The presence of questionable content on Facebook Live is nothing new, but getting sued for it? That’s a little more unusual.
Two Australian men may be facing legal action after they streamed a highly anticipated boxing match on Facebook Live. To the chagrin of the cable television company Foxtel, Darren Sharpe and Brett Hevers livestreamed the Danny Green versus Anthony Mundine fight Friday, ABC reported, with both streams attracting tens of thousands of viewers.
A Foxtel spokesperson said Sunday it was “considering options” and taking advice from lawyers on the “very serious” matter. To watch the bout legally, the company required viewers to pay A$59.95.
Hailed on social media as twin Robin Hoods with set top boxes and Facebook accounts, both men have since launched GoFundMe pages to help cover potential legal fees. They’ve also been inundated with support on social media, with Facebook pages including Darren Sharpe for PM 2017 and I Will Close My Account If Brett Hevers And Darren Sharpe Gets Sued created over the weekend.
As of Tuesday, Hever’s lawyer said he had not yet received notice from Foxtel of legal action.
For now, the cable company seems to be focusing its ire on the streamers, and leaving the platform that hosted the incident out of it. But for Facebook, copyright infringing live streams are an ongoing problem.
Though it’s been almost one year since launch, it’s not hard to find apparently unsanctioned entertainment and sports content on Facebook Live. Within seconds, you can click on Bollywood films and cricket matches being streaming from unofficial Facebook accounts on the company’s Live broadcast map.
Facebook has taken some steps to appease content owners. The company has a Rights Manager system that allows copyright holders to request illegally posted material be removed. The company has also told Mashable previously that human moderators monitor videos after they reach a certain, undisclosed threshold of viewership.
Neither Foxtel nor Facebook would confirm if the Rights Manager system was used to identify the illegal boxing livestreams.
“As more people watch and share live video on Facebook, we’ve taken steps to ensure that Rights Manager protects live video streams as well,” a Facebook spokesperson said Sunday. “Video publishers and media companies can also provide reference streams of live content so that we can check live video on Facebook against those reference streams in real time.”
Still, it remains unclear whether Rights Manager is fast enough to counter illicit Facebook streams of live TV content — Hevers told the ABC his stream reached 153,000 viewers before Foxtel turned off his subscription — and whether Facebook is doing enough.
Facebook really wants people using Facebook Live, after all, but it’s increasingly in the interests of social media companies to shut such streams down. We’re a long way from the days of then-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo boasting about Periscope hosting illegal streams of the 2015 Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight.
In 2017, the companies want to make nice with sport codes. Facebook streamed a National Women’s Soccer League game live in 2016, and Twitter, in particular, has been on the hunt to secure sporting rights of its own. In 2016, it signed a deal to livestream certain NFL games as well as Australia’s Melbourne Cup horse race.
For now, Foxtel appears to have its sights set on punishing the livestreamers without focusing on Facebook’s role (in public, anyway). If Aussies keep up their livestreaming caper though, copyright owners may take their complaints to the source.
UPDATE: Feb. 7, 2017, 2:07 p.m. AEDT Statement added from Brett Hever’s lawyer.