Live streaming can arguably be considered traditional media at this point in its history since businesses like Ustream and Livestream have been making live streaming accessible and entertaining for viewers for years. The idea of live streaming may bring the image of vast amounts of audio and video equipment to mind, however, in 2016, it was mobile streaming that took centerstage. Live streaming is now an easy, almost instantaneous action that anyone with a smartphone can take – both an exciting and a potentially concerning idea.
Digital players like Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube have pushed and expanded mobile streaming in a move that is meant to help attract more users and broaden each respective brand’s audience. Similar to the rise of social media, the rise of mobile live streaming proves that people are still obsessed with sharing intimate moments instantaneously, and that almost anyone can be a video journalist.
For most social platforms, users own the rights to their videos and streams. The content is also non-exclusive, meaning a user can use the content wherever and however they want. However, by agreeing to the platform’s terms of service, a user also agrees to extend a broad, royalty-free license to the platform to use their content however they want. Typically, the platform is also given permission to extend those rights to a third-party.
For example, according to Periscope’s Terms of Service, “By submitting, posting or displaying content on or through the services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”
So what does that mean? It means that your streams are your property, but Periscope also has the right to share your content with the rest of the world without paying you. That is a very broad license. For individuals who own copyrighted material (like music), there are protections in place, but for other individuals who may have unsavory information streamed about them that doesn’t accurately reflect their personal beliefs or positively represent their brand or employer, this wide open license for content use can cause serious and nearly permanent reputation issues.
Benefits of Mobile Streaming
There are many benefits to mobile streaming services for families and communities. Mobile streaming has helped connect families and loved ones separated by distance and circumstance. It has also helped businesses interact with their customer base and potentially acquire new business by providing authentic engagement in real-time.
In the case of many social justice issues, mobile streaming services have proved to be a real-time social media journalist tool. It has allowed users to expose injustices in real time, and it has allowed people to experience the realities of conflict and crisis from the perspective of someone on the ground.
Concerning legal and social issues, a now-famous example of the power of Periscope and Facebook Live happened in June 2016 when democratic lawmakers organized a House sit-in protest to force GOP lawmakers to vote on gun control measures. When the sit-in protest began, House Speaker Paul Ryan shut off the House cameras in the chamber in a weak attempt to squash the protest effort.
Filming any House sessions by devices other than the House cameras in the chamber is not permitted by individuals. C-SPAN is only able to broadcast the footage from the House the office turns them on; C-SPAN has no control over what or how much footage they can broadcast. When the House cameras were turned off, that’s when lawmakers decided, in the spirit of protest, to break the rules and stream the sit-in from their smartphones. In an equally unprecedented move, C-SPAN began broadcasting the Periscope and Facebook Live feeds from the lawmakers protesting to help spread awareness of the event to add pressure on GOP lawmakers.
Pitfalls of Mobile Streaming
With all of the good that instantaneous mobile streaming can bring to individuals and causes, there are accompanying pitfalls. Platforms that offer mobile streaming have also been criticized over the violence, crime, and offensive rhetoric that has also been brought out of the shadows and displayed on newsfeeds. Criminal acts, like a recent hate crime on a mentally disabled man, and other accounts of horrendous crimes like rape and murder, have been broadcasted on live streams. People have also carried out suicide attempts on live streams.
Mobile streaming is such a new form of media that citizens began demanding the platforms police the content posted, a moral and ethical position that no private company wants to be placed in — especially on platforms that garner millions of users. These companies do not want to be held responsible for determining right from wrong on their platform, so they often turn to their user base to help report content that violates their community guidelines and terms of service. Social companies are in the business of encouraging people to share their lives, so they do not want to be deemed as a company that censors their user base.
The Impact Mobile Streaming Can Have on Your Reputation
For brands and individuals, there are numerous benefits to mobile streaming. Streaming can benefit your reputation by drawing attention and awareness to positive people, great work, and the causes you and your brand support. If people really pick up on the content your brand is streaming, the broad license of streaming platforms allows them to share the content and provide commentary to further spread your message.
However, all of the same points can be made for a negative outcome where a person or a brand is involved directly or indirectly in a live stream that could potentially misrepresent their character and be used against them. Negative content has the potential to live on digitally and affect a person’s search results and career. With live streaming becoming a more commonplace feature on many social media platforms, we can likely expect additional changes to the terms of service and policies for using it. As with any piece of content, brands and individuals should do their due diligence to understand the policies of each live streaming service before they post. Be sure that any content you post provides an accurate representation of your character and that you’re comfortable with it being shared by users.