U.S. Indicts Two Men for Running $20 Million YouTube Content ID Scam

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Two men have been indicted by a grand jury for running a massive YouTube Content ID scam that netted the pair more than $20m. Webster Batista Fernandez and Jose Teran managed to convince a YouTube partner that the pair owned the rights to 50,000+ tracks and then illegally monetized user uploads over a period of four years.

To protect copyright holders YouTube uses an advanced piracy recognition system that flags videos or music used on users’ channels without permission. Through this ‘Content ID’ system, infringing content can be removed or monetized by funneling ad revenue to copyright holders, which can be quite lucrative for the rightsholders in question. YouTube previously said that it paid $5.5 billion in ad revenue to rightsholders from content claimed and monetized through Content ID but the system doesn’t always work exactly as planned.

Over the years, countless YouTube users have complained that their videos have been claimed and monetized by entities that apparently have no right to do so but, fearful of what a complaint might do to the status of their accounts, many opted to withdraw from battles they feared they might lose. Until now, the scale of this problem has been unclear but a scandal revealed in court documents unsealed in Arizona now shines some light on the shadowy world of Content ID abuse.