Every day, hundreds of hooping videos are uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo. Along with hundreds more images of handcrafted hoops and stunning hoop action. It’s how we learn from one another and share what we’re doing with the growing hooping community worldwide. For most hoopers, our biggest worry about posting a video online is whether anyone will see it, like it, or notice it at all. Turns out, we’ve got more than that to worry about. Hooping videos and photographs that unexpectedly go viral owe their popularity to social media sharing. That’s the upside. The downside is that content “scraping” is becoming a real concern for more and more hoopers. What’s “scraping”, you ask? I’ll tell you what it is, why you should care, and the super simple steps you can take right now to protect everything you create from video villains and other content criminals.
So What’s Content Scraping?: Well, it’s straight-up stealing. Consider your video or other content “scraped” when it is downloaded and re-posted without due credit on another website, social page or media channel to create exposure, hits, and/or money for someone else. Along the way, your credit for having made the content is diluted – or lost entirely. Here are some examples.
Say you post a photo of the incredible one-of-a-kind hoop you just made. And then someone posts the image with no credit to their Etsy store. What? You’ve just been scraped. It happened to Ali Fitzgerald over at HoopMamas. In just one of the instances she’s dealt with, over 100 of her custom hoop images were copied to another Etsy store. When Ali asked the store owner to take them down, the culprit called her “selfish” and “unwilling to share with the hooping community.” Because Ali got zero assistance from Etsy either, the situation got pretty hairy for a while. It’s one of the most difficult things she’s ever had to deal with. But now Ali and HoopMamas fans are hyper vigilant. She says they spot stolen images at least once a month and calls it a “HUGE” problem for custom hoop-makers.
You know that original hoop art you created and shared on Facebook? Imagine your surprise when you find it being sold as a car decal by a major online sports company. Whoa. Scraped. Yep, it happened to one unsuspecting hooper who still feels so violated, she found it difficult to talk about with me. Remember HoopPretty.com? A sister design team that made some of the first creative hoop tee designs, and have since moved on to other projects, found their images being used as avatars for local hoop meetups and online groups. Which would have been great – if the image had linked to their store.
Say your uncredited practice hooping video just showed up on a popular video curating site and has 400,000 hits. Who IS that awesome hooper? Who knows! ‘Cause that sweet stuff just got scraped. Viral video phenoms and hoopers like Katie Sunshine know all about it. Because it happened to them and happens daily. Here’s just one of her countless scraped videos. It’s now branded with a website name, but it ain’t Katie’s. No sirree. You may recognize her because that video and others went viral practically overnight. But unless you read hooping.org’s interview with her, you may just know her as “Hot Chick Hula Hooping in Leg Warmers.” Nice, huh? Her videos now bring hundreds of thousands of viewers to monetized sites every day, with very little benefit to her or the hooping community.
Why You Should Care. You already know stealing is just, y’know, wrong. So, the real concern for us hoopers is less obvious and two-fold. One, as an emerging and incredibly generous community, we’re setting ourselves up for this kind of piracy when we don’t take precautions against it. A few years ago, nobody was watching us but us. That has changed and we’re going to need to change with it. And second, many hoopers unwittingly spread stolen content because they don’t know what to look for. But keep reading, because we’re gonna fix both of these problems on the quick.
Before we move on, though, let’s clarify something that’s important to many hoopers among us. Because trust, inclusiveness, and “just sharing the joy of hooping” is such a central tenet of our community, I want to be clear that this article is not about protecting profit or names or brands, though I do think that’s important, too. At heart, it’s about giving due credit for innovation, creativity, time, contribution, and the expression of our souls and bodies. Our dance and content is authored and deserves all the deference we would give to a poem.
And it’s the law! You don’t have to apply for a copyright. In the United States, your work is automatically covered by federal copyright law when you publish it anywhere, even online. Here’s the official Digital Copyright Millineum Act (DCMA) definition: “Whenever someone creates something that is original and expressive and fixes that expression in a way that lets you read, see, hear, or perceive it, federal law gives the creator a copyright in that work.”
Now that we’re all on the same page, here’s what we can do as a community to protect our content and that of our fellow hoopers.
Protecting Images. Oh, hoopers. There is magical, FREE, Google-made software called Picasa. Not only can use it to make your images clearer, make collages and make borders, you can use it to watermark and tag your photos. It’s easy-peasy and doesn’t require photoshopping skills.
Use the “Add Text” tool in Picasa to put your name, URL, FB page, or media channel on the image itself. In this image, I’ve quoted one of Superhooper’s key phrases and watermarked it. Can people just download it and crop that out? Yeah, they can. You can play with the transparency and put it over the whole photo, but that’s kinda lame. So as a backup, TAG your photos by using the Tag tool to put in crucial key words. In this image of Hooping.org contributor Tiffani Michele, I’ve added her name and her blog site, as well as other keywords that will tell google image browsers that we created this photo. How cool is that?
Protecting Videos. So how do scrapers swipe your videos anyway? There’s tons of software out there that make it easy. Content scraping is against the user terms of almost any site, but the enforceability of those terms is unclear and unreliable. However, YouTube in particular has just integrated enhancements that can help you put a stop to that. It’s called InVideo Programming. This user-friendly feature allows you to “brand” all the videos uploaded to your channel with your YouTube avatar or any other custom 800×800 image. You choose the positioning of the photo (a small square) and when and how long you’d like the image to appear in the video. It took me all of 2 minutes to add Superhooper.org’s avatar to every single one of our videos. Bam!
While you’re at it, go ahead and verify your YouTube account – it literally takes seconds. Hoopers who prefer Vimeo will find several privacy options – including creative commons licensing and password protection – but each will cut down on the video’s ability to show up in search engines and be shared. So if you’re looking to share videos with a small community only, Vimeo is the way to go.
Care Before You Share. When you stumble upon a great hooping image or video that you want the world to see, pause a second before you click “Share.” Can you identify who made it? If you can’t figure it out, don’t help it along. You could just be helping someone else make money off the work of a fellow hooper. Leave a comment asking that the content be properly credited. Or flag it as stolen! There’s an option for that on YouTube. It just took me a few minutes to flag ten of Katie’s stolen videos on YouTube, alerting them that the user was a scraper.
And hey, why not go a step further and try to find the original source? That’s what our Visual Content Editors here at hooping.org do dozens of times a day. When we post a photo we always have permission from the photographer, give hooper credit and link to their social media sites. When a video goes up you not only know who is in it, you typically know who helped make it and even what song is playing. That way the hooping world knows who created that incredible piece of art and how to find out more about them. So now you know you can always trust content that comes from here. Go ahead and share that sweet stuff!
A Conscious Circle. The bottom line is that content stealing is hurting the hooping community in ways that will become a bigger problem as hooping grows in popularity. But it only takes our awareness to cut down on its impact. There is simply no more effective way to respect what each of us creates and contributes to the community. We celebrate and lift one another up when we credit our work and the work of of other hoopers in a way that benefits them when it takes off. As Hoopmama’s Ali puts it, “Do your thing with conviction. Harness your OWN unique, individual style. Do it without tempting shortcuts. And do it with pride!” Amen, hoop sistah.
It’s a big world wide web, out there, folks. We can’t put an end to scraping, of course. But as with all things, each of us can do our part to help. And I know we will.
Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. She’s also the driving force behind Circumference with online and live business and marketing classes for hoop makers, instructors, and performers.