Using YouTube Takedowns As Extortion

from the if-given-the-power,-it-will-be-abused dept

We’ve made this point over and over again: if you give people the power to force down someone else’s content, it will be abused. We see this most clearly in things like DMCA takedown notices, which are rife with abuse — either through automated takedowns or just by people who want certain things to disappear. But here’s a variation we haven’t seen quite as much: DMCA abuse as extortion. This story involves musician/composer Keitaro Ujile who variously goes by Ujico* and Snail’s House and who has a pretty big following. As an aside, he describes his electronic music as “Happy Music” and, damn, is it ever. I’ve been listening to it while writing this post, and you can too at Soundcloud, Bandcamp or… YouTube.

It’s that last one that this story is focused on. Because a few of his songs on YouTube currently look something like this right now:

Yup, so someone named Lazy Channel is claiming infringement on three Ujile videos. “Lazy Channel,” whoever that is, has his own YouTube page, and it appears to have a bunch of Vietnamese songs on it. It doesn’t have many followers (350 subscribers). I’m not linking to it, because no need to give that guy any extra attention, because here’s the rather incredible message that “Lazy Channel” sent to Ujile soon after his videos got taken down:

If you somehow can’t read that, it says:

Hey ! How’re you doing ! As you know 2 videos on your channel has disappear !
In the case you don’t know that strike can’t retract by youtube if no because of me !
Only me cant retract that strike ! So if you interesting I have a request for you ! Be ready and if you don’t ! Good by all social media ! Hope you will reply soon 🙂

Kinds Regards 😀

So, yeah. That’s Lazy Channel more or less admitting to attempted extortion. Ujile has counternoticed the claims, but in the meantime has disabled the videos in question in Vietnam.

Seeing all of this so blatantly put forth suggests that this kind of thing is a lot more common than we realize — but that’s almost to be expected when we give anyone the power to takedown videos by claiming copyright infringement — and setting things up so that the hosting platforms will face massive liability for failing to comply (and comply quickly, with little investigation). In watching people respond to this news, it’s interesting to see some people say that nothing should ever get taken down without an investigation — which sounds like a good idea, but difficult under the law as it stands. And, of course, many, many voices are crying out right now to make these so-called intermediary liability protections even weaker, which will only enable even more such takedowns and extortion.

This is why we keep talking about the importance of things like the DMCA’s safe harbors or platform immunity under CDA 230. CDA 230, in particular, helps prevent these kinds of scams (outside the copyright context, which isn’t covered by CDA 230), and it’s yet another reason why we’re so concerned about SESTA. While that bill claims to be targeting platforms that are profiting off of sex trafficking, it will open up a massive power for those who wish to abuse the system, demanding content get taken down at the risk of criminal penalties, and even if the demand is entirely bogus, the risk and liability may be so large that many platforms will just comply.

So, yes, this situation with Ujile is unfortunate and must be a real nuisance for him — especially since too many strikes will get his entire YouTube account with its 65,000 subscribers shut down (another “feature” of the DMCA that the legacy industries demanded be included in the law, and which they’ve been seeking to expand via lawsuits lately). But it’s also an unfortunate example of how putting liability on platforms enables and encourages this kind of extortion and (importantly) harms actual creators like Ujile. To hear the RIAA/MPAAs of the world, we need to weaken protections for platforms to help artists. Yet, here is a clear example where it’s enabling real harm for an actual artist. So where is the RIAA and those others speaking up for Ujile and how unfortunate it is that he has to go through this experience now?

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Companies: youtube

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Comments on “Using YouTube Takedowns As Extortion”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "speaking up for Ujile" doesn't mean attacking DMCA! It means ATTACK MORE CRIMINALS.

Strange how you haven’t mentioned in your comment all the other times that Techdirt that has written about the abuses of DMCA (which by the way you made comments in those articles bitching and complaining about Mike). But then mentioning of those previous articles of DMCA abuse wouldn’t help your case of bitching about Techdirt would it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "speaking up for Ujile" doesn't mean attacking DMCA! It means ATTACK MORE CRIMINALS.

It gets better when you consider that blue’s position is that if you’re not stopping the infraction, you’re supporting it.

Given that blue doesn’t want the DMCA modified, preventing such incidents from happening… you can figure out the rest.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Well, you’re halfway right.

The part you’re not seeing is, the entire DMCA takedown system is extortion. It’s just that it’s the platform whose arm is usually being twisted, and in this case it’s the content creator’s. This is not an example of why the DMCA takedown system needs to be protected; it’s yet another example of why it needs to be thrown out entirely and replaced by the real safe harbors of CDA 230.

Innocent until proven guilty is the case for all other legal matters, and it should be the case here. When something is be taken down with the force of the law behind it without a court order, it’s a miscarriage of justice.

Anonymous Coward says:

A problem with YouTube is gaining the attention of a human to fix problems with take downs, While for different reasons, [Thegn Thrands had problems](, which were fixed because of the actions taken by others in a smallish community on YouTube. The video will give an idea of what dealing with YouTube and its systems are like, when hit by strikes against an account.

Anonymous Coward says:

YouTube is a place for eyes, not fairness.

YouTube’s enforcement of its own rules and safe harbour laws of any kind are a joke no matter who is abusing them.

The site is no longer profitable for most unless you’re saying the "right things", have enough money from current broadcast TV deals to not care, or supplement your income with direct advertising in videos and/or channel-created goods (ie. T-shirts, mugs, posters).

Some editorial channels criticizing the mainstream media’s views (usually news, but sometimes other YouTubers), YouTube’s policies (but this is irregularly enforced), channels that physically experiment with anything of a martial nature within their country’s laws (ie. swords, slings, airguns used against various non-living targets), mentions of sexual abuse or terrorism in any context are put on an advertisement blacklist, called "demonitization".

The worst part of all is that there is no word from YouTube before these limitations occur on a channel or individual video. The demonitization of channels and videos seems to be keyword-based, which means a mindless algorithm, because YouTube cannot get enough staffers to oversee all the hundreds of hours of video uploaded each day.

There are also channels that are treated preferentially, despite covering the same things. A less-popular YouTuber got his video demonitized, while Jimmy Kimmel keeps his advertisements, for instance:

h3h3Productions – YouTube’s Rules Don’t Apply to Everyone

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: YouTube is a place for eyes, not fairness.

Well, we had to DO SOMETHING about the outrageous content on youtube. Of course the big players get a pass. "They deal with it anyway due to FCC regulations on their other outlets, so yeah put it up with minimal review. Oh, that PoS that spews opinions I don’t like? I don’t have the staff to "review" them thoroughly, so just demonetize them."

Expect this to come to other platforms soon enough as well. "People are still glorifying violence on the internet, so we must not have gotten them all yet! Politicians! DO SOMETHING!"

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So far as I know, you’d be hard pressed to specifically find demonetized videos, unless the YouTuber themselves noticed and reported it in a video. Also, those videos apparently show up less in the “recommended” area on the right of every video in the web interface.

The idea is to make the videos “disappear” from the mainstream, so why would YouTube promote them in any sense?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Make a video protocol, not a platform. Decentralize it and make it available to everyone, use distributed hosting to only save the videos you, the viewer, like.

If YouTube did this, they’d save themselves an untold amount of cash and YouTube videos would also be quick, aside from on really slow connections.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Dear Dark Lord,

I would, but the Borg have already staked a claim and wish you to enter a different universe to be assimilated. Resistance is Futile.

Or…erm…um…maybe it was the Ferengi Alliance and a Rule of Acquisition…hard to tell from this quantum entanglement.

Or…maybe…just maybe it was the Shadows, in cahoots with Techno-Mages who are distorting reality via the Suliban Temporal Cold War while the Xindi co-opt their lesser species to take over the Universe in an effort at self defense.

But then, finding that Unimatrix Zero will solve everyone’s problems, as we find that resistance is not actually futile.

Sci-not-Fi really keeps me in a state of suspended belief, so many possible probabilities that none are impossible leaving the question of which are probable? Hiccup!

Subjective Anomaly Introversion

Ali ahmed says:

Youtube is younf only few years old

The sure will smarten up, the current copyright system is not way smart people run business. Let’s wait from them to mend because the system is broken. The fact onyone can issue a take-down notice with no evidence is huge problem that needs quick fixing or people will find another plat from better than Youtube.

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