As the creator economy grows, instances of content IP theft or plagiarism have also increased. The plagiarism problem has become acute following the rise in the number of platforms for short videos. The competition among content creators to gain followers has fuelled this disturbing trend.
Even large and often verified accounts with millions of followers steal popular content created by smaller accounts. In the creator economy, income – current and future – is directly dependent on the number of followers and other related metrics such as the number of likes, shares, and views – all of which build goodwill and popularity for the account. Content theft, therefore, ends up affecting the career and earning power of a creator.
What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism of content is rampant in the entertainment and finance categories of content. The most brazen infringement of plagiarism laws is by aggregator accounts. These people curate the best available content on a particular subject and post them on their website. When these accounts steal content, they also take away some followers of the smaller accounts – with adverse financial effects and also resulting in a loss of goodwill.
For example, in a case reported in the press at the time – creator Anushka Rathod (anushkarathod98), who has over 2,50,000 followers, had her content stolen. This creator regularly posts popular content on financial topics. An aggregator site used her videos, without her permission, to sell finance courses on Instagram. This account gave tips on stocks. Anushka Rathod is a former investment banker who posts content on financial literacy. The plagiarism of her content is especially grave since, as per regulations, only an investment adviser registered with SEBI can dispense advice on which stocks to buy/sell.
According to a report on the website Skillscouter, out of the 5.1 billion or so web pages available on the internet, 1.5 billion (~30%) have similar or duplicated content. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc., have several million plagiarized content posted daily. The plagiarized posts include blog posts, videos, audio content, quotes, etc.
What does Instagram do to check plagiarism?
Instagram, to combat plagiarism, has a provision that allows users to report cases of copyright infringement. Users need to fill out a form on Instagram’s IP help centre. However, this provision has proved to be inadequate in checking the problem. Despite the many cases of plagiarism reported, only a minuscule number of cases have been resolved.
Also, the Instagram user interface on its features like Reels makes it difficult for users to identify the original content. Users do not get to see the date that the content was posted. Nor can users see the comments where someone might have pointed out the plagiarism. Users have to specifically check comments to find out which interferes with their viewing experience. In its present form, the user interface is such that the users end up following the content instead of the creator. As a result, users might ‘follow’ an account that posts plagiarised content without paying attention to the account’s username.
And, what does YouTube do?
Comparatively, YouTube fares better in shielding creators and protecting their interests. YouTube’s content guidelines and content ID system empower content creators to automatically identify and block any attempt to upload a user’s content that has already been posted on the platform.
However, the creators have no protection if the content is sourced from another platform and uploaded on YouTube. In such instances, content creators from the other platform (say, Instagram) will need to contact YouTube to lay claim to their content (audio, video, or images). YouTube then immediately takes down the stolen content.
The safeguards on YouTube are more robust, probably because it is an older platform. Instagram and the other more recent short-video sharing platforms are still evolving. However, it’s time that these platforms too start to create stronger safeguards.
What can you do?
Stopping the menace of plagiarism requires coordinated and collective action. The newer platforms need to accept greater accountability for the lack of safeguards and take a more responsible approach toward curbing plagiarism. The platforms need to take a proactive approach to ensure that original/licensed content is posted on their platform.
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What can the creators themselves do? Creators, too, need to be more protective of their IP. Creators must speak out immediately and publicly name the violater(s).
Often, creators are unaware of the platform’s IP guidelines and the tools available to report plagiarism. Creators need to invest the required time and effort to learn about the regulations around IP protection and the available tools to protect their IP.