-Wes Anderson, Attorney

It has been a tumultuous year for copyright owners. The old cliche is “if you love something, set it free,” but it seems plenty of third parties are happy to take on that task when it comes to copyrighted content.

Now that mainstream smartphones allow anyone to capture high definition video, mobile apps in particular have been fertile ground for uploading and sharing infringing content. The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in May may have smashed revenue records, but it also exposed novel methods for pirating digital content.

And even-newer apps are never far away. Earlier this month, filmmaker and popular YouTube video creator Casey Neistat released his new mobile app, “Beme” (pronounced “beam,” but also a play on “be me”). Pitched as “the simplest and most authentic way to share your experience on video,” the app takes a new approach to sharing in the same vein as Snapchat. It allows users to share video without touching a button – just by holding or blocking the iPhone’s proximity sensor near the earpiece. The app takes a four-second video and then immediately posts it on Beme’s network for followers (and strangers) to access. Once viewed, the videos disappear from a user’s timeline.

The Beme app, as seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=139&v=mixsze6uJPg
The Beme app, as seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=139&v=mixsze6uJPg

Beme may give pause to copyright owners given recent history. Consider the plight of Periscope, the live-streaming app owned by Twitter that launched in March 2015 to enormous fanfare. During the aforementioned Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, Periscope was the app du jour for watching unauthorized streams of the pay-per-view fight. It was as simple as streaming a TV screen to millions online. Periscope also became known as a popular platform for watching the latest Game of Thrones episode, much to the consternation of HBO. Twitter quickly found it did not have the adequate measures in place to police all those live streams on such a novel platform.

Is Beme the next Periscope? It’s clear that Periscope is a different breed of app – it allows a user to “stream” video live for an indefinite period of time, and videos remain accessible to the public for up to 24 hours after broadcast. Periscope also allows viewing across various mobile platforms.

As for Beme, it certainly isn’t built with the intent of sharing copyrighted content. As discussed in this video, Beme videos are limited to four seconds, and they play in relatively low quality compared to traditional HD video. The app is iPhone-only, with no Android app or web access as of yet. But there are some features that may facilitate, rather than hinder, piracy. Users can stitch an indefinite amount of four-second videos together to create a longer series of videos — and, unlike Periscope, Beme videos aren’t accessible via a public link, so infringing content could go undiscovered.

Is Beme the next frontier for copyright owners? In essence, the app’s novelty makes it difficult to predict whether it will be a platform for pirated content – that’s up to the users. In the meantime, content owners would do well to remain vigilant. And to Beme’s credit, it has deployed some measures to control the content shared through its app. Despite being a fledgling app and company, Beme wisely deployed a robust Terms of Use and DMCA Policy on its website right as the app launched. Beme doesn’t yet have a “report” button in its app, and so the sole recourse for content owners is to send a DMCA notice to Beme under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, or DMCA.

Beme's DMCA Policy
Beme’s DMCA Policy

Time will tell whether Beme’s listed contact is inundated with DMCA notices as the platform develops. If nothing else, Beme serves as a valuable case study: copyright owners must police an ever-growing library of content-sharing platforms, and mobile app developers should ensure the proper policies are in place – such as terms of use, privacy policies, and DMCA policies – to police infringing activities by users, however remote the possibility may seem.