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YouTube Copyright extortion is a real and growing problem

As content hosts get ever more concerned about hosting infringing content, a new type of digital extortion has emerged that is threatening vloggers and videographers alike: the copyright extortist.

YouTube is a particularly good example of a breeding ground for copyright extortion. While there is an abundance of copyright infringing material on the site, it takes a zero-tolerance approach towards infringing content about which it is explicitly made aware. It removes videos before it investigates them, and users report having significant and protracted difficulties getting non-infringing videos reinstated.

If a video is not reinstated, the uploading user is given a “flag” against his or her account. Once a user gets 3 flags, the entire account is deleted, along with all videos previously uploaded.

Extortists have realised that this system is ripe for exploitation. The scam involves sending two copyright infringement notices about the victim’s videos to YouTube who then disable them and add two “flags” to the victim’s account. As YouTube are not quick to remove such flags when challenged by the victim, the extortist then sends a demand for a sum of money from the victim in exchange for not filing a third (and fatal) copyright infringement notice.

Once a third is filed, the channel would be deleted and the victim would be devoid of any revenue from it while arguing with YouTube for reinstatement. The scam works so well because the extortist knows that while the victim might be able to afford the demand (generally for between $50-$100), he or she might not be able to afford to live without the advertising revenue that stems from YouTube, or the associated revenue that comes from such exposure.

Recently high profile YouTubers have been hit with such scams, but when refusing to cave in to the demands they have shone a light on the issue and YouTube has promised to investigate it robustly.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.