Can you get a copyright strike for a video you never posted? As one YouTuber found out, it actually is possible.
Some are calling it one of the more extreme examples of copyright fraud. A YouTuber scheduled live commentary for a Democratic primary debate. The video was scheduled to take place at a later time. To the YouTuber’s surprise, he received a copyright strike for the scheduled event on his channel.
In this case, the YouTuber had another tool in the arsenal not typically at the ready for most YouTubers – he works for a high profile website called Mashable. The YouTuber in question hosts the show DOOMED with Matt Binder. When he attempted to have the strike reversed through the normal channels, he was denied. After that, he threatened to write about it on Mashable. It was only then that YouTube decided to remove the strike from his account, permitting him to host live streams again. From Mashable:
According to the YouTube notice, a person by the name of Michael Bentkover issued the copyright strike on behalf of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which owns CNN, the hosts of the last Democratic debate. That’s right, this wasn’t an algorithm or automated system run amok. An actual person manually submitted a legal claim saying they owned my nonexistent content.
To reiterate here, the content did not yet exist. Everyone knows by now that if you post content you don’t own on YouTube, there’s a chance you’ll receive a copyright strike for posting it. However, in my case, Mr. Bentkover, representing Warner Bros. Entertainment, was claiming ownership over content I never even had a chance to create.
Because of the copyright strike, I was unable to stream my post-debate show on YouTube that night.
“Your case is the most extreme I’ve heard about. Congratulations,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Manager of Policy and Activism, Katharine Trendacosta, said to me in a phone conversation on the issue. “This is the first time I’ve heard about this happening to something that didn’t contain anything. And I have heard a lot of really intense stories about what’s happening on YouTube.”
Trendacosta would know. As a lawyer with the EFF, she has worked on cases involving YouTube issues ranging from bad faith copyright claims on static noise to a creator’s own voice.
“The law requires them to have a good faith belief,” Trendacosta said, referring to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “Legally, you have to sign something that says you looked at the content and that there was material found that is yours.”
“If there is no material, that’s impossible.”
While the author went on to ask a number of perfectly reasonable questions about the system, for us, this is just another case of copyright fraud that has been plaguing YouTube for quite some time. Just a couple of days ago, a subsidiary of Warner decided to claim the rights to the numbers 36 and 50. With that, they went around demonetizing YouTuber’s who used those numbers. One couldn’t help but wonder if Sesame Street producers started looking around nervously after that incident.
Early on this month, we also saw the Studio71_1_2 scandal where random Let’s Play video’s were taken down. In December, there was the case where a YouTuber had his video taken down for posting a video containing public domain material. Last September, one copyright troll got sued by YouTube for violently extorting random YouTubers over content the troll didn’t own. Did we mention the SupMatto case yet?
While this problem is clearly widespread, it doesn’t look like YouTube is in any hurry to correct the situation. Back in December, YouTube released tools to help navigate the complaint process. Unfortunately, the new tools don’t really address the copyright fraud and abuse that has run rampant across the platform. Instead, they simply allow YouTuber’s to cave faster to even the flimsiest of complaints.
So, we’ll likely see more instances like what we see today: copyright fraud and abuse running amok. It’s unlikely we’ll see an end to this anytime soon either.