Barstool Sports has for years used a system of “burner” social media accounts to steal sports highlights and other viral video that is then used to drive traffic to its site, The Daily Beast reported in a lengthy investigative piece.
More than 40 anonymous accounts on X “give every indication of being controlled by Barstool,” according to the report. It follows revelations in 2019 that the media company founded by day-trader Dave Portnoy used an anonymous account to lift comedian and podcast host Miel Bredouw’s video and post it without her permission, leading to a lengthy legal fight.
The story by Robert Silverman details how using the anonymous accounts enables Barstool to funnel the content to its legitimate, branded accounts without risking the suspension of its legit accounts.
The burner accounts “post a continuous stream of highlights from every major professional sports league and the NCAA, plus scores of network and cable TV shows, movies, songs, and viral content Barstool collects and reposts on TikTok and Instagram. Quite often, Barstool passes their own original work through a burner if there’s the slightest chance of a copyright violation, usually whenever a video includes licensed music,” according to the report.
“This network has laundered incalculable amounts of copyright-protected sports and entertainment videos and reaped billions of views over at least the last four years,” the report said.
“For example: One anonymous account’s ripped video of The Weeknd’s Super Bowl LV performance racked up 36 million views for Barstool in less than 24 hours.”This network has laundered incalculable amounts of copyright-protected sports and entertainment videos and reaped billions of views over at least the last four years. For example: One anonymous account’s ripped video of The Weeknd’s Super Bowl LV performance racked up 36 million views for Barstool in less than 24 hours.”
“Taken as a whole, Barstool has built out an apparent system of organized copyright infringement,” the report said.
If the anonymous accounts are caught sharing video without permission, they can receive “strikes” under a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. Enough strikes, and the accounts are suspended or banned. But Barstool’s accounts, which are vital for reaching its audience, don’t get blamed for re-sharing videos that appear to be created by others.
“Using sockpuppet accounts to obscure the origin of infringing videos does not make the underlying conduct any less illegal,” Emory University Law School professor, Matthew Sag, an expert in copyright law and intellectual property, told The Daily Beast. What it does, he said, is make it harder for the DMCA notice and takedown process to work as intended.”
Music publishers in June filed a $250 million copyright infringement suit against Twitter, now X, accusing the platform of allowing users to post music to Twitter without permission.
Neither CEO Erika Ayers Badan nor Barstool founder Dave Portnoy responded to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. Barstool does not appear to have an official public representative.
Portnoy in August bought Barstool back from casino and race track operator Penn Entertainment for $1, after the gambling company paid $550 million for it over three years. He then laid off a quarter of the company’s staff, more than 400 workers, citing troubled finances. Barstool lost $16.1 million in the first half of the year under Penn ownership.
Barstool, which claims to reach one-third of the nation’s prized 18-34 year-old demographic, largely through social media engagement, did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the report from The Wrap on Tuesday.
But Portnoy did respond to a post on X by an anonymous account with the handle @Bss123456 that criticized the reporting by accusing Silverman of having a “20-year grudge against Barstool.”
Portnoy did not address any of the accusations directly. But he charged that Silverman “has negatively written or tweeted about us 50+ times in his career and that doesn’t count the countless tweets he’s deleted. We need more people like @Bss1234561 who are objective. You don’t have to love me but at least be fair.”
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