, a well-known YouTube video producer and one half of the Vlogbrothers (the other half being John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars).

He noted that the lack of searchability on Facebook makes it impossible for creators to discover when their content is being freebooted.” 

He also argued that:

It’s a little inexcusable that Facebook, a company with a market cap of $260 BILLION, launched their video platform with no system to protect independent rights holders.

If you have questions…

If you have questions about copyright law and the DMCA, you may wish to contact a copyright lawyer in your area.

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